Juneau charts its own path in state races

Posted: Thursday, August 26, 2010

In Tuesday night's primary races, Juneau residents showed a stark contrast to the rest of the state, giving a huge margin of victory to incumbent Gov. Sean Parnell, and giving a strong show of support for fellow Southeast Alaska native Lisa Murkowski.

Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire

The city also differed from the state on ballot measures, including decisively rejecting an anti-abortion measure that was approved elsewhere.

Parnell's lead over his challengers in Juneau was dramatic, winning over challengers Ralph Samuels and Bill Walker by 30 percentage points more than elsewhere in the state. Parnell received more than 80 percent of the vote in the capital city.

At an Anchorage press conference Wednesday, Parnell said he appreciated the hospitality his new neighbors had shown him and his wife, as well as the votes they gave him Tuesday.

"Both Sandy and I have been warmly welcomed in Juneau after we moved there once we became governor."

That moving to Juneau may have been key, following the city's rocky relationship with former Gov. Sarah Palin, who moved some top state jobs away from here and lived in Wasilla during much of her term of office.

Juneau residents may have also liked Parnell's policies. He's been a strong advocate of developing a natural gas pipeline under the Alaska Gasline Inducement Act. Top rival Bill Walker wants to abandon that plan, and instead start over with a pipeline to his Valdez hometown.

Most of Parnell's huge lead in Juneau came at the expense of Walker, who polled in single digits in Juneau, 25 percentage points below his statewide tally.

While Walker was Parnell's closest challenger in most of state, former House Majority Leader Ralph Samuels edged out Walker in Juneau with 9.8 percent of the vote in Juneau, compared to Walker's 9.2 percent.

Parnell's new running mate, lieutenant governor nominee Mead Treadwell, actively campaigned in Juneau and ran more than 10 percentage points better in Juneau than he did statewide.

With Republican U.S. Senate challenger Joe Miller holding on to a too-close-to-call lead over incumbent Murkowski, Juneau residents gave Ketchikan native Murkowski a 56-44 lead, five percentage points better than she did elsewhere in the state.

Murkowski did well throughout Southeast, winning in every voting district and in nearly every city.

At a Wednesday press conference, Democratic Senate nominee Scott McAdams praised Murkowski's service, and tried to exploit divisions in the Republican party.

"I have admiration for Senator Murkowski's experience and talent," he said. "She deserved a better campaign than what Joe Miller did in a very negative way."

In the Democratic gubernatorial primary, Sen. Hollis French topped statewide winner Ethan Berkowitz 56-44 percent, running 10 percentage points better in Juneau than elsewhere.

The French campaign had been more active than Berkowitz in Juneau recently, with French showing more campaign signs and campaign donations than Berkowitz.

While Berkowitz had been House Minority Leader for years, a position now held by Juneau's Beth Kerttula, French had more recently been in office, including fighting Palin's attempts to appoint residents viewed as Republicans to Juneau's Democratic senate seat vacated by Kim Elton.

Democrat Diane Benson won her party's lieutenant governor nomination with 76 percent of the vote in Juneau, a bit ahead of her statewide effort. Wealthy challenger Jack Powers bought ads but did little campaigning and polled at 19 percent, less than he did statewide. Lynette Moreno-Hinz received 5 percent of the vote.

Juneau residents took a strong stand against a ballot initiative requiring parental notification, with some exceptions, for minors seeking abortions, with 62 percent voting against, compared to 38 percent in favor. That measure passed statewide with 55 percent of the voters in favor.

A ballot measure restricting political activity by those holding government contracts and lobbying by public officials failed with more than 75 percent opposed, compared to 63 percent statewide.

• Contact Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or patrick.forgey@juneauempire.com.

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