Wheeler suprises with margin of win

Posted: Wednesday, October 04, 2000

In the only real Juneau Assembly contest, Southeast Alaska Conservation Council grass-roots organizer Marc Wheeler coasted to victory in Juneau's areawide assembly race Tuesday night with a tailwind of more than 700 votes.

Write-in candidate Maridon Boario apparently made some inroads in her first appearance in local politics: Nearly 30 percent of the vote in the District 1 race, 1,920 votes, was attributed to write-ins, with the rest, 6,468, going to incumbent Ken Koelsch.

In District 2's uncontested race, Dale Anderson garnered 6,148 votes, with only 585 write-in votes against him.

"This was a devastating win for Wheeler," said Greg O'Claray, the city union business agent. "Where his opponent (PeggyAnn McConnochie) promised 24/7 service on the assembly, Marc campaigned 24/7. He worked harder than any five candidates put together."

Wheeler netted 5,248 votes to McConnochie's 4,540.

At election central Tuesday night, Wheeler said he ran "a real grass-roots campaign, a door-to-door campaign that focused on real issues, and not just on talk."

The new high school, clean air and water and a recreation facility for the Mendenhall Valley all figured prominently in his presentations to voters, he said.

In her second bid for the assembly, McConnochie cited traffic congestion downtown and on the Douglas Bridge as one of the city's prime transportation problems.

With respect to tourism, "We're lucky so many people want to come up," she said. "But it's causing some uncomfortable problems in transportation, parking and housing."

But McConnochie had no stomach for regulation. With a choice between "more government regulation and a more cooperatively-based solution to problems, my vote is for cooperation," she said.

McConnochie ran for the other assembly areawide seat and lost to incumbent Jim Powell in 1998.

"Marc's win may be attributable in part to some new demographics," said Powell today. "Sally (Smith) was able to form a coalition. But here's a guy who's just 28 years old, and by virtue of hard work was able to take his message to the people."

Wheeler also purchased his campaign materials and media production locally, Powell said, unlike his opponent. "That could have made the difference with the business community."

Powell said Wheeler's victory in tandem with Smith's "totally changes the dynamics on the assembly."

Assembly member Frankie Pillifant also saw change coming, she said. "The first thing I thought (after Wheeler's and Smith's victories) was 'Wow now there's a majority on the assembly that's willing to discuss the things I bring up.' "

Maybe the assembly will have a better and broader dialogue with the public now, she said.

District 1 winner Ken Koelsch could not be reached by the Empire's mid-day deadline. District 2 winner Dale Anderson also could not be reached, and his wife said he was out of town.

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