Sen. Berta Gardner announced she is retiring after the 2018 session.
Gardner represents District I, which is a stretch of liberalism in Anchorage that makes it likely that Elvi Gray-Jackson, who was on the Anchorage Municipal Assembly until her term ended this year, will make a bid for that Senate seat.
Gray-Jackson filed earlier this year a letter of intent with the Alaska Public Offices Commission to run for an unspecified state seat. She lives in the east part of the Rogers Park neighborhood of Anchorage, an area also represented by Rep. Harriet Drummond.
Gardner was first elected to the Senate in 2012, after serving in the House, representing District 24 from 2005 to 2013. A Democrat, she is the Senate minority leader.
Gray-Jackson is also a Democrat and has been chosen by the party to take Gardner’s place.
Who will take over as Senate Minority Leader after Gardner retires?
The choices are few: Sen. Bill Wielechowski comes to mind as the most experienced, although some say he has his eye on the governorship, if Mark Begich does not jump into that race.
Other members of the minority include Dennis Egan of Juneau, Tom Begich of Anchorage (who recently replaced Johnny Ellis), and Donny Olson, of the Seward Peninsula, who tends to join Republicans at times and is not the Democrats’ most reliable choice. Olson is, however, the only Native member of their caucus and is the most senior member.
Gardner was honored on Saturday night at the Democrat’s gala in Anchorage for her years of service. She has told her colleagues she wants to spend more time with her family.
The district was drawn as a solidly Democrat stronghold during the most recent redistricting effort after the 2010 U.S. Census. Why the Democrats did not ask Reps. Andy Josephson or Harriet Drummond to run is interesting. Drummond’s health is in question, and Josephson voted against SB 91, the only Democrat in the House to do so.
“The Democrats have replaced a doctrinaire liberal with a fanatic leftist, somewhere to the left of Che Guevera,” said Tuckerman Babcock, chairman of the Alaska Republican Party. But first, she has to win the election.