Political newcomers Dimond, Hannan seek Juneau state House post
Neither Chris Dimond nor Sara Hannan have ever held political office.
In November, that changes. One of them will earn a two-year term representing Juneau in the state House of Representatives. Both are looking to become part of a freshman class of Juneau lawmakers, thanks to turnover the capital city hasn’t seen in decades.
They are seeking the seat vacated by Sam Kito III, who represents downtown Juneau, plus area coastal communities Haines, Klukwan, Skagway and Excursion Inlet.
Dimond’s name may be familiar to longtime Alaskans. His great grandfather, A.J. Dimond, was a territorial delegate and an Anchorage high school bears his name. His grandfather, John Dimond, sat on Alaska’s first Supreme Court: His name on Juneau’s state courthouse.
Candidate Dimond, a labor organizer for the carpenter’s union, is running as an independent. The Legislature has two independents in office: Ketchikan’s Dan Ortiz and Anchorage’s Jason Grenn.
“I think a lot of the partisan dysfunction going on is a primer for me wanting to do this,” he said. “I would like to see some more bipartisan working going on in that building. This 'us against them' mentality that seems to go on up there so much, and in this country, has gotten out of hand.”
Hannan, a Democrat, is also a familiar name among Juneau families for having taught 21 years at Juneau Douglas High School before retiring two years ago. Now she and her husband run a small businesses selling locally caught fish.
While she may not have spent much time recently in the Capitol, she did enjoy working for Jalmar Kerttula, who served as speaker of the House and Senate president during a career that began in the 1960s and touched three decades.
“I went into this knowing I have a lot of political experience as a volunteer and being an activist but I don’t have a political machine behind me,” she said. “I’m not beholden to anyone. I still have the energy. If I don’t win, well, my job doesn’t depend on my winning or losing this election.”
The candidates have heard Juneau voters talk about state’s opioid epidemic and crime, noting how the mindset of living in a small community has changed.
“Three years ago, we didn’t lock our house,” Dimond said. “That’s totally changed now. We have cameras up around our house.”
Still most prospective voters talk about adequately funding state services, the candidates say.
In May, the Legislature approved a formula that uses Alaska Permanent Fund earnings to help pay for government operations for the first time in state’s history. But the Legislature also rebuffed various tax proposals by Gov. Bill Walker, including an income tax and additional taxes on motor fuels, alcohol and tobacco.
“I support that we use a portion of the permanent fund to government services,” Dimond said. “I think an income tax would have been far better but I don’t know you can do it all just on income tax.
“My concern with [permanent fund earnings] being utilized is that it hits children and it hits the rural communities far harder than it hits upper-income earners. I don’t know if there could be a way to eliminate children or below a certain income [from receiving reduced PFDs] but I’ve heard mixed reviews of whether that’s legal or constitutional.”
The Legislature also spent more than $14 billion in savings and can no longer rely on those accounts to help balance a budget.
“The issue that motivated me to run is making sure we have a long-term fiscal plan,” Hannan said. “I have been absolutely frustrated and embarrassed as an Alaskan that we’ve just spent our savings down for five years.
“I am a believer that we can’t continue to cut state government, unless we want to completely shutter and do services differently: not have state Troopers, not do child endangerment cases, not do air pollution protections. We’ve crippled our state services.”
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