Correction: Handy was one of several team leaders with Juneau Mountain Rescue, not the organization’s sole leader.
Steve Handy used to climb mountains for a living. Now, he’s looking to climb Alaska’s state capitol hill.
Handy is one of three candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for House District 33, which covers Douglas, Haines, Skagway, Gustavus and downtown Juneau. (James Hart will appear on the ballot but has ended his candidacy.)
Handy said he was inspired to run for office after thinking that “we are going in the absolute wrong direction, and I can either talk about it or do something about it.”
“I can either just swim and accept or do something about it,” Handy said. “Many, many other people are doing the same thing.”
Handy was raised in Southern California and New England, then joined the U.S. Air Force when he was grown. His parents were politically active and encouraged their children to pay attention to the world around them.
“I got concerned when I was young, so I joined the service,” Handy said.
He specialized in communications and navigation systems, and when he left the Air Force, he stayed in similar work as a contractor.
In the 1990s, he came to Alaska and found work for a cellphone provider building mountaintop sites. He stayed and continued the work, building mountaintop microwave transmitters.
He used that experience with Juneau Mountain Rescue, eventually becoming a leader of the organization. He no longer does mountaintop rescues but still has fond memories of his work with the agency.
He attended the University of Alaska Southeast and crafted a custom legal studies bachelor degree before beginning work on a formal law degree. He just finished his first year.
Handy worked as a legislative intern for Sen. Berta Gardner, D-Anchorage, in 2014, but has never held elective office.
“I think that if you’re going to effect policy, you should have an understanding of the policy that you’re going to be remaking,” he said.
Handy said he wants to see the Legislature head in “the right direction,” something that involves finding common ground and solutions considered without thought to ideology.
Talking to the Empire’s editorial board on Thursday, Handy compared his methods to the way he might troubleshoot an electrical problem. Finding the issue might involve taking a number of steps, and no solution should be discounted.
“Don’t say ‘no’ to something that could be good,” Handy said.
That said, Handy has already come to some conclusions on particular issues.
With regard to the state’s $700 million budget deficit, “I don’t want an income tax — who does? — but reality is reality,” he said, concluding that he does support an income tax.
He also supports spending from the Alaska Permanent Fund to pay for general government expenses, but not indefinitely.
Rather than support for a trans-Alaska natural gas pipeline, he would like to see the state invest more in renewable energy programs.
“I think the natural gas train has left the station,” he said.
On fisheries, “I’m pro Ballot Measure 1,” he said, adding that he believes Pebble Mine “would be an absolute no-no.”
If the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, he would “absolutely” support state protections for abortion rights.
“We cannot on one hand be screaming about how self-determined we are and not allow people to be self-determined on what happens to their own bodies,” he said.
On crime issues, he said the criminal justice reform efforts begun by Senate Bill 91 should not be abandoned. He pointed out that the Legislature has since modified SB 91 with a series of bills and the main problems have come because of the way SB 91 was implemented, not because of the bill itself.
“What we need to do is (address) what’s causing the increase in crime,” he said, suggesting that the state needs to address drug addiction and the supply of illegal drugs in the state.
Furthermore, he said, Alaska should “understand the economic issues, the social issues, the mental health issues” driving crime.
“These are complex things. Crime is a huge tip of an iceberg,” he said.
When it comes to Juneau transportation issues, Handy said there definitely needs to be better access to Juneau.
“The road wasn’t it. Obviously, because it died,” he said, adding he would not have backed it.
Handy said he has not always been a Democrat, but he switched parties because he believes in fairness and equality of opportunity, “which by definition is Democrat.”
He won’t always follow the party platform, he said.
“I am beholden to one group, and that is the people of this district,” he said. “The vote of the reasonable majority. That drives my decisions. Not other influences.”
• Contact reporter James Brooks at email@example.com or 523-2258.