Kerttula's move starts jockeying
Who will represent Haines in the Alaska Legislature is now a little less certain following the resignation this week of longtime state Rep. Beth Kerttula, D-Juneau.
Kertulla resigned from her House seat Monday to take a position as Visiting Fellow at the Center for Ocean Solutions at Stanford University.
While Kertulla’s newly-vacant seat currently represents downtown Juneau, Douglas Island, Petersburg, Skagway and several other communities, Haines will also be in the district during fall’s statewide election due to redistricting.
Former state Rep. Bill Thomas, a Haines Republican who recently indicated he may run for office again, said in an interview Monday he was surprised by the resignation.
Thomas also said Kerttula, who was first elected in 1998, would have been hard to unseat had she sought office again. Her resignation makes it considerably easier to win the seat, Thomas said, though it would still be hard for him, as downtown Juneau tends to vote Democrat.
“It would be a challenge to run there, but it could be done,” Thomas said, theorizing that Haines, Gustavus, Skagway, and Klukwan could sway the vote in his favor.
Thomas said he hasn’t decided whether he will run for the House or Senate seat yet, or even if he will run at all. A visit to Juneau next week will help him decide, he said.
Thomas said he is also waiting to see who Gov. Sean Parnell appoints to the seat for the remainder of the session, which Parnell has 30 days to fill.
According to House Democratic Caucus press secretary Mark Gnadt, the governor traditionally selects from a list provided by officials of the local party organization for the same party as the departing legislator.
Gnadt said he didn’t know who the organization – the Tongass Democrats – will suggest. “That is something our office is staying far away from. (Kertulla) is not going to endorse or steer the party in any way,” he said.
Thomas recently filed a letter of intent to run for office in 2014, which is required for candidates to start raising funds for a campaign. To appear on the ballot, he needs to formally file for either the House or Senate seat by June 1.
Thomas said during his trip to Juneau he hopes to consult with legislators who might give him an idea of what sort of committees he could hope to sit on.
“I don’t want to go to Juneau and be a low-ranking committee chair,” Thomas said.
The Senate seat Thomas is eyeing is currently held by Democrat Dennis Egan of Juneau. Egan has voiced his intention to run, though Thomas has expressed skepticism about Egan being able to fill out his term.
Thomas was defeated in 2012 by Sitka Democrat Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins. He served eight years in the House.