Campaigning during a pandemic is going to look different this year. Gone are the days of big, in-person town halls and door-to-door canvassing. But that hasn’t stopped a full field of Kenai Peninsula candidates from setting their sights on the Legislature this fall.
House of Representatives District 29 covers Nikiski, part of Cooper Landing, Hope and Seward. First-term Rep. Ben Carpenter, a Nikiski Republican, is running for reelection. He’s got at least one challenger in the fall — Paul Dale, of Nikiski, who filed as a nonpartisan.
This week, the Legislature returned to Juneau from a recess to work on distributing COVID-19 relief funds in the state. Because they were coming from all over the state to gather in a single building before going back home to their communities, legislators were required to wear masks and be temperature checked as they headed into the building. Once they were checked, they would receive a sticker noting that they were clear of symptoms.
The stickers turned out to be a source of controversy. In an email posted to social media, Rep. Ben Carpenter of Nikiski compared the stickers to the badges with a yellow Star of David on them, which Jews in Nazi Germany were forced to wear as identification prior to being segregated and later shipped to concentration camps.
Chaos quickly followed. Comments were polarized on both sides, with critics saying it was offensive to compare a health screening to genocide, and supporters saying his comments were misunderstood and taken out of context.
Carpenter apologized for the analogy and said he was trying to make a point about loss of liberties and government overreach amid the pandemic response. He also noted concerns about the Legislature requiring the general public to wear similar stickers in the future, noting their medical status.
Nikiski Republican Ben Carpenter has filed a letter of intent to run for reelection to the state House of Representatives. He spoke with KDLL’s Shaylon Cochran about what he hopes to accomplish in the coming legislative session, and where the focus of the legislature will be on the budget, taxes and the Permanent Fund.
Voters in House District 29 will have a new name to consider on the ballot this fall. Nikiski resident Paul Dale announced his candidacy this week.
Dale is a lifelong Alaskan who has lived in Nikiski since 1989. He and his wife, Brenda, started Snug Harbor Seafoods in 1990, employing at least 250 people every summer until they sold the majority of the company’s assets last year.
Dale says he’s been wanting to run for the Legislature for 30 years, but business kept him too busy.
“I’ve been interested in politics all of my life, Alaskan politics. And I got sidelined with developing Snug Harbor Seafoods and at that time it was easy to focus on family and business. We sold most of the assets six months ago and I now do have time to try my hand at elected politics,” Dale said.