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Local field takes shape for state election

A map showing the Kenai Peninsula Borough's state legislative districts.
Ashlyn O'Hara
A map showing the Kenai Peninsula Borough's state legislative districts.

When Kenai Peninsula voters head to the polls this fall, they’ll encounter new and familiar names on the ballot.

Saturday was the filing deadline for candidates interested in running for state office this year. More than a dozen people have thrown their hat in the ring for the Kenai Peninsula’s seats in the Alaska Senate and House of Representatives.

Incumbent District D Senator Jesse Bjorkman, a Nikiski Republican, faces three challengers. He represents the district that covers most of the northern Kenai Peninsula, including Kenai, Sodotna, Hope, Cooper Landing and Bear Creek.

Also vying for the seat are Kenai Republican Ben Carpenter, who currently represents the northern peninsula in the Alaska House, as well as Soldotna Independent Andy Cizek and Sterling Democrat Tina Wegener. Cizek also ran against Bjorkman for the seat in 2022.

Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly member Bill Elam has filed for the seat being vacated by Carpenter, as has Soldotna resident John Hillyer. That district, House District 8, includes Hope, Cooper Landing, Moose Pass and Nikiski.

There’s a similarly crowded field in the race for House District 6, which covers the southern peninsula, including Kasilof, Homer and Seldovia. That seat is currently held by Homer Republican Sarah Vance, who was elected in 2018.

Among her three challengers are Brent Johnson, a nonpartisan candidate from Clam Gulch who serves as president of the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly. Dawson Slaughter is an Anchor Point Republican who’s president of the Anchor Point Chamber of Commerce. Also running is Alana Greear, a nonpartisan candidate from Homer who teaches at Kachemak-Selo School.

Back on the central peninsula, incumbent Rep. Justin Ruffridge, a Republican from Soldotna, faces a challenge from Ron Gillham in the race for District 7. Ruffridge unseated Gillham in 2022 for the district covering Kenai and Soldotna.

Alaska’s primary election is Aug. 20 and the general election is Nov. 5.

Prior to joining KDLL's news team in May 2024, O'Hara spent nearly four years reporting for the Peninsula Clarion in Kenai. Before that, she was a freelance reporter for The New York Times, a statehouse reporter for the Columbia Missourian and a graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism. You can reach her at