Darren Deacon, District 38, has been catching and smoking fish all summer along the Kuskokwim River, and a growing fan club on Facebook follows his subsistence and photographic exploits, where he reveals insights about rural life in Kalskag, where he lives with his family, including his adorable son, Rodney, who is learning subsistence skills from his dad.
Marilyn Stewart walks District 21 in the driving rain, warmed by the reception from people who have had enough of crime and are looking for new representation in Anchorage. She has a long list of credible endorsements, including from former Anchorage Mayor Rick Mystrom.
Stanley Wright is on his third pair of shoes in District 16, Anchorage, where he is taking the conservative and crime-fighting message door to door.
Even Ceezar Martinson, the Republican in District 20, is having the experience of a lifetime. He may have a slim chance to win in the left-leaning district that has been represented by Les Gara, but Martinson says that his message of fiscal responsibility is being heard by people who haven’t talked to a Republican in years. And he’s becoming known as a solid policy wonk.
By contrast, the Democrats pictured immediately below have all been endorsed by the “resist” group called March on Alaska, and the Alaska Center for the Environment, which endorsed all Democrats in the 2018 cycle. They are a decidedly white-bread collection of candidates — mostly middle aged white men and women :
Here are some of the diverse Republicans in Alaska who are bringing a crime-fighting, fiscal stewardship message to voters across the state. They are providing people with diverse options in districts that now have non-diverse Democrats as representatives.
THE CONSERVATIVE CONSCIENCE:
Anthony Lekanof is running against Democrat Harriet Drummond in Anchorage’s District 18. A student at UAA, he is also a graphic designer.
Lekanof is 21 years old and raised on St. George Island, in the Pribilof Islands.
As an Aleut, he relays how he learned early in life the importance of service, and people taking care of each other “through good times and bad.”
Lekanof attended Mt. Edgecumbe High School in Sitka and Embry Riddle Aeronautical University. Lekanof was also an intern for Sen. Lisa Murkowski, and served on the Board of the Alaska Association of Student Governments as a Region V Representative. He is a director of the St. George Tanaq Corporation.
“Alaska’s challenges are not linear — they are complex and nuanced. And I’d like to have a shot at solving them for the future of our state,” he writes.
Marcus Sanders decided he was a Republican when he realized his values more closely aligned with those of personal responsibility and the sanctity of life. A deeply spiritual man, he was raised in East Anchorage and is running against hardline Democrat Andy Josephson.
“I’m a husband, a father, an educator, a pastor, and a mentor. I’m proud to say that I have lived in Anchorage my entire life.”
For the past few years, he has worked as the safety, security, and discipline specialist at Wendler Middle School, teaching and mentoring kids — many of whom had a similar upbringing to his. Recently, he completed his bachelor’s degree. His campaign has caught fire in District 17, and on social media, where he has powerful videos that showcase his life story.
“My parents worked hard to provide for me and my brothers and sister, but they still encouraged me to better myself through quality education and community engagement. I was told in school that I’d never amount to anything — that all I’d ever become was a worker at a fast food restaurant. I refused to let that message discourage me,” he said.
As he goes door to door, it’s not uncommon for someone to ask him to just stop a moment and pray for them or one of their family members. That’s the kind of effect he has on people.
“I’m not running for office because I want to become a politician — truthfully, I don’t. I enjoy teaching and mentoring. But I am desperate to help solve the problems in our community — the rising crime, lack of opportunity, and, in many cases, a total lack of quality mentors available to kids. I don’t ever want a child in Midtown to be told what I was told growing up. They deserve better than that.
Marilyn Stewart walked all of District 21 twice in 2016, and came within 368 votes of unseating Rep. Matt Claman.
Her friends and admirers begged her to step up again. She thought long and hard about it. Campaigning is tough and there are no guarantees.
This time, however, everyone seems to know Stewart and everyone also knows that incumbent Claman is a supporter of Senate Bill 91, the flawed and dangerous judicial bill that has let criminals run wild in Anchorage. He’s been a lackluster legislator who often peels off of work to go river rafting out of state.
Stewart plans to focus on her district — she wants streets safe for law-abiding citizens, not just safety for criminals.
She’s got a great personal story and a smile that lights up a room, so people are interested in hearing from her. Stewart is just about the only Republican in her family.
“Who would have thought an African American with roots in Alabama would one day run for political office in the great State of Alaska? After graduating from Conecuh County High School in 1979, I left Alabama to join the U.S. Army. In 1981 I was stationed at Fort Richardson. My 36 years in Alaska have both humbled me and filled me with gratitude, and for decades I’ve called Alaska home.
“I believe that when you are sincerely grateful, keep your promises, and help others, your life and your community will thrive. The cornerstones of my life are God, Family, and Country. I will work tirelessly to help Alaska build a strong economy, cut our budget to sustainable levels, and ensure that West Anchorage has a strong advocate in Juneau.”
Stanley Wright has gone through three pairs of shoes walking District 16 in Anchorage, where ideologue Ivy Spohnholz is the incumbent. He’s a moderate Republican and veteran, and a photographer by trade. This is his first run for office.
“As a young man I have always believed in fighting for what’s right. I joined the US Navy to help defend the rights of my fellow Americans. As a veteran who is no longer able to serve, I decided to further my education at UAA. Over a period of time I realized that being a public servant will forever be a part of who I am and so I have chosen to run for political office.
Darren Deacon lives in Upper Kalskag in District 38, where he is Tribal Council President, City Council Member. He’s been a Village Native Corporation board member since 2016 and president of Kalskag nonprofit Search and Rescue. Those who follow him on Facebook know him to have a keen eye for photography and a willingness to share rural Alaska living with the world.
He has the endorsement of Calista Corporation, which chose not to endorse the incumbent Tiffany Zulkosky, who is a bloc-voting Democrat and ally of Mark Begich.
“As a lifelong YK Delta resident I feel that we need representatives in the House who will fight to restore a full PFD — it provides a much needed boost to our local economy — and to defend our subsistence rights and traditions.
“I want to support search and rescue efforts in the region, and the volunteers who go out to bring us and our loved ones home.
“As a Tribal chief, I have learned a lot about tribal sovereignty and support measures on both the state and federal level that will give tribes the power that they deserve. As a Native corporation board member, I have learned the importance of Alaska Native Corporations and the positive work they do for our region, people, and culture,” Deacon said.
Ceezar Martinson started out a Democrat in college but became a Republican after getting involved in politics. He is a senior at UAA studying political science.
“The PFD belongs to you, not the government. We must have a spending cap in the Constitution to stop deficit spending. Any statewide income tax needs to be voted on by the people.”
Martinson knows the political odds favor Zack Fields, the well-funded, union-backed Democrat who is running to fill Rep. Les Gara’s position, as Gara retires.
But Martinson is gaining value from the experience — he’s meeting people who have never had a policy discussion with a Republican, and he’s telling them what the conservative viewpoint looks like.
And what does a conservative look like in 2018 in Alaska?
It looks like a tall African-American young man knocking on the door to talk with extraordinary expertise about the state budget, and how spending and crime is out of control.
It looks like a Pribilof-born Alaska Native now living in the city, realizing that traditional values are compatible with fiscal responsibility.
And it looks like a man with a moose he’s harvested to feed his family in the coming winter, somewhere along the Kuskokwim River, stepping up to serve his people.