Several races to be won Tuesday

Some legislative contenders running only against members of their own party

Posted: Monday, August 26, 2002

Partisan voters in Tuesday's closed primary will decide eight legislative races around the state long before the final vote in the November general election.

Some could tilt the balance of power in the GOP-controlled Legislature and affect who controls the House.

One race, between two North Pole Republicans, is in House District 11. House Majority Leader Jeannette James and incumbent Rep. John Coghill are the only candidates, so the winner of Tuesday's primary is assured a win in November.

The race between James and Coghill is the last remaining matchup of incumbents caused by new legislative boundaries. The original redistricting plan pitted 20 incumbents against each other. A revised plan lowered the number and in other two-incumbent races, one dropped out.

Pollsters said the James-Coghill race was a dead heat until recently. But the two split on the legislative move and other topics at a forum last week. And James, who opposes a legislative move, also announced last week that if re-elected she would seek to be the next Speaker of the House, which could benefit her district.

"I believe they have a better opportunity to get what they want with me in leadership," she said.

Coghill dismissed the announcement as premature and a publicity stunt. He said he would support Rep. Pete Kott, an Eagle River Republican who also hopes to be House speaker.

Also vying for the top leadership post in the GOP-controlled House is Rep. Lisa Murkowski, who faces a Republican challenge in her new House District 18.

Murkowski, daughter of Republican gubernatorial candidate Frank Murkowski, has been a key member of a bipartisan caucus proposing new taxes and revenue measures to close the state's chronic budget shortfall. Murkowski is running in a new district against Nancy Dahlstrom, a conservative Republican from Eagle River who has come out against such measures.

Republican Rep. Drew Scalzi, who also was part of the bipartisan Fiscal Policy Caucus, faces Paul Seaton. Peter Roberts is also on the ballot for House District 35, which included Homer, Seward and Cooper Landing.

Democrats will pick up two seats on Tuesday when partisan voters decide races in House District 23 in Anchorage and House District 38 in western Alaska.

Democrats Jane Angvik and Les Gara are the only candidates running in District 23, which consists of downtown Anchorage and Fairview.

Democrat incumbent Mary Sattler Kapsner is defending her House seat against former lawmaker Ivan Ivan, of Akiak.

Other partisan matchups are:

• House District 12, the Valdez and Richardson Highway district, where incumbent Rep. John Harris is attempting to fend off a challenge by Republicans Mike Pearson and Scott Smith.

• House District 27 where Rep. Norm Rokeberg faces Republican activist Chuck Achberger.

• Four-term Rep. Scott Ogan is running against Joe Caswell in the primary for Senate District H, which became vacant when Senate President Rick Halford announced his retirement.

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