Fairbanks lawmaker David Guttenberg won’t seek re-election to 9th House term

Rep. David Guttenberg began his political career in 1986, when he was appointed treasurer of the Interior Democrats. (Photo by Skip Gray/360 North)

Longtime Fairbanks Democratic lawmaker David Guttenberg has decided against running for re-election to an ninth term in the Alaska House of Representatives. Guttenberg says he’s leaving his decades of service to his district and the state party so he can enjoy life in his home in the Goldstream Valley.

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Guttenberg said in his usual straightforward manner he wants to dispense with the usual speculation that ensues whenever a politician announces he or she has decided to leave elected office.

“Lemme get a couple of things outta the way, right? My health is fine – has nothing to do with my decision,” Guttengerg said. “I have no legal matters hanging over my head, right? You’re not going to hear about something come down later on.”

The 66-year-old Guttenberg was hospitalized earlier this year for chest pains. But he says his reasons have nothing to do with that, nor with anything political. Instead, he says they have everything to do with going back to his home in the Goldstream Valley and enjoying life.

“It’s time for me to step out, for me to just catch up on my personal life,” Guttenberg said. “The house is continually being remodeled and not finished, because of all the endless special sessions. My gardens have been neglected.”

Guttenberg is still in Juneau for yet another of those extended legislative sessions, made longer by ongoing disagreement over putting together a state budget that’ll pay for the services Alaskans demand, but that also will satisfy Republicans’ demands for more spending cuts.

“People want to talk about cutting the budget, but at the same time they want services,” Guttenberg said. “And they want the full PFD. And to get people all of those things is very difficult now.”

Despite the rancor of the annual budget ordeal, Guttenberg says he feels good about playing a role in helping pass many important pieces of legislation during his 16 years representing the 4th District, which sprawls north and west of the city. Before redistricting, he represented the 8th District.

Guttenberg is especially proud of his years-long effort to get a veterans cemetery for Fairbanks, he said, adding: “This summer, they’re actually going to do the groundbreaking for that.”

Another major accomplishment, Guttenberg says, was helping get both the House and Senate to unanimously pass so-called PDM or prescription-drug manager legislation. He said it was “a significant piece of healthcare legislation that will drive down prescription-drug prices and keep our local pharmacies in place.”

Guttenberg and fellow Fairbanks Rep. Scott Kawasaki on the floor of the House. Both will leave the House after the term ends – Guttenberg will leave elected office; Kawasaki is challenging Sen. Pete Kelly, of Fairbanks. (Alaska House Majority Coalition)

Guttenberg says his disappointments include not being able to persuade his fellow lawmakers to do more about the lack of broadband internet connectivity in many places around the state.

Guttenberg has been involved in Alaska politics since 1986, when he became treasurer of the Interior Democrats. He was elected chair the next year, and went to serve as chair of the state Democratic party and national committeeman.

Guttenberg was scheduled to officially announce his decision to leave office during a during a meeting of the Laborers Union Local 9-4-2. Mindy O’Neall, the present chair of the Interior Democrats, says that’s an appropriate setting.

“David Guttenberg has been a great advocate for the Interior,” O’Neall said. “He’s been a great advocate for labor and working people and education for the last 16 years. And we sure have been lucky to have had his representation for that long.”

O’Neall says because of his service, no other Democrat has challenged Guttenberg over the years. But she anticipates there will be a fair amount of interest in the 4th District seat now that the longtime occupant is leaving it – for a long-delayed home-renovation project.

Correction: This story and headline has been corrected to reflect that David Guttenburg has served eight terms in the State House and will not be serving a ninth. 

Tim Ellis is a reporter at KUAC in Fairbanks.

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