There is at least one state House race which is going to be a contentious one this cycle and should be followed by those who care about rational governance. That race is in District 31, in Homer. In that race you have two candidates running with conflicting personalities as well as conflicting visions for the future of Alaska. The incumbent is Sarah Vance who has demonstrated at every level that she is not a true representative of her constituents on the major public policy issues affecting the state.
She has consistently, since last year, demonstrated that she is a Valley-style populist unconcerned with the well being of her constituents and the people of this state. She has advocated a $3,000 dividend, along with draconian budget reductions to pay that dividend and has consistently opposed any discussion of new revenue. This, in spite of the fact that the math of the state’s budget crisis does not support her positions and the fact that her own constituents have opposed the positions she has taken on these issues. When it came time for her to vote with her colleagues to override the governor’s disastrous vetoes of 2019, she stood shoulder to shoulder with him despite the destruction it has caused to countless communities.
She has also consistently made it a point to not work with her colleagues in the legislative delegation of which she is a part. She has been an opponent of her colleague Rep. Louise Stutes and has been antagonistic towards her and other members of the House leadership team. Rather than developing a good working relationship with Senator Gary Stevens she has sought to develop close relations with the Valley extremists in the Senate who attack her Senator. All of this adds up to someone who chooses to stand with the Valley delegation over her district.
On the other side of the coin you have in Kelly Cooper, someone who is a true leader in the mold of the former representative for the area Paul Seaton. She was a Republican before running for state House and changed her voter registration out of disgust with the direction of the Alaska Republican Party in the age of Dunleavy. She currently serves on the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly and has made her mark there as a compassionate leader looking out for her community.
She has demonstrated in her role on the borough assembly that she will do her homework and let the facts guide her judgements — not politics. Homer needs that kind of intellectual approach in Juneau next year, especially when the conversation is going to turn to finding new forms of revenue.
If she and other independents who are running in key races this year get elected then they will have the power to keep the coalition together and ensure a rational budget process. The question before the voters of Homer is a simple one: do you want a valley extremist or a proven leader in the mold of Paul Seaton to create a path forward for a brighter future? That is a question that if answered correctly gets us as a state to a better future for future generations if it is answered in a negative fashion it gets us the chaos and destruction of the governor’s vetoes.