Local union members Kirk Perisch, left, Corey Baxter cook hot dogs and hamburgers for those attending the Labor Day picnic at Sandy Beach on Monday, Sept. 3, 2018. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Local union members Kirk Perisch, left, Corey Baxter cook hot dogs and hamburgers for those attending the Labor Day picnic at Sandy Beach on Monday, Sept. 3, 2018. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Labor Day picnic gives attendees chance to meet candidates

Locals try to make sense of ‘perfect storm’ of crowded election field

Nadine Lefebvre, the president of the Juneau Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO, prepared to read the winning raffle numbers at Monday’s annual Labor Day picnic. Before she did, she had a quick message for the attendees.

“I hope you had an opportunity to talk to some of the candidates here today,” Lefebvre said.

With the number of candidates roaming the picnic area at Sandy Beach, it was almost impossible not to have spoken to one or two of them. The annual holiday event usually is a time for people to speak with candidates for office, and this year’s races are particularly crowded.

Locally, there are four open Assembly seats, three open School Board seats and a mayoral race. There’s also two House of Representative races, a state Senate race, a U.S. House race and a gubernatorial election. That’s not even mentioning the contentious fisheries ballot measure.

“It’s a perfect storm,” Lefebvre said.

[Crowded races abound in municipal election]

Almost all of the municipal candidates were there, handing out literature, buttons and business cards while chatting with as many people as they could. They also got to know each other, as the three Juneau Board of Education candidates — Kevin Allen, Paul Kelly and Elizabeth Siddon — gathered and spoke with each other for a while near the Savikko Park swing set. The three of them are running for three open seats.

Mona Stevick stood nearby, holding an array of candidate brochures that looked like a makeshift fan in her hand.

“I really want to read up on them to see what they’re about, not just because you know somebody or you heard of them,” Mona said. “You want to really see what the issues are at hand and want to see what they’re supporting. I think that’s really important to the community and to the state.”

Even as she and her husband George were interviewed, candidates and representatives for candidates walked by and gave them more literature. George, a member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 1547, said he supports candidates who support labor unions.

That was obviously a clear theme at the event, which was run by the Juneau Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO. Large banners hung around the picnic shelter, representing everything from the carpenters’ union to the firefighters’ union and the Marine Engineers’ Beneficial Association.

Despite the political focus the event has taken on due to its timing, Lefebvre said, the picnic has always been first and foremost to celebrate laborers on Labor Day.

“We wanted to give back, let the community know we’re here,” Lefebvre said. “You support us and we support you.”

Richard Listowski, a member of a retirees’ union and the Tongass Democrats, was there for both the celebration and the political scene. He was also there for the ribs, he made sure to point out.

Listowski said he’s trying to catch up on the local races, especially with Assembly members Norton Gregory and Beth Weldon resigning from the Assembly to run for mayor and a flurry of new candidates declaring to run for those open seats.

“I can’t keep the local candidates straight, who dropped out and who’s replacing who,” Listowski said.

He said he was planning on tracking down a few of the candidates and seeing what they had to say.

The event was well attended, as the sun was shining and temperatures rose above 60 degrees. Cars filled the parking lot and lined Savikko Road well past Treadwell Arena. Some of the cars had candidate road signs leaning against them.

Listowski stood off to the side, overseeing the large crowd.

“I hope all these people turn out in November,” he said.


• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or amccarthy@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.


Crystal Koeneman, right, swings her son, Tyr, 6 during the Labor Day picnic at Sandy Beach on Monday, Sept. 3, 2018. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Crystal Koeneman, right, swings her son, Tyr, 6 during the Labor Day picnic at Sandy Beach on Monday, Sept. 3, 2018. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

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