Shishmaref Educator and Head Basketball Coach to Challenge Rep. Neal Foster

State Representative Neal Foster is facing some competition in the upcoming election for the House District 39 seat.

37-year-old Tyler Ivanoff of Shishmaref, who is both Inupiaq and Yup’ik, is running against Foster as a Democrat in this year’s primary.

“It seems like the decisions the current Legislature is making [distances] themselves from their own constituents.”

– Tyler Ivanoff

And there’s one issue in particular that Ivanoff sees as a problem for the region: smaller permanent fund dividends (PFDs).

“This takes away a lot of things like heating fuel for cold winters, new clothes for kids, and a brand new motor for a vehicle for hunting, fishing and gathering.” 

– Tyler Ivanoff

Politics aren’t entirely new for Ivanoff. Originally from Elim, Tyler Ivanoff served as the community’s Mayor from 2012-2014. He was the Vice Mayor of Elim from 2010-2012. Currently living in Shishmaref, Ivanoff works as a paraprofessional at the school and coaches the boys’ basketball team.

Ivanoff would like to see the State Constitution amended to support the 1982 PFD formula but not at the expense of state services. There are other places the state could look for revenue he says, like re-examining tax credits for the oil industry.

PFD concerns seem to be a theme for new candidates in the rural districts that encompass Western Alaska. Calvin Moto II, of Deering, is running as a Republican against incumbent Senator Donny Olson for the District T seat in the Alaska Senate. Moto also wants to see permanent fund dividends restored to the size mandated by the old formula.

Incumbent House Representative Neal Foster is a Democrat from Nome and has held the seat for District 39 since 2010. He was last challenged by another candidate during a Democratic Primary in 2012 by Woodie Salmon of Fort Yukon, whom Foster defeated.

This year’s Alaska State primary election is scheduled for August 18th. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Lt. Governor Kevin Meyer  has said those elections are currently planned to be held using the normal process.

Image at top: Tyler Ivanoff of Shishmaref, who is running against Neal Foster for the District 39 seat in the Alaska House of Representatives this year. Photo courtesy of Tyler Ivanoff (2020).