Rep. Chris Kurka, R-Wasilla, leaves the chambers of the Alaska House of Representatives on Friday, March 19, 2021, after an hour of delays concerning the wording on his mask. On Monday, Kurka announced he was running for governor in 2022. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)

Rep. Chris Kurka, R-Wasilla, leaves the chambers of the Alaska House of Representatives on Friday, March 19, 2021, after an hour of delays concerning the wording on his mask. On Monday, Kurka announced he was running for governor in 2022. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)

Wasilla rep announces gubernatorial bid

Kurka said he was motivated to run by a sense of betrayal from Dunleavy.

Rep. Chris Kurka, R-Wasilla, announced Monday he intends to run for governor in next year’s statewide elections.

Kurka’s candidacy was first announced by former U.S. Senate candidate Joe Miller, who said on social media Monday morning he was endorsing Kurka’s candidacy. Kurka released a video Monday afternoon where he was critical of Gov. Mike Dunleavy and other Republicans who he said lacked the courage to take the positions necessary for real change.

“What freedom-loving Alaskans really want is a governor who won’t play possum every time he sees a shadow,” Kurka said.

In a phone interview with the Empire on Monday, Kurka said he was motivated to run by a sense of betrayal from Dunleavy. Kurka’s campaign website lists many of the things Dunleavy promised when he ran for governor — namely an Alaska Permanent Fund dividend based on a statutory formula and back payments for years the dividend was calculated differently.

“Buyer’s remorse,” Kurka said. “He says he’s going to do one thing and then he doesn’t do it.”

The Dunleavy campaign did not immediately respond to request for comment.

Kurka is currently serving his first term in the Alaska House of Representatives. Before serving in government, he was executive director of Alaska Right to Life, an anti-abortion advocacy group. In March during the legislative session, Kurka was the center of a controversy involving wording on his face mask.

Kurka’s mask read “government mandated muzzle,” which the House Majority Coalition said violated the chamber’s rules for businesses-like attire, which restricts wording and company logos on lawmaker’s attire. Kurka’s refusal to change his mask stalled the House for roughly 45 minutes before adjourning to the next day without conducting any other business.

[Mask rules standoff derails House floor session]

According to the Alaska Public Offices Commission, Kurka has not yet officially filed to run for governor, but only declared his intent to be a candidate in the 2022 primary. Before Kurka made his own announcement Monday a website declaring his candidacy was available.

Priority issues on the website include “election integrity,” “tough on crime” and “federal tyranny.”

“When a nation loses its ability to trust its elections, it has, to some degree, lost hope of change or the peaceful hand over of power,” Kurka’s statement on election integrity said. “I call for a thorough audit of the 2020 election in every precinct in Alaska. Our election system needs to be thoroughly reviewed and every election certified only after a hand-count of every ballot.”

A Republican-led effort in Arizona to audit the 2020 election in that state found in September there was no evidence of election fraud, the Associated Press reported. A close race in an Anchorage House district in 2020 went to a recount of that district, and the results of Ballot Measure 2, — the voting reform package that included ranked-choice voting — were audited. On both occasions the state reported no changes to the results of Alaska’s elections.

Recently approved district maps by the Alaska Redistricting Board would put Kurka in the same Wasilla district as Rep. David Eastman, R-Wasilla, forcing the two to run against each other in the next election. Alaskans approved ranked-choice voting and open primaries and the 2022 will be the first election in the state to use the system.

Under ranked-choice voting, votes for candidates who don’t receive enough votes are reapportioned to other candidates in an order determined by the voter, potentially increasing the electoral chances of third-party candidates. In the race against Dunleavy, Kurka joins former Gov. Bill Walker, former Rep. Les Gara and Libertarian candidate William Toien.

Kurka told the Empire he wasn’t a fan of ranked-choice voting, and didn’t like that the primary system was removed. Despite his skepticism in the current elections standards, Kurka said he felt obligated to run.

“Regardless of how I feel, I have an obligation to hold this governor accountable,” Kurka said.

• Contact reporter Peter Segall at Follow him on Twitter at @SegallJnuEmpire.

More in News

Data from the state of Alaska show a steep increase in COVID-19 cases in January 2022. (Department of Health and Social Services)
Omicron drives COVID spike in Alaska as officials point to decreasing cases in eastern US

On Friday, the seven-day average number of daily cases skyrocketed to 2,234.6 per 100,000 people

Dana Zigmund/Juneau Empire
Dan Blanchard, CEO of UnCruise Adventures, stands in front of a ship on May 14, 2021.
Smooth sailing for the 2022 season?

Cautious optimism reigns, but operators say it’s too early to tell.

Former Alaska Assistant Attorney General Elizabeth Bakalar speaks a news conference on Jan. 10, 2019, in Anchorage, Alaska, after she sued the state. A federal judge on Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022, ruled that Bakalar was wrongfully terminated by the then-new administration of Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy for violating her freedom of speech rights. (AP File Photo/Mark Thiessen, File)
Judge sides with attorney who alleged wrongful firing

Alaska judge says the firing violated free speech and associational rights under the U.S. and state constitutions.

Kenai Mayor Brian Gabriel (left) swears in student representative Silas Thibodeau at the Kenai City Council meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2022. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai junior sworn in as council student rep

Thibodeau says he wants to focus on inclusivity and kindness during his term

Branden Bornemann, executive director of the Kenai Watershed Forum, celebrates the 25th anniversary of the forum on Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
‘A voice for this river’

Forum reflects on 25 years protecting peninsula watershed

The University of Alaska Fairbanks Alaska Earthquake Center provides information on a 5.1 magnitude earthquake that struck at approximately 8:18 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022. The quake struck approximately 17 miles southeast of Redoubt volcano or 41 miles southwest of Kenai, Alaska, at a depth of 72.8 miles. (Screenshot)
Quake near Redoubt shakes peninsula

The quake was centered 41 miles southwest of Kenai.

Most Read