Ortiz will not seek reelection; three candidates file for seat

Rep. Dan Ortiz, the Ketchikan independent who has represented southern Southeast communities since January 2015, including Wrangell, has decided to withdraw as a candidate for reelection, citing health and family considerations.

Ortiz had filed in July as a candidate for reelection to House District 1, representing Ketchikan, Saxman, Metlakatla, Wrangell, Hyder, Coffman Cove and Whale Pass.

However, a “more definitive” health concern caused him to reconsider, he told the Ketchikan Daily News on May 28.

“It’s been within the last week that I’ve had the recommendation that I can give myself the best opportunity to prevent a chronic condition from developing by looking at the stress in my life and trying to reduce that,” Ortiz said.

He said he’s not facing anything that’s imminent or dangerous at this point. “It’s primarily driven by personal health decisions, as well as family decisions.”

Ortiz has been a member of the House Finance Committee, giving him a larger role in budget decisions.

As of the filing deadline on Saturday, June 1, three candidates, all from Ketchikan, had filed to run for the vacated House seat: Republican Jeremy Bynum, who lost to Ortiz in the 2022 election; independent Grant EchoHawk; and independent Agnes Moran.

The primary election is Aug. 20; the general election is Nov. 5. There are no political party primaries in Alaska. Under the state’s ranked-choice voting system, the top four finishers in the primary advance to the general election. Unless one of them drops out, Bynum, EchoHawk and Moran will face off in November, with the seat going to whoever tallies the most votes.

Ortiz began his legislative career in 2014, winning election in November of that year following a 32-year career as a teacher and coach in Ketchikan.

“Ten years is a long time for any public servant to serve in office,” he said. “And I feel like, while I didn’t accomplish everything that I would have wanted to accomplish, I felt like, you know, I did a good job of serving the public as best as I could.”

Ortiz said he wishes that he would have been able to have made more progress toward rebuilding the Alaska Marine Highway System.

EchoHawk, who was raised in Metlakatla, works for the Tongass Federal Credit Union and is a member of the Ketchikan Gateway Borough assembly.

Bynum, who manages the Ketchikan Public Utilities Electric Division, also serves on the Ketchikan Gateway Borough assembly.

“It’s kind of my field. I’m an energy expert,” Bynum said. “I have a lot of passion about renewable energy, hydropower, tidal wave energy.”

Bynum, who moved to Ketchikan in 2016, is a licensed professional engineer.

“I have true belief in our Republican principles,” he told the Anchorage Daily News on May 31. “I’m going to do what’s in the best interests of District 1, and I’m hoping that involves Republicans getting around a bigger group of people to get things done.”

During an interview with the Ketchikan Daily News on May 30, EchoHawk said school funding is at the top of his list — and economic development.

“I’m a fan of the tourism industry, I think that it’s important, but I also know that all of the infrastructure costs,” he said. “We need to make sure that everybody’s paying their fair share so that our local businesses and our local residents aren’t bearing the full brunt of any infrastructure costs that happen.”

EchoHawk said he is more aligned with Ortiz’s bipartisan approach, pointing specifically to supporting more state funding for education, he told the Anchorage Daily News.

Moran, who was born in Ketchikan, was named Citizen of the year by the Ketchikan Chamber of Commerce in 2021. She was hired in 2017 as executive director of the Women in Safe Homes (WISH) shelter.

She ran unsuccessfully in the Republican primary for the state House in 2012 and 2014 and was a member of the Ketchikan Gateway Borough assembly in 2010. She was named to the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority board of trustees in 2022.

 

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