Unions spend big to unseat Kelly in Alaska

Posted: Friday, October 29, 2010

FAIRBANKS - Alaska unions are spending plenty for campaign ads in a bid to unseat Republican state Rep. Mike Kelly of Fairbanks.

A new Anchorage-based committee, organized by the AFL-CIO, spent $14,429 on advertising opposing Kelly, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.

While the union group, Putting Alaska First Committee, has advertised for or against a handful of other candidates around the state, its campaign against Kelly represents half of its overall spending so far.

A separate group reported raising an additional $9,468 for its anti-Kelly ads. The combination is more money than some candidates spend on their entire campaign.

The other group, Alaskans Opposed to the Re-election of Mike Kelly, led by residents in his district, has been urging voters in advertisements to "retire" the three-term Republican incumbent.

Kelly, whose House District 7 sprawls across Farmers Loop, the Goldstream Valley, Fox and Two Rivers, faces Democrat Bob Miller on Tuesday. He won re-election in 2008 by just four votes.

Kelly has drawn criticism from labor groups in the past, partly because of 2005 support for shifting away from pension-style retirements for public employees.

"Mike Kelly has had one of, if not the, worst records on working family issues in the Legislature," said Vince Beltrami, president of the AFL-CIO.

He cited Kelly's past opposition to minimum wage laws, overtime regulation for nurses and other bills supported by labor groups.

Beltrami noted that Putting Alaska First is unaffiliated with the voter group that has been running anti-Kelly ads.

Kelly defends his work on the overhaul of the state's pension systems, a change that distanced the public retirement framework in Alaska from the type of pension-style systems cited for creating multibillion-dollar public liabilities across the United States.

Kelly, a former utility CEO, said Wednesday he knew his political style could earn him some enemies. He said he'll keep his campaign positive.

"My feeling is I've been in this job to serve the next generation and the generation after that," Kelly said.

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