June beats out 3

Hains Democrat faces tough fight against Austerman

Posted: Wednesday, August 23, 2000

Tim June and his slow boat won the Democratic primary race for Senate District C against four other Southeast candidates.

Now the Haines resident will continue his campaign voyage with a single opponent, Republican Alan Austerman of Kodiak.

"It's just a matter of getting out into the district and talking to folks," said June, who has been visiting Southeast towns in his fishing troller, Nikky. He also flew to Kodiak four times, which helped him win the necessary votes in Tuesday's primary election.

"I made a decision early on in the campaign, because I've trolled and fished in Southeast for 20 years, that Kodiak was the new neighborhood for me, so I made a commitment to put a lot of my early time in that district," June said. "The numbers reflect that."

June lost Southeast to Aaron Isaacs Jr. of Klawock by 102 votes, but more than made up for it with 379 votes from Kodiak. Skagway Mayor John Mielke came in a distant third, while Webster Demmert of Klawock and John Waldron of Yakutat trailed with fewer than 200 votes each.

"Basically people who work hard reap the rewards and Tim and Aaron worked hard," said Mielke, recognizing the fact that he, Demmert and Waldron hadn't been able to campaign throughout the 600-mile-long district.

Isaacs was surprised he didn't do better in Kodiak, where he campaigned twice. He was also disappointed in the voter turnout in Southeast, where only 22 percent of registered voters cast ballots.

"This has been the lowest turnout for a primary thus far. That's sad, because now their senator's coming from Kodiak island," said Isaacs, who doesn't believe June can beat Austerman.

Mielke agreed that any Democrat would have a difficult campaign against Austerman, who has served several terms in the House as a Republican from Kodiak.

In the House last year, Austerman helped establish an endowment to fund the Power Cost Equalization program. He also pushed for a long-term fiscal plan that included some use of permanent fund interest earnings and unspecified taxes.

June expects use of the Alaska Permanent Fund to become one of the defining issues in the campaign. He is promising to protect the permanent fund dividend.

"The permanent fund dividend is sometimes the only cash that is sustaining small villages in the fall and winter," June said. "I think Alaskans have made it very clear that they don't want the Legislature to touch that."

Now that he knows who his opponent is, Austerman said he plans to start campaigning heavily in Southeast. He expects subsistence and a long-term financial plan for the state to be the main issues.

"I'm a fairly moderate conservative and I'm going up against what I consider an extreme environmentalist," Austerman said. "It's going to be very interesting."

Though he was unopposed, Austerman drew 1,176 votes in the primary, most from Kodiak. Together, the five Democrats gathered 2,405 votes.

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