Incumbent House Speaker Bryce Edgmon received 753 votes in last Tuesday's primary election, running uncontested in the Democratic primary. William Weatherby of King Salmon was voted the Republican candidate, receiving 422 votes.
In the August 21 primary election, House District 37 elected its candidates for representative in the state legislature. The district spans much of southwest Alaska, including Bristol Bay, the Alaska Peninsula and the Aleutians.
Incumbent House Speaker Bryce Edgmon received 753 votes, running uncontested in the Democratic primary. William Weatherby of King Salmon was voted the Republican candidate, receiving 422 votes. He beat his primary challenger Stanley Swetzof of Naknek by 183 votes.
As the dust settles across the state, it remains unclear who will control the Alaska House of Representatives in November. The current House majority caucus is comprised mostly of Democrats. Asked what the primary results might mean for control of the House, Edgmon remains “cautiously optimistic.”
“Like it did in 2016, I think the 2018 elections are going to hinge on a handful of races depending on who gets back in the majority status versus being in the minority caucus. Again, I’m feeling pretty good about where we’re at now. We’ve worked hard to protect rural Alaska. Being the first speaker of the House with Alaska Native blood has been something that’s been an incredible honor for me, and I’ll be working to make sure we keep our coalition together,” Edgmon said.
Looking to the November midterms, both candidates are focused on critical local issues. Edgmon says he wants to protect education funding and expects more discussion of criminal justice.
“In an environment, certainly depending on who’s governor coming up, where there could be even more attempts to cut programs, and services, [and] positions in outlying communities, many of which are in southwest Alaska, that is first and foremost to make sure that our district is protected both in the operating and what might be in the capital budget,” Edgmon explained.
Weatherby said he is focusing on the Permanent Fund Dividend, education and the opioid epidemic.
“It’s not just the fact that they took money from every PFD," he said. "It’s the fact that they didn’t really need it. It’s sitting in the Earnings Reserve Fund. But it’s a symptom of government I guess thinking that they know better what to do with your life than you do,” Weatherby said.
Edgmon has been entrenched in the PFD debate as well as in debates on how to close Alaska’s substantial budget deficit:
“Being Speaker of the House, I was in a very prominent position and somebody who played a key role in making sure we’ve got a larger dividend, in the face of attempting to get a full dividend,” said Edgmon. “But I think there’s going to be a lot of voters out there who are going to make their selection based on that one issue alone. I guess I should remind everyone that Alaska still is facing huge budget deficits and oil prices really have not erased the deficit.”
Regarding the deficit, Weatherby advocates for to spending cuts.He said, “The most spending that happens is in education and early childhood development. That department has very high spending. And health and social services has very high spending. Some of these departments don’t spend that much money, and they’re probably cut fairly close to the bone. The larger departments, I feel like there’s more opportunity for them to find this wasteful spending and cut it out.”
Many Democrats worry that the race between Senator Mark Begich and incumbent Gov. Bill Walker will split the Democratic and Independent vote in the midterms. Edgmon expressed that same concern. He said he will announce which candidate he supports in the coming weeks. Weatherby is supporting Mike Dunleavy.
Contact the author at email@example.com or 907-842-5281.