- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 5, 2016

PETERSBURG, Alaska (AP) - A handyman from Petersburg is launching a write-in campaign for a state Senate seat in southeast Alaska.

Michael Sheldon has registered with the state Division of Elections in an effort to unseat incumbent Republican Bert Stedman of Sitka. The 60-year-old Sheldon, also a Republican, is looking to take over the Senate district that includes Ketchikan, Wrangell, Sitka, Petersburg and many small villages, KFSK-FM reported (https://bit.ly/2dIj3ej).

Sheldon says he’s challenging Stedman as a write-in candidate because of Stedman’s support for a bill earlier this year that would’ve reduced the Permanent Fund dividend to $1,000 for the next three years. The bill passed the Senate but not the House, and a veto by Gov. Bill Walker ultimately cut the yearly check by about half, to $1,022 this year.

Sheldon said he’s against a reduction in the yearly dividend and plans to focus on strengthening the state’s economy.

“Gov. Walker and these senators, I think they’ve made a wrong move and I think it’d be good to stand up as a Senate vote and to vote no to issues that concern PFD reduction,” Sheldon said. “When I go up to the senate most likely I’m going to be voting no on financial issues because I can see that we can’t afford it no more.”

Sheldon said he is looking to get his campaign up and running and is seeking out volunteers and financial assistance.

Sheldon previously worked on the Alyeska Pipeline and worked in commercial fishing for two decades. He has been doing work as a handyman and detailing cars for the past 10 years.

The handyman is going up against Stedman, who has held the senate seat since 2003.

Stedman said having an opponent won’t change how he approaches the election and he supports discussion on the issues facing Alaskans.

“It doesn’t hurt to have the public come forward or members of the public in the district come forward and run for the seat,” Stedman said. “That’s the process that we have in a democracy.”

As far as his views on the Permanent Fund, Stedman said he is in favor of restructuring the fund.

“The debate really comes down on the amount that you’re gonna pull out and the direction it’s going to flow either to dividends or to the state treasury to run the state or some combination of the two,” Stedman said. “And clearly over my entire political career I’ve supported the dividends to the people of the state that own the oil resource.”


Information from: KFSK-FM, https://www.alaska.net/~kfsk/

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