Kelly Cooper had four goals in mind with the unique “Rally on the Bay” launch of her campaign to represent the people of District 31 in the State House of Representatives:
- Express her gratitude for this place she calls home and the opportunities Alaska has given her;
- Reflect the importance of state’s beauty and natural resources to those who live, work and play here;
- Be respectful of everyone with an event consistent with recommended practices during the COVID-19 pandemic; and
- Briefly showcase why her experience makes her the best person for the job.
On a picture-perfect Tuesday evening in late May, Cooper delivered a brief speech from the stern of the F/V Sea Nymph surrounded by her daughter, Veronica; her son, Leo; and her two grandchildren, Gage and Janessa. Cooper’s husband, Jim, died in 2011 of pancreatic cancer.
About 25 people listened from on shore near the Deep-Water Dock at the Homer Harbor, while about another 25 listened from boats of all shapes and sizes in Kachemak Bay.
“It was a wise thing to do given the situation we’re in. It pretty much ensured social distancing,” said supporter Hal Spence, who listened with his wife, Lynn, from shore. “Almost everyone had a mask on.”
For Spence, the COVID-safe event was important because “I’m 73 years old and have a compromised immune system. It’s as simple as that. … She’s concerned about the well-being of her constituents.”
Cooper sees her run for State House as a way to continue to give back to the community where she has lived for 18 years. Cooper has served on the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly for six years and currently is the assembly’s president, a position she has held one other time. Her term ends in the fall. Cooper’s other community work includes volunteering as a basketball coach and serving on the Homer Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center board of directors and the South Peninsula Hospital Operating board.
In addition to her civic experience, Cooper brings a variety of work experience to the table as a Realtor, insurance agent and small business owner.
“But no matter what my title, my work has always been about the same things: People. Relationships. Being a member of this fabulous community and willing to help wherever needed.
“I’m running for State House because for me, it’s always been about community. Alaska has been so good to me and I want to continue to give back. I want to work for each and every one of you. This is a critical time for our state and Alaskans, as we face massive budget deficits, cuts to state services and a shrinking PFD,” Cooper told those at the Rally on the Bay.
There are lots of reasons Jeff Middleton is supporting Cooper.
“We need another direction in Juneau, for one,” he said. “I’ve known her for a while. She’s very smart. She’s independent. … She doesn’t mind anyone disagreeing with her. She’s tolerant.”
Cooper, who is running as an independent, told those at the event she would work with others in Juneau and be honest with her constituents.
“I believe in putting people before party. I reject partisan politics. When you refuse to listen to people who disagree with you, you miss out on so much wisdom and experience. When you are one of forty representatives and it’s your way or the highway, you’re not getting very far. Sure, we won’t agree on everything. But I will always pick up the phone and I will always tell you the truth,” she said.
Spence, who described Cooper as tough and independent, appreciated the brevity and simplicity of the Rally on the Bay.
For him, however, the linchpin of Cooper’s campaign lies in this statement she delivered during the event: “As your representative I’ll only have to ask for your vote every two years. But I’ll earn it every day.”