The Race for House District 37: Experienced Leadership Vs. Fresh Perspectives
Update 11/7/16: Stan Swetzof missed the deadline to file as a write-in candidate for House District 37. Write-in votes for Swetzof cannot be counted.
In this b?usy election season, Unalaskans aren't ju?st picking the mayor or president. They're als?o voting on which repres?entative to send to June?au for the next two years.
Unalaska belongs to Alaska House District 37 — a huge area that encompasses roughly 10,000 voters from Anvik to Adak.
Democrat Br?yce Edgmon of Dillingham has represented the district for the la?st decade. But this year, he faces competition from tw?o newco?mers: Republican Willi?am Weatherby of King Salmon and write-in candidate Stan Swe?tzof of Naknek.
While this is the first time Weatherby and Swetzof have run for public office, Edgmon has served on the House Finance Committee for the last six years. He says it's critical that the district con?tinues to have a veteran legislator as the state tries to solve its massive budget shortfall.
"Alaska really is at a crossroads, and the decisions in front of us will make or break our future," said Edgmon. "It's a huge advantage to have somebody who's familiar with the process in Juneau and the issues surrounding the fiscal challenge."
Edgmon said his to?p priority is fixing the state's finances, but there are other issues he'd like to address soon.
"One that comes to mind is the restructuring of the Marine Highway System," he said. "It has a direct bearing on Unalaska and the communities in all of southwest Alaska."
But according to Weatherby, Edgmon hasn't ear?ned another term.
"Now more than ever, he says we need experienced leadership in Juneau. Well, we really needed it years ago, and now we're behind the eight ball," said Weatherby. "The people who were in the Legislature and could have made a difference didn't. They don't deserve to continue on."
Originally from Oregon, Weatherby has lived in Alaska for a decade and worked as a laborer. If elected, the Republican said he'll pass legislation to give Alaskans the money they would have received if Gov. Bill Walker hadn't capped the Permanent Fund Dividend this year.
He said he'll also work to make sure PFD checks aren't cut again.
"I will tell the government 'no' every single time they try to get their hands on it," he said. "I will just say 'no.' I'm looking forward to standing up to the governor and other representatives."
Swetzof al?so wants to see new leadership in Juneau, but he doesn't think Weatherby is the answer.
The write-in candidate was raised in the Aleutian Islands, and he's now police chief of the Bristol Bay Borough. He decided to run for the House after legislators cut ?funding for prisons and other law enforcement over the last year.
"We can't cut back on public safety," said Swetzof. "When you cut a trooper position and you don't backfill it, that really hurts everybody else who's working on the streets to try and make a difference."
Swetzof said his Aleutian background also gives him a unique understanding of the enti?re district.
"In the past, Edgmon has treated it like it's the Dillingham District, and it's not," he said. "I grew up in Atka, I've lived in Unalaska, I've worked in Dillingham, and now I work in Bristol Bay. I've worked in all of these different places in our district, and I want to be the one that represents the whole area."
On the ballot, voters can choose between Edgmon and Weatherby or write in a candidate's name, such as Swetzof's. The polls open on Tuesda?y, Nov. 8.