On the first day of the legislative session in Juneau, Senate President Cathy Giessel got a wake-up call back in her South Anchorage district: A challenger had filed a “letter of intent.”
It wasn’t Rep. Lance Pruitt, whom many have said could challenge the senator in the 2020 Republican Primary. Pruitt is the representative for District 27, one of two House seats in District N. Pruitt hasn’t filed for office, an indication that he has not made up his mind if he will challenge Giessel.
It wasn’t Vince Beltrami, the union boss from the AFL-CIO, who challenged her four years ago, running as another of the “undeclared” Democrats, a current fashion among Alaska Democrats trying to win in a red state.
The challenge came from a political unknown — Roger Holland, an employee of the State of Alaska, a Reserve member of the U.S. Coast Guard, and a Republican.
Unlike Giessel, Holland wasn’t raised in Alaska. He is originally from Louisiana, but moved to the state in 2009 with his wife Leslie, and two daughters. He worked as an environmental biologist in Louisiana, and is a measurement scientist for the Alaska Department of Transportation.
Holland, 58, filed a letter of intent with the Alaska Public Offices Commission to run for office, although he didn’t officially indicate which one — House or Senate. He lives in House District 28, now represented by Rep. Jennifer Johnston. His letter of intent allows him to raise money, and he launched a website, HollandforAlaska.com, but he could run for either seat. He also has a Facebook page.
This morning, he announced on Facebook he will match donations 1:1 through the end of January.
Giessel, as with other sitting legislators, cannot campaign or raise campaign funds while the Legislature is in session.
“I’m running to serve as an honest, sensible, and honorable Republican in the Alaska legislature,” Holland wrote on his campaign website, an introductory statement that is a clear message that defines the differences between his approach and that of the current Senate President.
Giessel has created a seemingly unbreakable alliance with House Speaker Bryce Edgmon, a Democrat who agreed to become “Undeclared,” so that he could be elected leader of a bipartisan House team led by Democrats. The two have paired up to oppose Gov. Michael Dunleavy on many key issues.
Holland’s statement implies he wouldn’t have made that alliance.
“… if I’m chosen to serve, I won’t be a free agent. I’m running for office on a set of principles, and they aren’t for sale. Yes, compromise in government is key, and I’ll be among the first to the table every time, but we aren’t here to compromise away sound ideas for poor ones.
“Saying yes to temporary political alliances isn’t courageous. Saying no is,” he wrote.
Giessel, who serves as Senate President, will meet with her Republican-led caucus this morning before gaveling in at 1 pm for the first day of legislative business. She is leading a caucus that has some inherent dissension over topics familiar to those following Alaska politics: The size of the state budget and the method for calculating the Permanent Fund dividend.