The race for a West Anchorage Assembly seat got a new addition on Feb. 1 when former state legislator Liz Vazquez threw her hat in the ring on the filing deadline.

"I was waiting to see if somebody else was willing to step up and serve," Vazquez said Tuesday. She said she later realized that person would have to be her. She wants to see changes in the place she's called home for 35 years.

"I want to see the city prosper," Vazquez said. "I think it's depressing the way it is right now. We have a huge crime wave and people are very frustrated. I'm frustrated."

Vazquez, a conservative, served as a state representative for House District 22 in 2015 and 2016. She lost the last two elections to regain her seat but said she received numerous calls to continue her service with a bid for the Assembly seat.

"Those people that follow what I've done are probably happy that I'm going to be jumping into the local arena," she said. "Public service is a calling."

Vazquez believes her experience in state government, including serving as an assistant attorney general for the state and as an administrative law judge, will give her a unique perspective on complicated issues. She said the current Anchorage Assembly isn't focused enough on the issues that matter most to Anchorage residents.

"Public safety has to be front and center, basic services need to be front and center, dealing with our educational system has to be front and center," she said. "Those are the issues I hear."

Vazquez's opponent, Kameron Perez-Verdia, said those are some of the issues he is hearing about too as he goes door to door in his West Anchorage neighborhood.

A former Anchorage School Board member, Perez-Verdia filed to run for the Assembly seat in December after long-time member Eric Croft announced he wouldn't seek re-election. Perez-Verdia says he's excited about the opportunity to return to public service and find solutions to challenges that everyone faces.

"This is an opportunity, I think, for me to serve in an office that gives me a place to engage in some issues that I am really interested in and concerned about, areas like public safety and education and jobs," he said.

Perez-Verdia has leadership experience with nonprofits; he's worked with the United Way of Anchorage and the Avant-Garde Learning Alliance. 

He says he has the ability to bring people together and solve problems. He describes himself as socially progressive and fiscally conservative, but said his greatest attribute is the ability to listen.

"We need leaders who are in positions like this that don't necessarily bring their own agenda to this work, but they actually go out into the community and listen to what people care about," he said.

Perez-Verdia said he's already made over 500 phone calls to residents and plans to spend the next month knocking on as many doors. He said he wants to tell voters what he stands for, which may be different than his opponent, which is a good thing.

"We want choice," he said. "I feel that we offer a very different choice and that people are going to have to make the decision based on what they think is best for Anchorage."

Also in the race is Dustin Darden, a perennial candidate who has run for multiple state and city offices. He most recently lost a bid for state house in the West Anchorage District.

We reached out to Darden, but he did not make himself available to be interviewed for this story.

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