Republican Kenny Karl Skaflestad is running against Democratic incumbent Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins for House District 35 in the November general election. The district includes Petersburg, Sitka, Kake, Angoon and many small island communities of the central panhandle from Prince of Wales Island up to Elfin Cove. In a two-part series, KFSK looks at the two candidates to find out what their priorities would be in the legislature. Here Angela Denning reports on the Republican hopeful.
Kenny Karl Skaflestad was born and raised in Hoonah. He ran for the house district two years ago but he lost to Sitka surgeon Richard Wein in the 2018 Republican primary. This year, Skaflestad won the primary and will be facing the eight-year incumbent, Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins. Skaflestad says he knows Southeast voters.
“Knowing Southeast the way I do, the popular sentiment of many people I know are not reflected in workings in the legislature,” Skaflestad said. “I think there are too many voices unheard that I’d be very good at representing.”
Skaflestad works in civil construction as a heavy equipment operator. In the past, he has served as the mayor and a city councilor in Hoonah as well as public works director. He’s also commercial fished as a power troller and still crews on other boats in the off-season. Skaflestad calls himself a moderate, not a hardline Republican although he says he appeals to conservative voters. He says he’s okay with his religion leaking into his public life.
“I hold high conservative values and I’m not an overly religious man but I follow a Christian faith and I think that some of those beliefs leak into my public life and have served myself well and the people that I have served in the past,” Skaflestad said, “and I think some of those values that have been reflected in certain political standards will continue to serve us well.”
Winning the Republican primary race wasn’t a landslide for Skaflestad. He brought in 594 votes while his contender, Arthur Martin, earned 521 votes. Still, Skaflestad says he has a good understanding of what’s important to his constituents from traveling around Southeast over the years and he’ll work hard to represent them. He says they want responsible budgeting, they want their PFD, and they want the PFD to be protected in the future.
“Many of the voices are saying we see action but we don’t really see Southeast voice in anything,” he said.
Skaflestad says Southeast needs to develop its economy through natural resource development. He supports timber, the mining industry, and tourism. But he says they all suffer from an overreach of government regulations.
“The regulatory methodology is faulty and it inhibits the potential for resource development,” he said. “Regulatory oversite are needed to some extent but some of those that have come out of our state legislature are not conducive to the uniqueness of Southeast Alaska.”
Skaflestad says the legislature has dug the state into a deep hole with the budget. Lawmakers have used part of the Permanent Fund and the state’s savings account in recent years because oil revenues are down. He says the state needs more revenue but he doesn’t want to get it through raising taxes, at least not only from raising taxes. He says resource development and shutting down the government could also help.
“We’ve got to have some new money at some point,” he said. “I’m not a fan of governmental taxation. What I’m seeing coming out of the legislature is that they’ve dug that hole so deep as to have taxation—as it’s posed to us– as an inevitability almost. I’m not sure that it is. I’m on the fence about taxation altogether. But I’m not on the fence about having to just shut down, close government, while we contemplate our problems.”
Skaflestad says it’s going to take a series of solutions to fix the state’s budget situation and that it will take new people at the table. He believes he should be one of those new voices to help get it done.
This is the second of a two-part series on the House District 35 race. KFSK also reported on the incumbent, Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins. There will also be a public forum on the race, hosted by KFSK in Petersburg and KCAW in Sitka, on October 14.