It isn't just the municipal election on Tuesday that is drawing interest. Competition in Alaska's 2002 primary election has started to heat up.
With the June 1, 2002, filing deadline eight months away, three of the peninsula's five-member legislative delegation have filed, as well as two former peninsula legislators.
Sen. Jerry Ward, R-Nikiski, Rep. Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, and Rep. Ken Lancaster, R-Soldotna, have made it official. Sen. John Torgerson, R-Kasilof, and Rep. Drew Scalzi, R-Homer, have yet to state their interest in re-election.
Although a lawsuit seeks to halt the state's redistricting plan, Ward said he filed for office in the event the lawsuit fails and he is forced to run again before his current term expires.
"It'll be a judges' decision by the end of this year," he said of the court ruling. "If the redistricting plan stands, I'll have to run again."
No one has filed to run against him at this point, but Ward said he anticipates that will change.
"Somehow I seem to bring out people that philosophically disagree with my position," he said. "I'm hoping that they've mellowed, but the chances are it may not work that way."
Chenault was elected to office in 2000. During his first year in the Legislature, he sponsored HB 149, legislation opening the door for the construction and operation of the state's first private prison in the Kenai Peninsula Borough.
The legislation was supported by the borough, with the help of borough lobbyist Mark Higgins, and a team selected by the borough assembly and comprised of Cornell Companies Inc., Kenai Natives Association, Neeser Construction and VECO Construction, and Cornell's lobbyists Joe Hayes and Kent Dawson. The legislation passed both the House and Senate and was signed into law by Alaska Gov. Tony Knowles.
Like Ward, Lancaster said he is keeping his eye on decisions concerning state reapportionment. He said Scalzi is currently vacationing out of the country.
"But we're hoping he runs for re-election," Lancaster said.
Torgerson was not available for comment.
Former Rep. Hal Smalley, D-Kenai, has filed to run for the House of Representatives. Unseated by Chenault in the last election after just one term, Smalley seeks a return to Juneau. The recent redistricting, if the court upholds it, will prevent a rematch with Chenault. Under the new district alignment, Smalley would face Lancaster, if no other challengers emerge and force a primary.
"I think it would be a real good campaign for each of us," said Smalley, highlighting the challenges of representing the newly drawn district. "Ken has never represented Kenai and K(alifornsky) Beach before, and I've never represented Soldotna. We both have strengths and weaknesses. It'll be a good campaign."
Former Rep. Gail Phillips, R-Homer, also filed for the primary, although she has not indicated the office in which she is interested. Phillips served in the House from 1991 through 2000. A press release she issued on Friday stated her intent to run for "statewide office," with details to be announced at 10 a.m. Monday.
Dave Becker, of the Republican Party's District 6 in Homer, said Phillips is keeping her plans "under her hat."
"It's just the super inner circle that knows," he said.
Ward, however, said he had heard about Phillips' plans through mutual friends.
"She said she was going to run for Lieutenant Governor," Ward said. "She wanted to run for governor, but she didn't think she could raise the money."
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