Two last-minute filings last week mean that Ketchikan independent Rep. Dan Ortiz will face competition in the fall general election. Ghert Abbott filed to run for House District 36 in the Democratic primary, and Trevor Shaw filed to run for that seat as a Republican.

Ghert Abbott was born in Ketchikan about 32 years ago. He has lived elsewhere in Alaska with a short stint in California, and came back to Ketchikan full-time in 2001.

“I am a graduate of the local high school and I also have a bachelor’s degree in the liberal arts with an emphasis on history and English from UAS-Ketchikan,” he said.

Abbott works as a historian, and has researched Alaska and Ketchikan history. He said he’s also worked as a laborer and a surveyor, and he’s vice-chair of the local Democratic Party.

So, why run for state House?

“I’ve been thinking about it for a while, and our local chair urged me to get into the race,” he said. “So, I did.”

Abbott said his main motivation is the state’s budget, and how to solve the ongoing deficit problem.

“How one finances state government is the fundamental question on which all else depends,” he said. “If the state’s revenue is unstable and unjust, then the state government itself will be unstable and unjust.”

Abbott said the state already is taxing every Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend recipient by taking and using money that otherwise would have gone into annual PFD payments. He said that kind of tax is regressive and unjust.

“It falls heaviest on the middle class, the working class and the poor, while leaving the rich practically untouched,” he said.

Abbott said taking PFD money also harms the state’s economy, because lower-income residents will have less to spend. Wealthy people can afford to spend the same as usual.

“The alternative to the current horrible system would be a full Permanent Fund Dividend and a full progressive income tax,” he said.

A progressive income tax means the higher your income, the more you pay. Abbott said that kind of tax would be better for the state’s economy, in part because it would be less harmful for low-income Alaskans, and would include non-resident workers.

Abbott said his campaign will focus on the financial issue, because everything else is tied to fixing Alaska’s budget.

“Funding for education, for infrastructure, for schools, for health care, for the (Alaska) Marine Highway System, that’s at risk,” he said.  

Abbott said he plans to go door-to-door to get his message out to the public, and attend events such as Ketchikan’s Blueberry Arts Festival in early August.

We ran a story about Shaw’s candidacy earlier this week. Abbott and Shaw are unopposed in their primary bids, so they will both go on to the Nov. 6 general election. The primary election is Aug. 21.  

House District 36 includes Ketchikan, Saxman, Metlakatla, Hydaburg and Wrangell.