Election provides voters preview of legislative races

Posted: Sunday, August 11, 2002

No candidate in Juneau's three legislative races faces a primary battle in the Aug. 27 vote. And only two of the four races to represent other Southeast communities give voters a choice of primary candidates.

Still, the primary could provide an early indication of what voters think of the Democratic and Republican contenders who will face off in the November general election, especially in the race for the House District 4 seat being vacated by Republican Bill Hudson.

Who's running

Th following are the statewide, Juneau and Southeast candidates running in the Aug. 27 state primary. Candidates will be grouped on the ballot by party and voters will be able to vote for candidates of one party only. Declared party members will get that party's ballot while nonpartisan and undeclared voters will choose from among the six party ballots.

Governor

Republican: Frank Murkowski, Wayne Anthony Ross, Eric Wieler, Brad Snowden.

Democrat: Fran Ulmer, Bruce Lemke, Michael Beasley.

Alaskan Independence: Don Wright, Samuel Acevedo Fevos Sr., John Wayne Glotfelty, Nels Anderson Jr., Casey Cockerham, Sandy Haldane.

Green: Desa Jacobsson.

Libertarian: Billy Toien.

Republican Moderate: Dawn Mendias.

Lt. Governor

Republican: Sarah Palin, Gail Phillips, Loren Leman, Paul Wieler, Robin Taylor.

Democrat: Ernie Hall.

Alaskan Independence: Daniel DeNardo.

Libertarian: Al Anders.

Green: Diane Benson.

U.S. Senate

Republican: Ted Stevens, Mike Aubrey.

Democrat: Frank Vondersaar, Theresa Obermeyer.

Alaskan Independence: Jim Dore.

Green: James Sykes, Thomas Higgins.

Libertarian: Len Karpinski.

U.S. House

Republican: Don Young.

Democrat: Dae Miles, Clifford Mark Greene.

Green: Russell Deforest.

Libertarian: Rob Clift.

State House District 3 (Juneau)

Republican: Mike Race.

Democrat: Beth Kerttula.

State House District 4 (Juneau)

Republican: Bruce Weyhrauch.

Democrat: Tim Grussendorf.

State House District 5 (Southeast Islands)

Republican: Dennis Watson, Gary Graham.

Democrat: Albert Kookesh.

State Senate District B (Juneau)

Republican: Cathy Engstrom Munoz.

Democrat: Kim Elton.

State Senate District C (Southeast Islands/Interior)

Republican: Mac Carter.

Democrat: Georgianna Lincoln.

State House District 1 (Ketchikan)

Republican: Bill Williams.

State House District 2 (Sitka/Wrangell/Petersburg)

Republican: Peggy Wilson.

Democrat: Denny Pearson, Rob Allen.

Democrat Tim Grussendorf and Republican Bruce Weyhrauch, two candidates putting their names on local ballots for the first time, are trying for the seat representing the Mendenhall Valley, Auke Bay and neighborhoods out Glacier Highway.

Caren Robinson, who represented the district from 1994 to 1996 as a Democrat, said it is unusual to have a legislative race with no candidate who has run for local office before.

"The conventional wisdom is you're usually a little more knowledgeable of the issues that face the community if you've been a local candidate," said Robinson, a Democrat who served on the Juneau Assembly before running for the Legislature.

Robinson said she decided against running for the seat, which she lost to Hudson in 19 96, because of family and business commitments. And she said some other potential candidates she talked to had similar issues.

But she said she's talked to Grussendorf and Weyhrauch and found both knowledgeable and involved.

"We all know it's a difficult time to be an elected official. I think you have to admire anyone who's willing to risk it and put their name out there," said Robinson, who is not involved in either campaign.

Hudson was out of town and could not be reached for comment on the primary.

The House District 3 primary also could give some sense of whether Republican Mike Race's attempt to unseat incumbent Democrat Beth Kerttula will be a repeat of their face-off two years ago. Kerttula bested Race 3-1 in the 2000 primary and 2-1 in the general election for the district including Douglas Island, downtown, Lemon Creek and the airport area.

Another test run will come in the race for Juneau's sole Senate seat. Democratic incumbent Kim Elton, who also served in the House and on the Assembly, faces a challenge from Republican Cathy Munoz, a former Assembly member.

If past campaign trends continue, all three local legislative battles will include debate on which party would best serve Juneau. Republicans will point to their years as the majority party of power while Democrats will promise to limit or undo damage they say was done by recent legislative leaders.

Mike Miller, who represented Juneau in the state House from 1970 to 1986 as a Democrat, said new legislative districts and the retirement of some prominent lawmakers leave the legislative balance uncertain.

"I don't know how either party can claim they'll be in the majority. In the House, the whole thing's up for grabs every election," Miller said.

Smaller communities near Juneau will see Interior and Prince William Sound residents on their primary ballots this year.

Reapportionment expanded what some call the Southeast Islands or Iceworm District - which includes Haines, Skagway, Angoon, Hoonah, Tenakee, Kake and Gustavus - to include Cordova. And that area, officially called House District 5, was combined with communities in Alaska's rural Interior to form a new Senate District C. The old district paired Southeast communities with Kodiak.

The shape and size of the districts will raise concerns about representation, said Jerry Mackie, who represented the Islands District for three terms in the House as a Democrat and one term in the Senate as a Republican.

"Whoever wins will be from somewhere else for someone," said Mackie, who now lives in Anchorage and works as a lobbyist and publicist. "It's no fault of the current candidates that no one from Southeast ran for the Senate seat. They certainly had the opportunity."

In the Senate District C race, incumbent Democrat Georgianna Lincoln of the Yukon River village of Rampart is unopposed in the primary, as is Republican Mac Carter of the Steese Highway village of Central.

In the House District 5 race, incumbent Democrat Albert Kookesh of Angoon is unopposed in his party's primary while Republicans Dennis Watson of Craig and Gary Graham of Cordova will face off in the primary.

State House District 2, which includes Sitka, Wrangell and Petersburg, also has a primary race. Democrats Denny Pearson and Rob Allen are running for the right to face Republican incumbent Peggy Wilson.

And in House District 1, which represents Ketchikan and Saxman, incumbent Republican Bill Williams faces no opponents in the primary or general election.

The shortage of candidates can be blamed in part on geography, Mackie said.

"I think there's a general feeling that the district is so spread out and so far-flung that the time commitment and the amount of money needed to mount an effective campaign is almost unachievable," Mackie said.

While few Democrats or Republicans are running, there are no candidates at all from the third, fourth, fifth or sixth parties appearing on statewide ballots. As a result, any Southeast resident choosing the Green, Alaskan Independence, Republican Moderate or Libertarian party ballot will not get to vote in local legislative races.

The reason, once more, is geography, said Anchorage pollster and political consultant David Dittman.

"Southeast is isolated from where those other parties started and there's a lack of local leadership," he said.

Ed Schoenfeld can be reached at eschoenfeld@juneauempire.com.



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