One three-way race is down to two candidates, but another remains intact.

Independent incumbent Gov. Bill Walker suspended his campaign last week, leaving the more high-profile three-way race to Democrat Mark Begich and Republican Mike Dunleavy.

Just as he did two years ago, independent Jason Grenn faces two opponents: Republican challenger Sara Rasmussen and Democratic candidate Dustin Darden, whom Grenn defeated two years ago to claim his first term.

Once elected in 2016, Grenn sided with a Democratic-led caucus and received a seat on the powerful House Finance Committee, which made him an instant target of the Republican Party, which has since eyed his seat as a possible key to reclaiming the majority.

Grenn, who switched his longtime registration from Republican to independent, says he has no regrets.

“To me a what an independent truly means is that I get to look at a problem pragmatically,” he said. “The solutions are based in facts, based in data, based in evidence. I get to represent my entire district regardless of the letter next to your name. When I show up at your door to talk, we don’t have to talk about letters, we can talk about issues.

“If you want to talk about oil taxes, if you want to talk about health insurance. If you want to talk about the budget deficit. We get to talk as neighbors, as Alaskans as opposed to as a  conservative I feel this way, or as a progressive I feel this way."

Rasmussen has a real estate and appraisal background, and has served on the Sand Lake Community Council. She said she found Grenn’s shift to a Democratic-led caucus “alarming,” adding, “he’s not as independent as he said.”

She said rising, widespread crime helped drive her decision to run in the Jewell Lake-area district. She would like to see a rewrite to the two-year-old sweeping crime statute Senate Bill 91, which has already undergone two significant changes.

“I do believe we can repeal and replace SB 91,” she said. “There are still catch-and-release provisions that need to be addressed.  I believe we need to look at harsher penalties for sexual assault. The victims aren't being taken care of enough. We need to give judges and law enforcement the tools to do their job.”

Rasmussen noted the recent sentencing to Justin Schneider, who was found guilty of assault, but state law prevented prosecutors from securing a sexual assault conviction. The plea deal also led to calls against retaining Judge Michael Corey on Nov. 6.

Rasmussen said lawmakers should have addressed this loophole when debating and drafting SB 91 in 2016.

Darden, the Democrat in the race, is also latching on to the crime debate. He says he's “never experienced such a lack of concern for the citizens in regards to all the crime we’ve been experiencing.”

Darden is a maintenance worker for the Municipality of Anchorage and is well-known, getting on the ballot for state and local races.

Earlier this year he ran for a vacated seat on the Anchorage Assembly. He ran unopposed in this year’s primary to get the Democratic nomination. Two years ago, he finished behind Grenn and then-incumbent Liz Vasquez.

“You don’t chop down a tree on your first whack,” Darden said of his efforts to get elected. “If you’re going to chop down a tree on one whack, it’s not going to be that big of a tree. Eventually it’s going to fall over. I feel people look at me as a regular working guy with no real agenda other than to make Alaska a better place.”

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