Powell nips Collins in closest city race

Posted: Wednesday, October 03, 2001

While a close margin of victory is familiar for newly re-elected areawide Assembly member Jim Powell, he said the negative tone of this fall's race was unexpected and unfortunate.

Unofficial totals today had Powell winning the race for the areawide Assembly seat against Chuck Collins by 272 votes. Powell had 52 percent of the total in the areawide race and 2,940 votes. Collins had 47 percent and 2,668 votes.

Election workers need to add about 200 absentee ballots and an unknown number of questioned ballots into the total. About 40 absentee ballots may come in by mail and officials haven't counted all the absentee ballots cast downtown and at the Mendenhall Center on Monday, City Clerk Laurie Sica said. Last year, the number of questioned ballots was about equal with the number of absentee ballots, she said.

Powell, who won his first bid for Assembly by 278 votes, didn't expect Tuesday night's totals to change much.

And he said his two previous campaigns for Assembly weren't as negative as this one.

"It's very difficult to understand how to deal with negative campaigning. When the paper, other individuals are attacking you, it's hard to stay on top of that. With the paper attacking my father-in-law, who has been out of office for 15 years, and attacking my wife, I was worried they were going to come after my dog," said Powell, referring to his wife, state Rep. Beth Kerttula, and her father, former Matanuska-Susitna Borough legislator Jay Kerttula. "Thank God Juneau turned out and said no to the negative campaigning."

While Powell said he was not referring to his opponent, he said an opponent benefits from negative campaigning and needs to take responsibility for it. He particularly objected to letters to the editor in the Empire and the process leading to the paper's editorial endorsement of Collins.

Collins, who owns Copy Express and Copy Works, said he did not run a negative campaign. And he said he was happy for Powell.

"I ran a real clean campaign no matter what my opponent put in the paper about me (Monday). We never said one disparaging thing about him and I think the people of Juneau deserve that," Collins said.

Collins said it was unbelievable that so few Juneau voters went to the polls Tuesday, referring to the approximately 25 percent turnout. He didn't expect vote totals to change in his favor.

"I think I would have done better if more would have turned out, but I'm sure that's a wild guess by anybody," he said.

Collins said if elected, he would have had a common-sense, business-friendly approach to local government. He said it's possible he might run again, adding he would stay involved in local government. And he offered this advice to Powell: "I think he better listen to his constituents, but I would say that about me, too."

Powell, an environmental and natural resource specialist for the state, said preventing a capital move will be the top priority of his third term. He said he hopes to bring community groups such as the Juneau Chamber of Commerce, Rotarians, other professional organizations and the Assembly together in that effort. Finishing the ice rink will be another goal, he said.

While Powell said the high school bond proposition was important to the community, a lack of "glamorous" ballot issues contributed to low turnout.

"There weren't other races happening. Then you threw in Sept. 11. It caused us to stop and pause. It really hit a lot of us in the chest. I would have hoped it would have had the opposite effect and people would feel more patriotic and exercised the right to vote. So that was disappointing that more people didn't," he said.

Neither Powell nor Collins saw radical changes in the makeup of the Assembly with this election.

Joanna Markell can be reached at joannam@juneauempire.com.

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