Rep. Andi Story (left, wearing gray), Rep. Sara Hannan (center, wearing purple) and Sen. Jesse Kiehl (wearing suit) talk with constituents following a legislative town hall on Thursday at Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Rep. Andi Story (left, wearing gray), Rep. Sara Hannan (center, wearing purple) and Sen. Jesse Kiehl (wearing suit) talk with constituents following a legislative town hall on Thursday at Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

All three members of Juneau’s legislative delegation seeking reelection

Reps. Andi Story and Sara Hannan, and Sen. Jesse Kiehl unopposed ahead of June 1 filing deadline

All three members of Juneau’s legislative delegation are officially seeking reelection without any declared opponents with about five weeks remaining before the June 1 filing deadline.

Rep. Andi Story filed her letter of intent for reelection on Thursday, joining Rep. Sara Hannan and Sen. Jesse Kiehl who filed their letters last year. No other letters of intent were filed with the Alaska Public Offices Commission as of midday Monday for the two legislative districts that include Juneau, Haines, Skagway and other communities in northern Southeast Alaska.

Hannan and Story are both seeking their fourth two-term. Story, in an interview Monday, said she filed later than the other members of the delegation due to taking time to consider factors involving her family.

“I have young grandchildren, I have an elderly mom, and I just wanted to see how they were doing and how everything’s working, and talk to my family,” she said. “And I’d like to serve again and my family is supportive.”

Kiehl, a former Juneau Assembly member, is seeking his second full four-year Senate term after taking office in January 2019 and being reelected in 2022, when all 60 seats in the Alaska Legislature were open due to redistricting. Half of the 20 Senate seats — including his — are up again after two years to continue the historical pattern of staggered terms in the upper chamber.

“I didn’t smile when the redistricting board gave me a half-length term,” Kiehl said with a chuckle on Monday. “But I also don’t mind going out and talking to constituents. I try and do that at community events anyway. I travel the district, I try and hit our northern and western communities in our district three times a year each, and except for COVID I’ve been pretty successful with that with town halls and office hours. So I really want to meet people where they are and a campaign is a much more intense version of that.”

State Sen. Jesse Kiehl, a Juneau Democrat, greets educators and other people rallying in a hallway of the Alaska State Capitol just before the Legislature’s override vote on Senate Bill 140 on Monday, March 18, 2024. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)

State Sen. Jesse Kiehl, a Juneau Democrat, greets educators and other people rallying in a hallway of the Alaska State Capitol just before the Legislature’s override vote on Senate Bill 140 on Monday, March 18, 2024. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)

The three local representatives, all Democrats, have been in prominent positions for the education issues that have dominated much of this year’s session. Story is on the House Education Committee, Hannan on the House Finance Committee, and Kiehl serves on both of those committees on the Senate side.

Kiehl is part of a 17-member bipartisan Senate majority that has generally presented a strongly organized and united presence during the two-year session so far. Hannan and Story are part of the 16-member minority caucus in a more splintered House — notably both the majority and minority caucuses have Democrats, Republicans and independents among their ranks — but Hannan said Tuesday that means there have been times she and other minority members have been able to sway majority members on key issues, which gives her hope of playing a bigger role if elected to another term.

“We’ve seen a number of votes this year on amendments on the budget that are 20-20,” she said. “It’s a 23-16 split of majority to minority caucus” — one Republican is unaffiliated — “but we’ve seen a lot of votes where they’re only at 21 or so. So certainly a year from now I would hope that I’m talking to you at the end of a very successful session being in a ruling caucus and that we’ve made progress on some of the policies like education.”

Rep. Sara Hannan, a Juneau Democrat, argues in favor of rejecting Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s executive order giving him full control of the Alaska Marine Highway Operations Board during a joint session of the Alaska Legislature on March 12. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)

Rep. Sara Hannan, a Juneau Democrat, argues in favor of rejecting Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s executive order giving him full control of the Alaska Marine Highway Operations Board during a joint session of the Alaska Legislature on March 12. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)

Hannan was the only delegation candidate with an opponent in 2022, solidly defeating first-time known challenger Darrell Harmon with about 80% of the vote. Story said she expects a challenger during this election cycle, and Kiehl and Hannan already have started their campaign fundraising and activities for they said is likely to be a lively election cycle due to the presidential election as well as hot-topic statewide issues.

