Mike Race says Beth Kerttula's party affiliation hurts Juneau.
And he says it often.
In a point he emphasized at every opportunity during two candidate forums this week, Race said he could bring more money to the city as a member of the Republican majority in the state House of Representatives than Democratic freshman Kerttula has been able to.
When Race said for the fourth time during Wednesday night's forum at the Juneau Senior Center that Juneau needs two Republicans in the House, Kerttula rolled her eyes.
Race made the same point with almost identical words three times during Monday's joint appearance by the candidates at Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School.
"I think you should vote for me so we could have an extra body in the majority," he said. "That's the bottom line. ... It's pretty simple."
Kerttula acknowledges the Legislature has become a more partisan place in recent years. But she said she works hard and focuses on issues, not on parties or personalities.
"None of us know for sure who's going to wind up getting elected, and who's going to be in the majority and who isn't," she said.
Juneau's other House member, Bill Hudson, a Republican who represents the Mendenhall Valley, Auke Bay and neighborhoods to the north, is running unopposed on the Nov. 7 ballot. He has served six terms.
Kerttula and Race ran unopposed in the Aug. 22 primary election. Kerttula got 1,130 votes on the open ballot, and Race got 372 on the Republican ballot. As of Oct. 5, Kerttula had more than a 4-1 edge in campaign financing, with total income of $58,228 to $13,224 for Race, according to reports filed with the Alaska Public Offices Commission.
Kerttula, 44, has represented downtown, Douglas Island, Lemon Creek and Thane for the past two years, picking up the seat Democrat Kim Elton vacated in his successful run for the Senate. Kerttula defeated Rosemary Hagevig in an expensive Democratic primary in 1998. There was no Republican on the general election ballot that year, although Race and another candidate ran last-minute write-in campaigns that garnered about 20 percent of the vote between them.
Race, 51, who owns a real estate franchise, is involved in numerous civic organizations, including the International Sourdough Reunion and Pioneers of Alaska. He never has held public office.
Race said during his brief 1998 campaign that the biggest issue was building a road out of Juneau, calling Kerttula "crazy" for not pushing it. But he hasn't raised the issue since the city advisory vote this month that narrowly supported enhanced ferry service instead, except to say that the ballot measure was poorly worded. Ever since filing for office this year, he has said party affiliation is the biggest issue.
Kerttula, a lawyer who is a former assistant attorney general and former president of the Alaska Bar Association, said her work on the BP Amoco and Atlantic Richfield merger demonstrated party affiliation isn't necessarily destiny. Despite being in the legislative minority, she was appointed to a special committee investigating the potential impacts of the merger on Alaska. And while she and Gov. Tony Knowles are members of the same party, they didn't agree on what the state should require in exchange for its consent to the merger, she noted.
On Monday, though, Race dismissed the Legislature's work on the merger as being of little significance to Juneau. More important, he said, is getting state assistance in paving roads and buying math books. He also has suggested Kerttula's minority status might have been a factor in the Legislature's decision not to provide matching funds for a new high school.
Hudson wasn't present Monday and didn't speak to the party affiliation issue during Wednesday's forum.
Asked afterward if he thought it would make a difference to have two Republicans from Juneau in the House, he said: "I think it would help, if the Republicans are in the majority and we're sort of assuming there's probably going to be at least 23 or 24 Republicans. In that respect, it's always nice to have a back-up voice in the majority. That doesn't mean we can't work effectively with Beth Kerttula; I have. ... I'm not getting engaged in anybody else's campaign other than my own."
This past session, 22 Republicans and one Democrat formed the House majority. They often were joined on votes by four conservative Republicans who dropped out of the caucus, leaving a 13-member Democratic minority.