Rep. Justin Parish, D-Juneau, speaks at the Native Issues Forum at the Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall on Thursday, March 1, 2018. The forum is sponsored by The Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska. (MIchael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

Rep. Justin Parish, D-Juneau, speaks at the Native Issues Forum at the Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall on Thursday, March 1, 2018. The forum is sponsored by The Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska. (MIchael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

Rep. Justin Parish drops out of election; Assemblyman Rob Edwardson will run instead

Rep. Justin Parish, D-Juneau, is dropping out of this fall’s election for the Alaska House of Representatives seat representing the Mendenhall Valley.

One of his former staffers, Juneau Assembly member Rob Edwardson, will run in Parish’s place as an independent for the Valley seat, Edwardson confirmed. Edwardson will participate as an independent in the Democratic primary.

“Justin asked me to run,” Edwardson told the Empire by phone Tuesday. “What we discussed is the experience and the discipline and the knowledge about how the state works that I have. He thought that I have more to offer.”

[Rep. Parish faced sexual harassment complaint]

“I’ve said all along that it’s my responsibility to run again unless someone better throws their hat into the ring,” Parish said Tuesday morning at the downtown Heritage Coffee.

“After a number of conversations with Rob, I’ve come to the conclusion that he’s the right guy for the job,” Parish said.

Edwardson said he and Parish have been discussing a possible run for the Legislature since earlier in the session.

“It’s a big ask. We discussed it several times. I let him know all the way up until I made my final decision that I planned on supporting him,” Edwardson said.

As the Empire interviewed Parish on Tuesday morning, his official Facebook page shared a video in which Parish explains his decision and says that he will be supporting Edwardson in the election.

Parish told the Empire he has already donated to Edwardson’s campaign. In a separate move, he will refund leftover campaign donations from his 2016 election. Parish said he will continue to serve the district until his term expires, and he is not seeking election to the Senate seat representing northern Southeast.

Parish said the decision was entirely his own.

“I’ve been thinking about it longer than we’ve talking about it,” he said of his conversations with Edwardson.

He added that he was treated fairly by the Alaska Democratic Party and was not pressured into his decision.

“This is news to us,” said Edric Carrillo, chairman of the Tongass Democrats.

Ethics rules prohibit legislative staffers from running for office while working in the state Capitol. Edwardson’s last day was Friday, and he filed a letter of intent with the Alaska Public Offices Commission on Monday.

The last day for candidates to register for the fall election is June 1.

Edwardson, born in Sitka in 1965, was raised in Ketchikan and came to Juneau in 1990 with the U.S. Coast Guard. After serving in the Coast Guard, he became a state employee and an official of the Department of Environmental Conservation. He was elected in fall 2017 to the Assembly.

In the Mendenhall Valley, Edwardson will face fellow Assembly member and deputy mayor Jerry Nankervis, who is running for the Legislature as a Republican.

Nankervis did not immediately return a text message or voicemail seeking comment Tuesday morning.

Parish won election to the Legislature in November 2016 with a surprise underdog victory over incumbent Rep. Cathy Muñoz, R-Juneau. Muñoz, an experienced lawmaker in a powerful position, was hampered by the revelation that she had written letters in support of a lesser sentence for a convicted child rapist.

Parish’s departure leaves Juneau without a single incumbent in this fall’s election. Sen. Dennis Egan, D-Juneau, has previously announced his retirement, and Rep. Sam Kito III, D-Juneau, has also said he will not seek re-election.

Egan and Kito each said they had not known of Parish’s decision before it was announced, and both declined comment.

• Contact reporter James Brooks at or 523-2258.

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