As in Iowa and the rest of the state, Texas Gov. George W. Bush won the most support from Juneau's Republicans on Monday.
Turnout at Centennial Hall was way down from the last presidential go-round in 1996, with 279 GOP faithful casting ballots. A similar dropoff was evident statewide.
Almost half of the Juneau Republicans who cast ballots, 47 percent, supported Bush, with conservative publisher Steve Forbes gleaning 27 percent. Radio commentator Alan Keyes and Arizona Sen. John McCain both got 9 percent, with Keyes edging out McCain by a single vote.
``We were happy with it because it went smoothly,'' said Paulette Simpson, Capital City Republicans' chairwoman. ``Everyone had the same take on it (the results). Nobody had really gone out of their way to really campaign and get their numbers up.''
Statewide results from 4,331 ballots cast showed more support for Forbes than in Juneau or Iowa.
Forbes netted just five votes fewer than Bush's 1,571, falling within a tenth of a percentage point of the front-runner's 36.3 percent take. McCain came in third with 412 votes, followed by Keyes, 411 votes, pro-family activist Gary Bauer, 207 votes, and Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, who won 163 votes. In Juneau Bauer received 15 votes and Hatch three.
Earlier in the Iowa caucuses, Bush collected 41 percent of the GOP votes, with Forbes second at 30 percent.
Alaska's straw poll is nonbinding. The party's official endorsement comes this summer at the state convention.
In 1996, the Alaska straw poll was about two weeks earlier than Iowa. This year's turnout was less than half of what it was four years ago, when television commentator Pat Buchanan won with 33 percent.
``It was a different campaign dynamic (in 1996),'' said Tom McKay of Anchorage, state GOP chairman. ``Buchanan and Forbes advertised a lot. This one was more stealthy.''
Regarding turnout, McKay said ``I think we would have done a little better if we had done (the poll) a week ago.''
Over pizza and soda pop, Juneau Republicans cast their ballots and held an uneventful caucus.
John Cooper, a civil engineer and acting chairman for a Mendenhall Valley precinct, said he supported Bush because he's the candidate with the best chance to beat whomever the Democrats nominate for president. Also, the other candidates, such as Forbes, seem to have narrow agendas, whereas Bush talks about a variety of issues.
``I think he is the man with the best chance of winning all the marbles out of a field of excellent candidates,'' Cooper said. He lamented that Bush seems to be drawing more fire from pundits than he deserves, saying every candidate should be given an ``equitable amount of hell'' from the media.
The media entered into Becky Sedgwick's decision to vote for Keyes.
``I respect his (Keyes) perspectives,'' she said. ``I respect his experience. The press elected Bush before giving the public a chance to vote.''
She noted that despite talk that younger Americans are turned off to politics, her interest in Keyes was sparked by her 26-year-old son. She looked more closely at the candidate, and decided to vote for Keyes despite Bush's momentum.
``This is a democratic society. The beauty of a straw poll is I can vote for whoever I want.''
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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