AND ONE BIG REASON HE SHOULDN’T
Rep. Lance Pruitt is in his ninth year of representing East Anchorage House District 27, and in his 38th year of living in that same district. With the exception of being born out of district at Regional Hospital, he’s East Anchorage through and through.
Pruitt is being pushed by political activists to run for mayor of Anchorage — a race that now has several Democrats eyeing it, including Democrat Rep. Ivy Spohnholz, who is said to have the Mark Begich machine behind her, and Anchorage Assemblyman Forrest Dunbar, who may get out in front of Spohnholz and file in October. Eric Croft, termed-limited out on the Assembly, is also interested, and even Assemblyman Christopher Constant has tested the idea with friends. Even Assemblywoman Austin Quinn-Davidson is rumored to be noodling the idea.
So far, no Republicans have shown much interest, and Pruitt has emerged as a recruitment target for an election that will take place 18 months from now, with early voting starting in early March of that year.
CAN HE DO IT?
Pruitt considered the mayoral race during in 2017, but ultimately didn’t go there. Timing is everything, and this may be his season. After all, a guy like Pruitt might want to do something other than spend half of every year in Juneau, away from his wife and children.
Here are the Top 5 reasons why Pruitt would make a good mayor — and one big reason why he shouldn’t run:
- HARD WORKER
Pruitt is a tireless campaigner, known to walk his entire district three times a year, even on non-election years, listening to as many people as he can face to face, and then he’s the one standing by the school on the first day of classes, waving a sign to welcome the students back and wish them well. He often attends athletic meets and cheering on local students for their efforts at pep rallies and recognition assemblies in his district.
Pruitt worked hard in the private sector, and was with FedEx as a manager for six years, before becoming general manager for Sears Logistics for Alaska. He had to leave that job when in his third year in the Legislature he could no longer say in good faith that his Juneau commitment was only for 90 days.
Already, during the summer months, Pruitt has been walking the district — as a lawmaker and not as a candidate, because he has not declared his run for re-election. He is, however, facing a serious challenge if he chooses to run again. Anchorage left-wing food guru Liz Snyder, who ran against him two years ago, has filed and is now stockpiling money at fundraisers.
2. WINNING RECORD
Pruitt, a Republican, has consistently won what is considered a blue district.
Liz Snyder lost to Pruitt 50.9 to 48.5 percent, in one of the toughest races of 2018. That was the year his district voted the full ticket for Democrats…except Pruitt. His district is home to some pretty big-name Democrats, such as Pete Petersen and Mark Begich.
In 2016, Pruitt beat Harry Crawford, 50.98 to 49.02 percent. Crawford was the representative for that district (although it was a different numbered district under different district map) from 2001-2011.
In 2014, Pruitt beat Matt Moore, 58.7 percent to 41.3 percent.
Even when Pete Petersen was his opponent in 2011, and when some $300,000 was spent on negative campaigning against Pruitt, Pruitt came out on top in D27. It was the most expensive race in Alaska State House history.
That means there are a lot of cross-over votes for Pruitt, a testament to the way Pruitt connects with people, as well as his values.
3. YOUTH COMBINED WITH EXPERIENCE
At 38, Pruitt is no longer the youngest legislator in the House, (that’s Rep. Sara Rasmussen), but he’s the most experienced of the current conservative crop of what’s called the Oregon Trail Generation (between Generation X and Y) in Anchorage. These are the people in their late 30s who grew up with both analog and digital technologies, and they are half old-school, half tech trailblazers.
Pruitt served as both the youngest Majority leader in Alaska history and now as Minority leader in the Alaska House.
He will cheerfully talk to those with opposing views, such as the time he took a selfie with a yelling protester in a Wasilla gymnasium this summer; Pruitt is not shy about meeting people where they are at, and trying to have a dialogue.
Although he is a fiscal conservative, Pruitt has remained cordial with now-presidential candidate and Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg, as well as another Democrat– Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford. The three up-and-comers met while attending and in the same leadership class at the Aspen Institute, the Rodel Fellowship.
Pruitt was named a Top 40 Under 40 — young people to watch across the country — by the Washington Post in 2014.
4. PASSIONATE ABOUT LOCAL ISSUES
Pruitt was out in front opposing a bus barn from being located next to residential homes in his district, when the Anchorage School District had drawn up plans to do just that. It wasn’t in his legislative wheelhouse, but was a big local issue for his constituents. When his neighbors fumed about diesel exhaust in the winter months pumped into a neighborhood known for its air inversions, as well as the associated noise, increased traffic, and a decrease in property values, Pruitt jumped into that local issue and fought for them at the school board level. The barn was moved elsewhere.
Pruitt also has a passion about turning the tide on the opioid crisis, one of the primary causes of homelessness and crime in Anchorage, and was one of the first to introduce legislation that protects people during drug overdose emergencies. If a drug user has a friend who is overdosing and calls 911, they won’t be arrested for using. House Bill 369 was known as the “Make the Call” Good Samaritan bill.
Unlike many others in the Legislature, he opposed Senate Bill 91 from the beginning, because he knew it would only add to the crime wave.
5. WON’T BUCKLE UNDER PRESSURE
Pruitt has been called too conservative, too moderate, and too liberal. But he just doesn’t seem to let it get under his skin. He doesn’t make decisions based on his chances for re-election, but just does what he thinks is best for his district and state.
He currently leads a minority caucus that has liberal Republicans, and conservative Republicans, and he’s been able to keep them together.
THE ONE REASON WHY PRUITT SHOULDN’T RUN FOR MAYOR:
Right now, the House Republican Minority has stayed united, and there are a number of freshmen who have only been through one year, albeit it was a grueling one and ought to count for two, considering the special sessions.
The House freshmen rely on Pruitt for leadership, and if he quits the House to focus on a local opportunity to lead the state’s largest city, his seat will be at risk of being taken over by Democrat Liz Snyder, who is an ally of the hardest-core leftist lawmakers in the state. Shaking that seat loose from the Democrats could take redistricting, which would come at the possible expense of a neighboring district.
Pruitt has found a way to balance out a caucus that has people from disparate points of view — people like hard-right Rep. David Eastman of District 10, and more centrist Sara Rasmussen of District 22. He’s helped his fellow lawmakers become more effective in both strategy, approach, and even decorum. Without him, will the Republican Minority Caucus hold together?
Also, without him fighting to retain his seat, the current 16 Republicans may be just 15 strong, making it harder hold it together under pressure next year. With more budget cuts likely, the pressure may be too much for some of them.
Of course, that’s theory, and it’s based on an assumption that the House won’t turn completely blue during the next election cycle, which is a pretty speculative assumption, considering how effective Democrats have been at coopting Republicans in the House, and outmaneuvering the governor on several fronts.
If Democrats take more seats in this cycle, the Democrat majority won’t need some of the Republicans they are currently using to retain power. Those Republicans could rejoin the Republican minority caucus, as Rep. Tammie Wilson did in the spring.