Wasilla Rep announces gubernatorial bid

This story has been updated to include additional information.

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 to 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 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 a 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 immedaitely respond to request for comment.

Kurka is currently serving his first term in the Alaska House of Representatives. Before serving in government 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. Kurka joins the race against Dunleavy, 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 psegall@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SegallJnuEmpire.

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