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Three file for Central Peninsula state Senate seat

The Alaska Statehouse in April, 2022.
Riley Board
The Alaska Statehouse in April, 2022.

Three candidates have filed to run for the senate district that includes Kenai and Soldotna.

Senate District D, which covers much of the Kenai Peninsula, is open after just two years because of redistricting that occurred in 2022. Typically, Senate terms are four years.

Jesse Bjorkman won the seat in November 2022, and filed to run again this June. He said he is currently focused on his remaining session in the Senate.

“I am focused on going forward into this year working on a plan that can make our state more fiscally sound, and gain that fiscal stability for our state that we need, as well as working to improve our roads,” Bjorkman said. “Road maintenance is something that we’ve seen in our community lately that is very important to many of us, and certainly, we notice when it is lacking.”

Bjorkman said his other current priorities are improving workforce development and childcare. He said he is also planning to work on legislation related to the foster care system, farmers and veterans.

In the Senate, Bjorkman is a member of the 17-person bipartisan majority, and passed bills personally and through committee during the last session. One, that allowed local lumber producers to grade their own product, passed almost unanimously and was signed into law this fall.

“I’m just really looking forward to going back to Juneau, because there’s lots of work to do for folks here on the Kenai Peninsula,” Bjorkman said. “I’m proud of the work we’ve done already, and want to see things continue to move forward.”

Bjorkman is facing a challenge from fellow Republican Ben Carpenter, who is currently serving his third term in House District 8. Carpenter said he filed a letter of intent by mail last week, and was inspired to run for the senate because of his desire for fiscal stability.

“It appears to me that we’re going to need some change in the legislature, in the Senate in specific, if we’re going to make any headway with implementing various things that need to get done to get our state on a more solid fiscal future,” he said.

Carpenter said he’s also focused on education, specifically on supporting charter schools and bringing more parents into the conversation. He’s also opposed to ranked-choice voting, and said he will focus on repeal efforts if elected.

Carpenter said if he won, he would not join a bipartisan caucus, and would be a part of a Republican minority if necessary.

“If I spend the time in the minority because the people send more senators to the legislature who want to keep ranked-choice voting, and want to keep the status quo on education, and that means I’m in the minority because there aren’t enough people who believe like I do, then I will spend time in the minority, and I will influence from the minority,” he said.

Another candidate in the race is Andy Cizek, who filed to run for the seat earlier this month. He ran for Seat D in 2022, coming in third behind Bjorkman and Tuckerman Babcock but garnering 12% of votes before redistribution.

Cizek said he filed again because he’s unhappy with his representation, and is running to be the most conservative voice in the race.

“I’m gonna try to represent the most people that are there that voted me in, so I can give the most people the best chance that they have.”

Cizek said his priorities include getting a full PFD to all Alaksans, and keeping the focus on anti-abortion legislation. Like Carpenter, he said he would be in the minority with conservatives if necessary.

The primary election for the 2024 state senate race is on August 20 of next year.

A few candidates have also filed for the Central Peninsula’s House seats. In State House District 7, first-term Representative Justin Ruffridge has filed to run for another term. In Carpenter’s current District 8, Ridgeway resident John Hillyer has filed to run in 2024.

Riley Board is a Report For America participant and senior reporter at KDLL covering rural communities on the central Kenai Peninsula.
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