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Who will Democrats pick? District 40 candidates for House

Nine applicants for the District 40 House seat include four women and four men. Eight of them are under consideration, as the ninth applicant was disqualified by the Alaska Democratic Party due to residency.

The applicants are, as expected, all Democrats and seven of the eight are from Kotzebue, the community from which Westlake comes. Presumably they voted for Rep. Dean Westlake in 2016; he recently resigned his House seat in disgrace after being accused of multiple counts of sexual harassment.

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The Alaska Democratic Party worked hard to get Westlake elected over the previous incumbent, Rep. Ben Nageak of Barrow. Westlake won by eight votes. Shortly after he was sworn in as a legislator, he began harassing women in the Capitol and the Capital City, as he had done in his home town for many years.

The party will interview the candidates and forward three names to the governor, who will pick one, and that name will need to be confirmed by House Democrats. The whole process needs to be completed by Jan. 16 in order to swear in Westlake’s replacement before session starts, otherwise the House Democrat-led majority could start with a weak caucus, with 21-19 split between the Indie-Democrats and Republicans.

Here are the District 40 candidates:

Lewis Pagel

Dr. Lewis Pagel, chiropractor at Arctic Chiropractic Kotzebue, and member of Kotzebue City Council. Originally from a small town in Wisconsin, he had a debilitating skeletal condition as a child that was corrected through chiropractic, which led him to the field. He ended up in Kotzebue. The only non-Native to apply for the District 40 House position.

Eugene Smith

Eugene Smith, member of Kotzebue City Council. Former mayor of Kotzebue. Former chief of staff to the mayor of Northwest Arctic Borough; formerly employed by Maniilaq Native Association.

Sandy Shroyer Beaver

Sandy Shroyer Beaver, member of Kotzebue City Council and former member of the local school board, former school board president. Business Office Manager at Maniilaq Association, foster care specialist.

Patrick Savok

Patrick Savok, chief of staff for the mayor of the Northwest Arctic Borough; former government affairs director for the borough. Former assemblyman, Northwest Arctic Borough. Formerly employed by Akima, a Nana supply chain subsidiary. Alaska Pacific University and Kotzebue High School graduate; volunteer firefighter.

Timothy Gavin Jr., photo by Stephen Miller, Yes Magazine

Timothy Gavin Jr., Buckland. Mayor of Buckland. Also works for Maniilaq Native Corporation. He has lived in Buckland for 46 years, has a dozen children and several grandchildren, and has been a foster parent for many years. He has been a licensed gun dealer since 1997. Gavin served on the Buckland search and rescue team for over 30 years.

Rosie Hensley

Rosie Hensley, Kotzebue, former general manager of Kotzebue Broadcasting. Niece of former State Sen. and Rep. Willie Hensley. Hensley, in an interview with KTUU, confirmed the accounts given regarding a woman at KOTZ being harassed by former Rep. Dean Westlake, who had been subsequently banned from volunteering at the station. Not known: Did she have the courage to speak against Westlake’s candidacy before the election in 2016?

Nicole Stoops

Nicole Stoops, Kotzebue, executive director, Native Village of Kotzebue. Former candidate for school board. Married to Jake Stoops, nephew of lobbyist Reed Stoops of Juneau. Born and raised in Kotzebue.

Leanna Mack

Leanna Mack РBarrow-Utqiagvik, formerly an advisor to North Slope Borough Mayor Harry Brower. Graduate, Columbia Southern University. The Democratic Party would probably pass on her because Westlake came from the Kotzebue area.  The party and the governor will likely want someone from that part of the district.

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Suzanne Downing
Suzanne Downing
Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.


  1. Greetings from South Florida, Suzanne! Seems like only yesterday that we were co-workers at the Baranof Hotel in Juneau – 1972. Nice to see that you are still writing. Nicole is my son Jake’s wife and mother of their two sons. She graduated from Northeastern University with a degree in Journalism. Jake has been a teacher in Kotzebue for 18 years.

    I still fuss around with writing myself and have self-published four novels under the name Lee Stone. Keep up all your good work.

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