After nearly 2 decades in public office, Sen. MacKinnon stepping away from politics

Tuesday, May 29, 2018 - 23:18
  • Sen. Anna MacKinnon, right, and Rep. Cathy Tilton attend a Town Hall meeting on Feb. 27, 2016 in Eagle River. MacKinnon announced last month she will not seek re-election to the state senate. (Star file photo/Suzanne Ashe)
  • Alaska Senate Finance Committee Co-Chair Anna MacKinnon, left, speaks to reporters alongside Sen. Kevin Meyer during a Senate majority news conference on April 13 in Juneau. (Photo/Becky Bohrer/AP)

After nearly two decades in public office, one of Chugiak-Eagle River’s most prominent politicians is ready for a break.

“The kicker was my grandson said, ‘Grandma, I am ready to come to Juneau and help you get your work done so you can come home,’ ” the 60-year-old from Eagle River said during an interview last week.

MacKinnon announced last month that she will not seek re-election to Senate Seat G, which includes parts of Eagle River, JBER and East Anchorage. She wouldn’t call the decision a retirement from politics, but said she definitely wants to spend time with her husband, John, and their children and grandchildren.

“I’ve probably seen my husband two years out of the four years we’ve been married,” she said.

MacKinnon has represented Eagle River residents in some form or another since 1999, when she was elected to the Anchorage Assembly. After serving at the local level for eight years, MacKinnon moved to the Legislature in 2007, serving in the State House from ‘07 to 2012, then in the State Senate from 2013 to the present.

She said stepping away from Juneau will be hard, especially since the co-chair of the Senate Finance Committee has risen to become one of the state’s most influential lawmakers.

“It’s very hard. It is true what they say that when you know the system you can affect the system,” she said. “I’m at the peak of my career in that I’ve been in the legislature for 12 years and I can stand my ground with the bureaucrats.”

MacKinnon said she’s proud to have helped shepherd a budget through the Legislature this past session, and thinks the decision to limit the draw on the Alaska Permanent Fund to 5.25 percent of the fund’s market value will help stabilize the state’s economy.

“I feel like the ship has been set on a better course in that POMV should stabilize or at least blend volatility with resource earnings,” she said.

Though she’s spent much of her life in Juneau over the past few years, MacKinnon said one of her frustrations was the 90-day session mandated by voters, which she said in many ways worked to slow down the political process.

“The difference going from 120 days to 90 is the public is cut out of the process,” she said.

As of Monday, three candidates had filed to run for MacKinnon’s seat, including Eagle River Republicans Dan Saddler and Lora Reinbold and Eagle River Democrat Oliver Schiess. Saddler and Reinbold currently serve in the Alaska State House, with Saddler representing District 13 and Reinbold serving District 14. The filing deadline is June 1.

MacKinnon said she still has work to do before leaving office, including dealing with constituent concerns and seeing through the implementation of new sexual harassment policies and an initiative to reduce the backlog of rape kits at the state crime lab.

“I want to make sure those policies are appropriately carried out,” she said.

As for who she’d like to replace her, MacKinnon — speaking as a voter — said her only hope is it’s someone with a fiscally conservative background.

“I’ve been a Republican since I was 18 years old and I believe one plus one equals two, and it can only be spent on two dollars worth of items,” she said. “I’m a fiscal conservative that has an eye on what’s happening in our state and I would support someone who does too.”

Email Star editor Matt Tunseth at editor@alaskastar.com or call 257-4274.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story misspelled Schiess’s last name and misstated Saddler’s house district.

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