Longtime Juneau resident and AFL-CIO lobbyist Don Etheridge is running for the Alaska Senate seat representing northern Southeast Alaska.
On Sunday, Etheridge filed a letter of intent with the Alaska Public Offices Commission, an act that allows him to begin fundraising for office. He confirmed his run for office in a Tuesday morning phone call with the Empire.
“I’ve been lobbying now for almost 24 years, and I just wanted to do something different, and with the seat wide open, I figured why not?” he said.
Etheridge, 65, is a registered nonpartisan and said he intends to run as an independent in the general election.
Etheridge, a 1971 graduate of Juneau-Douglas High School, has a home in the Mendenhall Valley. According to the state’s voter registration database, he registered to vote in 1972 and has never moved out of the Valley.
Senate District Q, which includes House districts 33 and 34, is currently represented by Sen. Dennis Egan, D-Juneau. Egan, appointed in 2010, has said he will not run for another term.
Etheridge said he began thinking about running for the soon-to-be-vacant seat about a month ago.
“I hadn’t even given it a thought prior to that,” he said.
He began thinking about it after people in the Capitol began encouraging him. He decided to run after being convinced that he could do more to help Juneau from the inside than the outside as a lobbyist.
According to the records of the Alaska Public Offices Commission, Etheridge earned $12,500 per month while lobbying for the AFL-CIO during the legislative session. He said his contract will expire at the end of the month.
APOC records show Etheridge also lobbied for Alaska Works Partnership Inc., a labor training company, until 2013.
“I was a bit surprised,” said Vince Beltrami, head of the AFL-CIO in Alaska, when reached by phone Tuesday.
“It wasn’t at my encouragement. It’s something he decided he wants to do,” Beltrami said. “Don’s got more experience around that building than most of the legislators, and he’s respected by all sides.”
If elected, Etheridge said he wants to look at how the state handles its infrastructure.
“One of the big things I’m looking at is the deferred maintenance and infrastructure problems we’re having around the state. It keeps getting pushed aside and pushed aside and pushed aside,” he said.
Etheridge’s only other foray into public office was in 1999, when he ran for (and won) a seat on the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly. While there, he was a supporter of the Juneau Access road project, renovations to Juneau-Douglas High School, and construction of what became Thunder Mountain High School.
He ran for re-election in 2002 but lost to Stan Ridgeway. Since 2003, he has served on the CBJ’s docks and harbors board.
The only other candidate to officially register for the race is fellow independent Larry Cotter, though legislative staffer and current CBJ Assemblyman Jesse Kiehl is also expected to file for the seat. While employed as a staffer, Kiehl is legally unable to confirm his interest in the seat. Cotter has filed as a candidate with the Alaska Division of Elections, making his candidacy official; no other person has done so.
“I’m ready to go to battle,” Etheridge said.
The candidate filing deadline is June 1.
Former Juneau resident runs for House
Tim Lamkin, a former Juneau resident and legislative staffer for Sen. Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak, has filed to run for a statehouse seat representing Fairbanks.
Lamkin filed a letter of intent Monday with the Alaska Public Offices Commission.
He said by text message that he intends to run as an independent, nonpartisan candidate for House District 4. That district is currently represented by Rep. David Guttenberg, D-Juneau. Last week, Guttenberg announced he will not run for election this year. Since then, his nephew, Grier Hopkins, has said he will run for the seat.
By text message, Lamkin said he doesn’t want to see the Legislature consist of family dynasties and “good ‘ol boy” networks.
“It wasn’t set up to be, nor should we behave that way, and I’m determined to right the boat,” Lamkin wrote.
In 2014, as a Juneau resident, Lamkin was one of nine people who sought to fill the House seat vacated by the resignation of Rep. Beth Kerttula, D-Juneau. Sam Kito III was picked to fill that vacancy instead.
• Contact reporter James Brooks at firstname.lastname@example.org or 523-2258.