James Hart is seen in an undated photo. (Photo courtesy James Hart)

James Hart is seen in an undated photo. (Photo courtesy James Hart)

Election 2018: James Hart drops out of House race on eve of early voting

James Hart of Haines says he should not be considered for House District 33

One of four candidates in the Democratic primary for House District 33 is dropping out of the race.

James Hart of Haines told the Empire by phone that a new summer job in Sitka precluded him from campaigning for the House District 33 seat, and he is now turning his attention to the Haines Borough Assembly election instead.

“I’m ready to make that pivot and transition,” he said.

In a followup email, he wrote, “There are so many critical issues right now facing my own community that I believe (local government) is the best place to put my energy and skills at this time. I hope those who’ve supported me this far continue being involved and get out to vote.”

The formal candidate withdrawal date is well past, and Hart will still appear on the primary election ballot for District 33, but he is encouraging voters to choose another candidate. He declined to endorse any of the three people remaining in the primary: Sara Hannan of Douglas, Steve Handy of Douglas, or Tom Morphet of Haines.

“Whoever we elect for the District 33 seat should be held accountable by us, the voters and not left in the dark about our thoughts and opinions for the feature of our great state,” he wrote in his statement.

The top vote-getter among those three candidates will advance to face independent Chris Dimond in the November general election.

Early voting begins Monday, and primary election day is Aug. 21. Until Hart’s announcement, the District 33 Democratic primary had been the most competitive in the state.

Hart (Gooch Éesh, Raven Frog from the Sun House in Wrangell) is an apprentice to carver Wayne Price and participates in the North Tide Canoe Kwaan in addition to serving on the board of the Chilkoot Indian Association. He was born and raised in Southeast Alaska and has friends and family throughout the district, he told the Empire when he signed up for the race.

At 28, he was the youngest of the four candidates for District 33.

In 2017, he was named an “emerging leader” by the Central Council Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, and he served in the Legislature that year as a public policy fellow for Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, D-Sitka.

While Hart is no longer running in 2018, he said voters might see him again.

“I want to keep this race in mind and let people know I am looking toward 2020,” he said. “I want to keep my name in their ears for potential years to come.”

Primary profiles

House candidate Steve Handy seeks new mountaintop to climb

Andi Story seeks Democratic nomination for House seat from the Mendenhall Valley

Edwardson blazes independent’s path in upcoming primary

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

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

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