ANCHORAGE - One Republican lawmaker hoping to be the next speaker of the state House lost her primary battle Tuesday while another held onto a narrow lead in a district much changed by reapportionment.
House Majority Leader Jeannette James lost her re-election bid against fellow conservative Rep. John Coghill for House District 11 in North Pole. James announced plans to seek the 40-member House's top post during her campaign against Coghill, son of a former lieutenant governor who won by a 54-46 percentage spread.
Incumbent Rep. Lisa Murkowski, a moderate Republican also vying to become the next House speaker, was 21 votes ahead of newcomer Nancy Dahlstrom after the preliminary count of Tuesday's District 18 GOP primary race. Questioned and some absentee ballots were yet to be counted in a race where Dahlstrom questioned the role of Murkowski, daughter of Republican gubernatorial nominee Frank Murkowski, in efforts to impose taxes and use permanent fund earnings to fill the state's budget gap.
State Division of Elections spokeswoman Virginia Breeze said absentee votes will be tallied on Sept. 6 along with questioned ballots. Results from the primary election are expected to be final Sept. 18.
Rep. Pete Kott, an Eagle River Republican also vying for House speaker, was unopposed in his party's primary.
James wasn't the only incumbent lawmaker losing her seat in Tuesday's primary. Rep. Drew Scalzi, a moderate Republican from Homer who was involved in a bipartisan Fiscal Policy Caucus, lost by almost a 60-40 percentage margin to primary opponent Paul Seaton.
In Southeast Alaska, Gary Graham of Cordova beat Dennis Watson of Craig by a 57-43 percentage split in the District 5 GOP primary. Graham will face incumbent Democrat Al Kookesh of Angoon, who ran unopposed. In the Senate C race, which includes House District 5 and parts of Interior Alaska, Democrat Georgianna Lincoln of Rampart and Republican Mac Carter of Central were unopposed in their parties' primaries.
Rep. Beverly Masek, a conservative Republican from Willow who garnered headlines for her absenteeism, fended off a primary fight from former Matanuska-Susitna Borough assemblyman Doyle Holmes.
Masek's Democrat opponent in November, Kay Bills, is eager to make Masek's record a campaign issue. Alaskan Independence Party candidate Jon Pinard also is on the ballot.
Kott, who backed Masek during her campaign, said her appeal remains strong. "Bev can't do much wrong up there," Kott said.
Other incumbents appeared to weather bad press much better with voters than did those who cast controversial votes in the last session of the Legislature.
Republican Sen. Jerry Ward emerged from a three-way race for Senate District Q in the Kenai Peninsula despite a voter complaint filed with the Alaska Public Offices Commission that questioned his residency status.
Voter registration records show Ward moved from a $235,900 house in Anchorage to a three-bedroom trailer in Nikiski in time to seek the Senate District Q seat. Ward also partially funded his campaign using $10,000 of his own money.
Ward faces Democrat Patrick Hawkins, Republican Moderate Tom Wagoner and Green Party candidate Thomas Stroman in November.
Ward moved in part to avoid running against another Republican incumbent.
Republican Rep. Vic Kohring, who also faced a residency complaint, was unchallenged for the Republican seat to House District 14. Kohring moved in with his parents in Wasilla to avoid a primary battle with Masek after new legislative boundaries were drawn.
Kohring, a conservative Republican, faces Marci Schmidt of the Alaskan Independence Party and nonpartisan candidates Peter Burchell and Linda Anderson in November.
Because of changes in the state's legislative boundaries, all but three of the 60 seats in the Legislature are on the November ballot. In a normal election year, all 40 House seats and half of the 20 Senate seats are on the ballot.
The GOP took control of the Legislature in 1994 following a new legislative map created after the 1990 census. Changes in the map under the 2000 census were expected to erode the Republican's hold on the Legislature.
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