Kiehl’s most recent campaign finance report, dated Feb. 11, lists $63,147.59 cash on hand, resulting from $61,658.84 in contributions and $8,511.25 in expenditures between Sept. 28, 2023, and Feb. 1 of this year, in addition to a $10,000 starting balance for the reporting period. Among his major donors are $1,000 from several labor organizations, NEA-Alaska’s political action committee and Alaska Realtors Political Action.

The most recent campaign report for Hannan shows her with $5,288.51 cash on hand, based on a beginning balance of $4,896.29 as of June 27, 2023, and a total of $3,850 in contributions and $3,457.78 in expenditures between then and Feb. 1. Major contributors included $1,000 each from NEA-Alaska, ALPEC Voluntary Contributions Laborers’ Local 942 and ASEA/AFSCME Local 52.

Story, as a just-declared candidate, does not yet have a campaign finance report filed for the current year. She, like the other delegation members, expects education funding and fiscal stability for state employees to be dominant issues discussed with local voters, although there will be a range of others.

“There’s so much going on that can really be improved,” she said. “We are getting so close to having, you know, stability for our education system. We’ve got our employees shortages. We’ve got some good pension options. We’re on the road to improving our ferry. There’s just a lot going on that I want to continue to try and shape and do well.”

Energy issues being discussed statewide, prompted by supply shortages in Southcentral Alaska, are likely to be a significant election topic in Southeast as well due to the potential cost of resolving the issue, as well as locally relevant projects such as dock electrification, Story said.

Rep. Andi Story, a Juneau Democrat, greets a legislative page on her way into the House chambers for the opening day of this year’s session on Tuesday, Jan. 16. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)

Rep. Andi Story, a Juneau Democrat, greets a legislative page on her way into the House chambers for the opening day of this year’s session on Tuesday, Jan. 16. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)

Story, similar to past sessions, has sponsored multiple education-related bills and sponsored an amendment during House floor debate earlier this month that added about $9 million for public school reading assistance to the proposed budget for next year.

Hannan also cited energy as an issue that could affect Southeast in potentially unexpected ways, including pending legislation related to transmission lines and utilities “that people don’t mean to impact us, but could if they’re written the way the bills are proposed right now.” She said the nuances of such issues, as well as others such as fisheries policies that play a large role in both the region and state, are among the reasons she wants to continue serving in a House that elected 17 brand-new members during the 2022 election.

“I feel like I’m finally up on steps of skills needed to be a good advocate for causes for my community,” she said. “And I think, especially with such a big turnover and freshman class that we had, having that experience has been beneficial. And I certainly know that after my first year I still didn’t feel quite in step. So I feel a bond with my colleagues who are new, it means that I can still continue to offer some camaraderie and team-building mentorship.”

Among the bills Hannan is sponsoring this session are ongoing efforts to prohibit conversion therapy for minors or “vulnerable adults,” and raising the age to buy tobacco products to 21 and imposing a tax on electronic smoking products.

Kiehl, noting this will be his first election that doesn’t have a gubernatorial contest “taking all the oxygen out of the room” (with the presidential race on the ballot instead), said despite the national issues that undoubtedly be on voters’ minds there will be the regional concerns shared by other delegation members.

“I think we’re going to hear a lot about the state of our fisheries, both the health of the runs and dire financial position of commercial fishing — everything from the processors to the hand trollers and every group in-between. And the other issue that will never not be an issue in the land-constrained communities of Southeast Alaska is housing. And you look at the capital budget and we’ve got some resources there. So it’s a constant effort on all those things and it probably always will be because it’s so important.”

In addition to an ongoing effort to restrict the use of PFAS chemicals for firefighting purposes, bills sponsored by Kiehl this session include stricter requirements for municipal property assessors and increasing the maximum amount of state disaster aid residents are eligible for. Both of the latter are the result of regional events during the past year, including the Haines Borough Assembly ousting its assessor after hundreds of residents signed a petition and record flooding of the Mendenhall River last August that damaged or destroyed dozens of homes.

• Contact Mark Sabbatini at mark.sabbatini@juneauempire.com or (907) 957-2306.

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