Sara Hannan is running for Alaska House District 33. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Sara Hannan is running for Alaska House District 33. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Election 2018: Retired teacher Sara Hannan isn’t too tired to run

Seeks Democratic nomination for House District 33

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 If she defeats fellow Democratic prospects Steve Handy and Tom Morphet (a fourth candidate, James Hart, has since withdrawn), she will advance to the general election and a faceoff with independent candidate Chris Dimond.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.

Primary profiles

House candidate Steve Handy seeks new mountaintop to climb

Edwardson blazes independent’s path in upcoming primary

James Hart drops out of House race on eve of early voting

Andi Story seeks Democratic nomination in the Mendenhall Valley


• Contact reporter James Brooks at jbrooks@juneauempire.com or 523-2258.


More in News

Drag queen Gigi Monroe reads a book about a wig during Drag Storytime at the Mendenhall Valley Public Library. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)
One for the books: Drag Storytime returns

Balloons, books, bustin’ moves.

FILE - Tara Sweeney, a Republican seeking the sole U.S. House seat in Alaska, speaks during a forum for candidates, May 12, 2022, in Anchorage, Alaska. Sweeney's campaign manager said, Wednesday, June 22, 2022, that the campaign did not plan to sue over a finding released by Alaska elections officials stating that she cannot advance to the special election for U.S. House following the withdrawal of another candidate. (AP Photo / Mark Thiessen, File)
Alaska Supreme Court ruling keeps Sweeney off House ballot

In a brief written order, the high court said it affirmed the decision of a Superior Court judge.

President Joe Biden signs into law S. 2938, the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act gun safety bill, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, Saturday, June 25, 2022. First lady Jill Biden looks on at right. (AP Photo / Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
President signs landmark gun measure, says ‘lives will be saved’

The House gave final approval Friday, following Senate passage Thursday.

Three people were arrested over several days in a series of events stemming from a June 16 shoplifting incident, with a significant amount of methamphetamine seized. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire)
Shoplifting investigation leads to arrests on drug charges

Significant amounts of drugs and loose cash, as well as stolen goods, were found.

Ben Gaglioti, an ecologist at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, stands next to a mountain hemlock tree damaged in winter on the outer coast of Glacier Bay National Park in Southeast Alaska. (Courtesy Photos / Ned Rozell)
Alaska Science Forum: Bonsai trees tell of winters long past

By Ned Rozell A GREEN PLATEAU NORTH OF LITUYA BAY — “These… Continue reading

This photo shows a return envelope from the recent special primary election for Alaska's lone seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. On Friday, a judge sided with the state elections office on a decision to omit fifth-place finisher Tara Sweeney from ballots in the special general election. Al Gross, who finished third in the special primary, dropped out of the race, creating confusing circumstances ahead of Alaska's first ranked choice vote. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)
Judge rules Sweeney wont advance to special election

Decision has Sweeney off the ballot for special election.

It's a police car until you look closely and see the details don't quite match. (Juneau Empire File / Michael Penn)
Police calls for Saturday, June 25, 2022

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

A Princess Cruise Line ship is docked in Juneau on Aug. 25, 2021. (Michael Lockett / Juneau Empire File)
Ships in Port for the week of June 19

Here’s what to expect this week.

Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire 
Peter Froehlich, a retired Juneau district judge who is now a volunteer tour guide, explains the history of the history of the Kimball Theatre Pipe Organ in the State Office Building to a group of visitors Thursday. The organ has been idle since 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and now needs repairs before regular Friday lunchtime concerts and other performances on the 94-year-old instrument can resume.
Historic organ is in need of tuneup

How much it will cost and who will do it remain up in the air.

Most Read