Story last updated at 4:12 p.m. Thursday, July 25, 2002

Lancaster joins mayor race

And then there were 3

by Hal Spence
Morris News Service-Alaska

Rep. Ken Lancaster of Soldotna chose his hometown of Cooper Landing Monday to announce he would file to run for Kenai Peninsula Borough mayor when the filing period opens in August.

Earlier this year, Lancaster expressed disillusionment over the state of state politics and said he would not seek re-election to the Alaska House of Representatives after serving just one term.

At first, there was speculation he would run for mayor, but as time went on, it appeared he would forgo a chance at the borough's top elected office.

However, he changed his mind, he said, deciding Wednesday of last week that he would, indeed, run for mayor.

"I thought in both directions," Lancaster said. "I had to first get over the House session and get that behind us. Then I had to get back here and get my feet on the ground. I still have to the end of the year to represent my district, and there are constituent needs we will follow up on."

Lancaster said there are no shortage of issues and needs to be addressed in the borough.

"I've lived here all my life," he said. "It's a microcosm of the whole state."

He said the peninsula has a wealth of opportunities in gas, oil, tourism and fishing, as well as needs, such as expansion of the hospital to accommodate the growing population.

"Those are all issues that need to be addressed," he said.

Lancaster said he has no particular beef with Mayor Dale Bagley, who announced months ago his intention to seek re-election, nor with Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly President Tim Navarre, who announced more recently he would challenge Bagley.

"I don't know that the incumbent and I necessarily have any heartburn," he said. "We have discussed issues over the years. I just think I can do a better job. I consider myself a little more hands-on."

He went on to say he and Navarre also have worked well together.

"I can't say we disagree a lot," he said, adding he informed Navarre of his decision last week. "It's not going to hurt our friendship."

Lancaster said he has met with his core group of advisers and staff and they will work on his upcoming campaign. He said he expects they'll be hitting the chamber of commerce and Rotary luncheon circuit as soon as it is clear who is in the game.

"I look forward to meaningful debate and to finding out what the public's wants and needs are."

Navarre was accepting of Lancaster's announcement.

"I guess it's a three-way race," he said.

Bagley did not seem surprised by the decision.

"There have been plenty of rumors of that for months now," he said. "In the last two elections there have been five candidates each time, so it's possible yet another candidate or two will announce."

Lancaster was mayor of Soldotna from 1989 to 2000, when he ran successfully for the Alaska House. He served on the Soldotna City Council before that and sat on the Homer Electric Association Board of Directors for 21 years.

Hal Spence is a reporter for the Peninsula Clarion.