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Candidate list congeals as Stoltze announces Senate run

Frontiersman Article March 9, 2014 by ANDREW WELLNER

Rep. Bill Stoltze, R-Chugiak, announces his intention to run for state senate Friday at the Palmer Senior Center. Stoltze’s announcement caused one potential opponent to drop out and prompted an announcement from a candidate seeking to replace him in the house.

PALMER — Saying he’d spent a lot of time thinking and praying about what he should do, state Rep. Bill Stoltze announced Friday his intentions to run for state Senate.

“I don’t consider it this big promotion,” Stoltze said. “It’s a lateral move.”

His entry into the race provides a lot of clarity on the Republican side of the ticket, where potential candidates seemed unwilling to reveal their plans until Stoltze announced his plan.

Already on the ticket are Palmer city councilwoman Edna DeVries and Palmer Mayor DeLena Johnson. Reached Friday, DeVries said she’d likely announce at a fundraiser that she would drop out of the Senate race.

“I think the words that we are going to use is that we are going to suspend our campaign for right now,” she said. “I talked to Bill this afternoon and I told him that I certainly will support him.”

Johnson, on the other hand, is undeterred.

“I’m definitely full steam ahead. I’m definitely in the race and I’m looking forward to a good race,” Johnson said.

On the Democrat side, Pat Chesbro of Palmer has filed to run for that same Senate seat.

“I think it’s great,” she said of Stoltze’s announcement. “I think that I am a really vastly different candidate. I think I’m a real choice for people.”

Wildcards in the race before Stoltze made his decision were Palmer Rep. Shelley Hughes — who had said she’d consider the Senate seat if Stoltze didn’t make a run for it — and Mat-Su Borough Assemblyman Ron Arvin who, when he filed to run, seemed to be eyeing the Senate, but didn’t make clear in his filings which seat he was looking at.

Arvin attended the Stoltze announcement, having arrived in a pickup with “Arvin for House” placards on it and handing out fliers saying the same thing.

“Anyone who’s running against Bill is running a fool’s errand,” he said of his reason for waiting to declare. “Out of respect, a lot of people, myself included, were waiting to figure out what he was going to do.”

As of March 7, there didn’t seem to be any other names in the race for the seat Stoltze would vacate.

Stoltze said that he finally decided to make the decision because he felt it was in the best interests of the Valley. He said he chose to announce his candidacy at the Palmer Senior Center because the place is close to his heart — he worked with then-Rep. Carl Gatto, R-Palmer, to help secure funding to build it.

Though he hails from Chugiak, “I call it South Palmer,” Stoltze joked. He said he feels like he has adopted Palmer and that “people call me a Valley representative.”

Stoltze acknowledged that to some degree he would be starting over in the Senate, but said that if you work hard and have some intelligence it doesn’t take long to get into leadership positions.

As for Chesbro, she said she’s running because she’s an educator and thinks education needs to be front-and-center on the state’s agenda.

“I am feeling that education is really getting a short shrift in the current Legislature,” she said. “Instead of contracting education we should be expanding it. I think it’s really key to our future.”

Arvin said he wants to be a part of a “very strong” Valley delegation in Juneau and that he wants to bring his business experience to bear there. Arvin has worked in the timber industry and in mining. He’s worked in China and in Prudhoe Bay.

“I think I bring a unique set of skills to the situation,” he said.

Johnson said she’s running because she wants to take a hard look at how the state spends its money.

“I have a track record of being responsible and paying attention to how we spend money,” Johnson said.

Contact Andrew Wellner at 352-2270 or

Bill Stoltze: The Quiet Voice Doing Good Things for Alaska

Dear Neighbor,

Welcome to my website.

More than Juneau, my work is at home in the communities that I represent. (Butte, Chugiak, Fairview Loop, Gateway, Palmer, and Lazy Mountain)

Rather than traveling out of state or around the world on the legislature’s tab, you’ll often see me at local sports events, the post office, the Senior Center, community events, or the grocery store. If do run into me, stop and say, “Hello.” I’m easy to talk to and enjoy my neighbors.

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