by Lisa Phu, Alaska Beacon
September 17, 2022
A Sitka assemblymember and a former Hoonah mayor are competing for the Alaska House of Representatives seat being vacated by five-term Sitka Democrat Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins. Though nonpartisan candidate Rebecca Himschoot had an edge over Republican Kenny Skaflestad in last month’s open primary – about 54% to roughly 46% – it’s a difference of 373 votes.
Voters in Sitka overwhelmingly favored their assemblymember – 1,059 votes for Himschoot to 552 for Skaflestad. Voters in Hoonah cast more votes for their former mayor and city council member, but not by as big of a margin – Skaflestad got 86 votes; Himschoot got 73.
In other communities in the Southeast Alaska House district, Himschoot captured about 60% or more of the votes in Hydaburg, Port Alexander and Tenakee Springs. Skaflestad did that in Craig, Kake, Klawock, Pelican/Elfin Cove and Thorne Bay.
When asked to identify the biggest need in the district, Himschoot, an educator, listed, “strong schools, consistent and dependable marine highway service, accessible housing, and thriving waterfronts that support small-boat fishermen,” on the Alaska Beacon questionnaire.
To address these, Himschoot wrote she’ll “work to stabilize school funding, transition the Alaska Marine Highway to a public corporation model that offers consistent and dependable service, and invest in infrastructure that supports working families, organized labor, and Alaska’s small business ecosystem.”
For Skaflestad, a commercial fisher, “economic diversity through resource availability and industrial innovation” was the biggest need for the district.
He wrote the state government needs to refresh its policy to encourage private innovation: “Local planning efforts should be incentivized where devised frameworks for short and long term plans are provided. Local government then submits entries within the frameworks, which are then scored and rewarded per state policy,” he wrote.
The questionnaire highlighted several differences among the candidates: Skaflestad is interested in calling a constitutional convention, Himschoot is not; Himschoot would be willing to join a coalition majority in which the opposite political party controls a majority of seats, Skaflestad would not; Skaflestad doesn’t think Juneteenth should be a state holiday; Himschoot does. Both agree on this though: new public employees should have access to a pension.
When asked what the state should do to improve retention of public employees, including teachers, Himschoot wrote, “By fully funding schools early in the session, communities would better be able to retain educators.” In his reply to the question, Skaflestad wrote the state should “create much higher standards as condition of employment,” “better refine goals and develop incentives/rewards for performance,” and, “better define: ‘education’ as policy.”
The two candidates also show differences on reproductive rights. Skaflestad supports “no funding for elective abortions except for substantiated rape or developed risk of life,” as well as, “heartbeat or other measurable human processes/functions to define autonomous life.” Himschoot wrote that she would “support policies that allow Alaskans to exercise their constitutional rights, which includes a right to abortion.”
While Himschoot isn’t interested in calling a convention, she wrote that she supports “constitutionalizing of a sustainable draw from the Permanent Fund and guaranteeing a Permanent Fund dividend.” Skaflestad wrote that he’d want to see a constitutional amendment on the “PFD formula with emergency options.”
This is Himschoot’s first time running for state office. Skaflestad has run for state House twice before. In 2018, he lost in the Republican primary to former Sitka surgeon Richard Wein; and in 2020, he won the primary but lost to Kreiss-Tomkins in the general election.
Himschoot has some significant political support behind her. Kreiss-Tomkins, outgoing state representative for the district, is listed as one of Himschoot’s deputy treasurers. So is Ira Slomski-Pritz, a partner at Ship Creek Group, the political consulting firm that worked on the campaign of Alaska U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola. Ship Creek is listed as running Himschoot’s campaign Facebook page. She’s received $1,000 donations from several labor unions, including those representing teachers and many public employees, as well as from individuals. Her campaign had raised more than $39,000 as of last month.
Skaflestad had raised just over $2,000 as of last month, almost all of it from commercial fisher Robert Thorstenson.
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