Signs direct voters at the Kenai No. 3 precinct for Election Day on Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)

Signs direct voters at the Kenai No. 3 precinct for Election Day on Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)

Local candidates report campaign cash as election approaches

New data filed with the Alaska Public Offices Commission reflects money raised by candidates between Feb. 2 and July 15

New campaign finance data filed with the State of Alaska show that local candidates vying for state office are continuing to take in campaign cash. The new data, filed with and published by the Alaska Public Offices Commission, reflects money raised by candidates between Feb. 2 and July 15.

Alaska State Senate

Two local candidates are running to fill the Alaska Senate seat currently held by Senate President Peter Micciche, who announced earlier this year that he would not seek reelection.

Jesse Bjorkman, a teacher at Nikiski Middle/High School who also serves on the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly, raised more than $21,000 between Feb. 2 and July 15. Bjorkman announced in late March that he would be running for State Senate and will concurrently run for reelection to the borough assembly. With about $8,000 in expenditures during that time, Bjorkman closed out the filing period with about $13,600 cash on hand.

Bjorkman said Tuesday his campaign has continued to gain momentum since he filed to run for election to the Alaska Legislature. Fiscal stability and efficient government are among the issues he says have come up frequently in his discussions with voters. Bjorkman said he’s happy to see that so many of his contributions are local.

“I’m very pleased that a very large portion of our donations are from people here on the peninsula,” Bjorkman said.

Tuckerman Babcock is also running for the Alaska State Senate seat currently held by Micciche. Babcock, who announced his bid for the Alaska Legislature in February, formerly served as Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s chief of staff and as the chair of the Republican Party of Alaska.

Babcock raised about $78,100 between Feb. 2 and July 15. He reported about $45,700 in expenditures, leaving him with about $32,400 cash on hand. Roughly $27,300 of the money raised by Babcock came from contributors who also had the last name of Babcock, including about $21,000 from himself and about $4,000 from his wife, Kristie. About $47,000 came from nearly 200 other contributors.

“We’re very humbled and honored by all the financial support,” Babcock said Tuesday, citing his experience and familiarity with government as a possible reason people are supporting his campaign.

Alaska House of Representatives

Both of the central peninsula’s seats in the Alaska House of Representatives are up for grabs this year, though in one race the incumbent is running unopposed.

Rep. Ron Gillham is running for election to his current seat in the Alaska House of Representatives. He’s represented Kenai and Soldotna since 2020. In all, Gillham raised $1,800 for his campaign between Feb. 2 and July 15. He started the reporting period with about $12,400. After about $5,300 in expenditures, the incumbent representative had about $8,900 cash on hand.

Gillham said Tuesday that he thinks people are supporting his campaign because he’s worked to keep his campaign promises, such as voting for a full Alaska Permanent Fund dividend, sponsoring bills that oppose COVID-19 mandates and pursuing bills addressing election integrity.

“I think I’ve done everything I’ve been asked to do,” Gillham said.

Justin Ruffridge, who is running against Gillham for the Alaska House’s Kenai/Soldotna seat, raised $22,200 between Feb. 2 and July 15. That’s about $20,000 more than was raised by Gillham during the same time period. Ruffridge reported about $13,400 in expenditures, leaving him with about $8,900 cash on hand.

Ruffridge announced his bid for the Alaska Legislature in late January. He is the owner of Soldotna Professional Pharmacy and also holds Seat F on the Soldotna City Council.

Ruffridge said Tuesday that he’s been knocking on a lot of doors and that he’s hearing from supporters a need for “a reasonable voice” amid all the political chatter. His contributions, he said, reflect “organic” support from local supporters and that he hopes to host more meet-and-greet and fundraising events as the election nears.

“I feel really great to see the organic support coming in,” Ruffridge said.

Incumbent Rep. Ben Carpenter, who represents the northern Kenai Peninsula, is running unopposed for reelection to the Alaska Legislature this year. He started the Feb. 2 to July 15 reporting period with about $5,500 and received one $10 donation from himself. Carpenter currently still has about $5,500 cash on hand.

Governor

Gubernatorial hopeful and Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce raised about $74,700 between Feb. 2 and July 15 and spent about $56,100 during the same time. Pierce started the reporting period with about $960 and ended it with about $19,500 cash on hand.

Incumbent Gov. Mike Dunleavy reported receiving about $762,000 worth of contributions between Feb. 2 and July 15, and has raised about $1.03 million across all reporting dates. He currently has about $768,000 worth of cash on hand.

Dunleavy thanked Alaskans on Tuesday for their financial support amid “record-high inflation and energy costs.”

“With their help, we are on the way to a victory that will allow us to build on the foundation we’ve laid in my first term addressing my priorities of public safety, education, infrastructure, spending restraint, and continuing to pursue a fix to a broken PFD process,” Dunleavy said in a press release.

Former Alaska Gov. Bill Walker, who is vying for another crack at Alaska’s highest office, raised about $832,000 between Feb. 2 and July 15. Those contributions were spread across about 1,700 individual transactions and are in addition to roughly $573,000 Walker had at the beginning of the reporting period.

Across all reporting periods, Walker has received about $1.5 million in contributions and spent about $750,000. Walker has received three separate contributions of $100,000, all of which were made by people from out of state: from author Kathy Murdoch, CNN Correspondent Jason Carroll and from a managing member of Exemplat Holdings LLC. Another roughly 1,600 contributions worth about $448,000, came from Alaska.

“This fundraising report is a reflection of the broad support we have across Alaska,” Walker said in a press release. “Alaskans are looking for their leaders to rise above divisive issues and focus on what matters to them. Together, we’re going to rebuild Alaska.”

Democratic candidate Les Gara has raised, to date, almost $1 million in his bid for governor. Gara, a former state lawmaker, is running alongside Jessica Cook, his lieutenant governor candidate.

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at ashlyn.ohara@peninsulaclarion.com.

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