Editor’s note: Early voting for the Aug. 21 statewide primary election began Monday. Anyone who is registered to vote can cast a ballot at the State Office Building or the Division of Elections regional headquarters in Mendenhall Mall. As early voting begins, the Empire is publishing profiles of the six candidates who are in contested primary elections for Juneau House seats. A special voter guide covering all primary candidates will be published on the Sunday before the primary election day.
It started with a march, and now it’s a run.
On Aug. 21, Sara Hannan will be on the primary Election Day ballot for House District 33, continuing an effort inspired by this year’s Women’s March.
Hannan, a retired Juneau-Douglas High School teacher, is running for the Democratic nomination in the district that covers Haines, Skagway, Gustavus, Klukwan, Excursion Inlet, Douglas and Juneau. If she defeats fellow Democratic prospects Steve Handy and Tom Morphet (a fourth candidate, James Hart, has since withdrawn), she will advance to the general election and a faceoff with independent candidate Chris Dimond.
In an interview last week, Hannan said she never intended to run for office. That changed with the November 2016 election of President Donald Trump.
“Women of my generation were thinking, we’re on the road to all the things feminists have fought for for 40 years. … Young women won’t ever face these hurdles,” she said.
After the election, Hannan became involved with a Juneau group known as the ReSisters and spent a lot of time trying to recruit young women to run for office. She found there were a lot of hurdles deterring those women from seeking office, but she — as a recent retiree — didn’t face those. She wasn’t trying to develop a career or raise a family. She didn’t have a new mortgage.
“And so, that sort of organically became like, OK, maybe I should do this,” Hannan said.
Hannan grew up in Anchorage and attended the University of Alaska Fairbanks. She arrived in Juneau for the first time with the Alaska Legislature, working as a staffer for Sen. Jalmar (Jay) Kerttula, father of former Juneau Rep. Beth Kerttula.
Hannan said she fell in love with the community during her seasonal stays and wanted to remain in Juneau. After her legislative work, she was employed by the administration of Gov. Steve Cowper, then worked for a nonprofit whose mission was to bring Alaska kids to Juneau to experience the Legislature. In the early 1990s, she was looking for something more stable and became a teacher. Hired in 1996 by the Juneau School District, she taught government, psychology, American history and swimming for 20 years before retiring.
She was a student council adviser and was involved in the teachers’ union as a bargaining spokesperson.
“I tried to make sure that working conditions are — that there’s a due process for everyone involved,” she said.
After retirement, she briefly worked for SERRC before her political moves took priority.
“My big issue motivating me to run is making sure that we have a solid financial plan. And I don’t mean one year at a time. I mean a 50-year plan for how we’re going to pay for things,” she said.
Hannan said the state needs to come up with a transition plan for moving away from oil revenue as the principal way to pay for government-provided services.
Over the past few years, the state has spent its savings, and she made an analogy to a retiree who exhausts his or her retirement savings in the first four years of retirement.
“If you use it all up in the first few years of retirement … then you can’t live to be 90 because the money would be gone,” she said.
Hannan is “absolutely” in favor of an income tax as a means of resolving the state’s $700 million annual deficit and is emphatically opposed to Gov. Bill Walker’s suggestion of a payroll tax.
“There is a lot of wealth in Alaska that is not in a paycheck. It’s in other assets,” she said.
She doesn’t support construction of a hard-surface road between Juneau and Skagway, preferring improved ferry service instead.
“Frankly, for the last few years, I feel like we can barely meet our plowing needs for the roads we do have,” she said.
As state support for the ferry system has declined, she said, ticket prices have risen to unsustainable levels, causing knock-on effects for people throughout Southeast. If someone can’t afford to travel to Juneau for regular medical care, like dental visits, they run the risk of bigger, more expensive problems later on, she said.
That’s simply a cost shift, not savings, she said.
On crime, she said past lawmakers failed to properly implement the criminal justice reform bill known as Senate Bill 91 because they didn’t fund alternatives to imprisonment.
“If you don’t do something else — if you don’t have probation offices, if you don’t have drug treatment, if you don’t have job skills trainings, then just sending people out from behind bars, it seems a fairly predictable outcome that they’re going to repeat their crime,” she said.
Considering the trans-Alaska natural gas pipeline, Hannan said she is “not going to dismiss it out of hand as if it’s a pipe dream” but has big questions about its economic feasibility.
“You know, at the same time, we’re in a state where we’re talking about climate change really impacting us. And is this the best use of a few billion dollars?” she said.
• Contact reporter James Brooks at firstname.lastname@example.org or 523-2258.