Ketchikan Representative Kyle Johansen says he’s running as an independent because it’s the best way to reach the largest number of voters.
The three-term incumbent dropped out of a crowded Republican primary race yesterday (May 31). He then put in paperwork to run as an independent in the general election before the June 1 filing deadline.
“This being a presidential year, there’s going to be a huge turnout in November and with the way the Republican primary is set up – it’s closed somewhat – I just felt it was a better opportunity for all of the people of District 1 to choose who they really want,” he says.
District 1 is the current name for the area Johansen represents. Reapportionment, which added Wrangell, changed it to District 33.
Ketchikan GOP members tried to recall Johansen after he gave up his House majority leadership position to protest its committee assignments. The recall attempt failed, but two other Ketchikan residents filed to oppose him in the party primary.
“Frankly, I’m just kind of disheartened by party politics in general. A lot of it is personality-driven and I’m focusing on issues and moving this district forward and the state forward in all the things that we deal with,” he says.
Johansen says he’s still registered as a Republican. But if elected, he will join whatever majority caucus allows him in.
Longtime Ketchikan Republican activist Dick Coose says that’s unlikely.
“He would have taken a few votes, I think. But I don’t think it would have been significant. I have a suspicion he felt he couldn’t muster the votes to take the Republican primary, so this was his other decision,” he says.
The three candidates still in the race are Wrangell incumbent Representative Peggy Wilson, Ketchikan Visitors Bureau Executive Director Patti Mackey, and Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly Member Agnes Moran.
Coose, a Ketchikan city council member, was one of the recall organizers.
“I’m glad he got out of the Republican primary. He doesn’t have a whole lot of support in Ketchikan in my belief. It’s just too bad he’s electing to run as an independent, but that’s his choice,” he says.
Ketchikan City Council member and Democrat Matt Olsen has also filed for the seat