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Zach Fansler Wins House District 38’s Democratic Primary

Geraldine Brink

Zach Fansler has won the House District 38 Democratic Primary, beating out incumbent Bob Herron. With 30 of 31 precincts counted, Fansler received 56.7 percent, or 1,099 votes, compared to 43.3 percent, or 839 votes, for Herron. 

With 21.7 percent of registered primary voters casting ballots, House District 38 appears to have the largest voter turnout of any district in the state.

The Democratic Party backed Fansler against the four-term House incumbent. Will Updegrove believes this support means the newcomer will represent the true interests of the Democratic Party, something Updegrove says Herron had fallen short on.

Credit Dean Swope / KYUK
Election workers at House District 38's Bethel No. 2 Precinct.

“I like Bob. Bob’s a friend, and it kind of grieved me to vote against him on this,” Updegrove said. “But I think it’s time for maybe a new generation to hit Juneau.”

Mark Kolbus also supported Fansler. At 18 years old, Kolbus was voting in his first state primary. Kolbus says he has roots in the coastal village of Nightmute and is holding Fansler to his campaign promise that the candidate will represent the district’s small villages at the state level.

“Because of population, I feel they don’t get that well of representation, and I just believe he’ll shine a spotlight on them more,” Kolbus said.

The big issue facing Fansler for the upcoming legislative session is working with the Legislature to stabilize the state’s fiscal situation.

Father Chuck Peterson, who voted for the freshman candidate, says that the first thing the state needs to do to achieve financial stability is, “get out of gridlock.”

Credit Dean Swope / KYUK
Voting in Bethel during the Alaska Primary.

The Catholic priest, who ministers the church Fansler attends, thinks a complete overhaul of the House is the solution.

“Just so we can have the possibility of working together to help our state become solvent,” Peterson said.

Fansler outlined his plan for getting there in a candidate debate with KYUK earlier this month.

First, Fansler says, he’d like to cut oil tax credits.

“We can’t be paying out more to oil companies than we’re taking in via the taxes,” he said.

Second, he's looking to create new revenue streams through taxes like an income tax and potentially tourism and mining taxes.

“We can’t be cutting services alone,” he said.

Third, when services are cut, Fansler wants to spare essentials like education, health care, and public safety.

Lastly, if the PFD has to be restructured, Fansler hopes to do it with a floor program that would set a minimum amount for the dividend and possibly instate a structured step-down plan to incrementally decrease the payout.

With no Republican candidates on the district’s primary ballot, Fansler won’t have a competitor in the general election and will go on to represent District 38 in the state house for the next two years.

And how did Bethel vote in this primary?

The Kuskokwim hub supported Fansler with 410 votes, or 62 percent support, compared to Herron’s 248 votes, or 38 percent support.

For statewide offices, Bethel voted in line with the majority of the state. Bethel supported Ray Metcalf for Democratic U.S. Senator, Lisa Murkowski for Republican U.S. Senator, Steve Lindbeck for Democratic U.S. Representative, and Don Young for Republican U.S. Representative.

All results are unofficial until certified by the State Division of Elections.

Anna Rose MacArthur is the KYUK News Director. She has worked at KYUK since 2015 and previously worked at KNOM in Nome, Alaska.