GOP sues to stop Szymanski candidacy

Posted: Monday, July 24, 2000

KENAI - The Alaska Republican Party has filed a lawsuit to try to block the candidacy of former Democratic state senator Mike Szymanski, who hopes to unseat incumbent GOP Sen. Jerry Ward.

Republican leaders earlier appealed to the state Division of Elections to keep Szymanski off the August primary ballot because they say he hasn't lived in Senate District E long enough.

The elections division rejected the appeal, so the Republicans filed their lawsuit in Kenai Superior Court.

Co-plaintiffs are Tommy Thompson, a local GOP chairman, and George Martin, a self-described Republican Party activist.

Defendants are the state, the elections division and its director Janet Kowalski. Kowalski issued a ruling earlier this month clearing the way for Szymanski to appear on the Aug. 22 primary ballot.

Martin asked Kowalski to disqualify Szymanski because he said he believed Szymanski had not been registered to vote at his current address long enough.

Kowalski disagreed, but her ruling did not address which election district Szymanski lived in.

Szymanski responded with a swipe at the incumbent.

``I take this as the beginning of Jerry Ward and his operatives' technique of negative campaigning that they've used all along,'' he said. ``I guess it's flattering in some ways, because Jerry is feeling that I'm going to give him a hard time in the general election.''

Ward said he sees no problem with the Republican Party getting involved in the Democratic primary.

``It doesn't got anything to do with parties, it's the law,'' Ward said.

Szymanski admitted he was registered in House District 11 - outside Ward's Senate district - when he voted in last September's special election on using Alaska Permanent Fund revenue.

He said he was registered in the district where he owns a home he doesn't live in. He said he updated his voter registration in January to reflect his residency in House District 10, which is part of Ward's Senate district. He said he's lived there since December 1998.

Martin said the law requires a person be registered in an election district for one year to be eligible to run for office.

Virginia Breeze, a spokeswoman at the Division of Elections in Juneau, said there was not much the director could say.

``The only comment she can make is it's in the courts now, and that's where we'll deal with it,'' Breeze said.

Szymanski served two terms in the Alaska House before representing South Anchorage and Nikiski in the state Senate for one term. He retired from the Legislature in 1990.

Martin earlier charged Szymanski lived in Seattle and was not an Alaska resident. Szymanski said he spent time out of state during a yearlong battle against colon cancer.

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