Republicans Stedman, Elkins and Wilson win

Posted: Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Two races in Southeast Alaska remained too close to call late Tuesday night. But in other races in the region voters named Republicans to the state Legislature.

Republican Bert Stedman, 48, of Sitka, held onto his appointed seat in the state Senate, defeating Democrat David Landis, 40, a former Republican from Ketchikan. With 14 of 17 precincts counted by 11 p.m., Stedman led Landis 6,804 votes (58 percent) to 4,889 votes (42 percent).

Senate District A represents much of Southeast Alaska, including Ketchikan, Saxman, Thorne Bay and Coffman Cove, Pelican, Sitka and Wrangell.

Gov. Frank Murkowski appointed Stedman to the seat in November 2003 after naming Sen. Robin Taylor, R-Wrangell, to a post at the state Department of Transportation.

Stedman supports new roads throughout Southeast Alaska, mineral development and more than doubling the allowable timber harvest in the Tongass National Forest.

In the race for Senate District C, which pitted two longstanding House members against each other, Democrat Albert Kookesh, 55, of Angoon led Aniak Republican Carl Morgan, 54, by 618 votes at 11 p.m. But only 41 of 64 precincts had been counted.

The seat was vacated by Sen. Georgianna Lincoln, D-Rampart, who held it for 12 years.

Senate District C includes 126 communities in its 250,000 square miles from southwest Alaska all the way across the northcentral portion and down to Skagway and Haines.

Kookesh, reached at 10:45 p.m., said the race was too close to call, particularly because many of the uncounted votes were from the Interior, including Republican strongholds of Delta and Tok.

Voters were concerned about funding for education and village public safety officers, state cuts to municipal revenue sharing, and the loss of the Longevity Bonus, Kookesh said. But they didn't blame the Republican majority for the loss of the bonus, he said.

Republican Jim Elkins, 67, of Ketchikan, defeated Democrat Dawn Allen-Herron, 45, also of Ketchikan, for House District 1. With eight of nine precincts counted at 11 p.m., Elkins had 2,888 votes (54 percent) to Allen-Herron's 2,443 votes (46 percent).

The district includes Ketchikan, Saxman, Thorne Bay and Coffman Cove. Incumbent Bill Williams, R-Saxman, is retiring.

In October, Murkowski selected Elkins to fill the District A Senate seat, but the governor withdrew his nomination. Elkins said the decision was payback for his criticizing Murkowski's slashing of the Longevity Bonus program.

Regarding the issues during the campaign, "I said it was about party," Elkins said. "It was about the party that's pro-resources, pro-infrastructure, pro-education. I just went down the line. We worked hard. ... The people of Alaska agree with that kind of thinking."

In House District 2 - which ranges from Pelican and Sitka to Wrangell - two-term Republican Peggy Wilson, 59, from Wrangell handily beat Democratic political newcomer Roxanne Houston, 44, from Sitka.

With six of eight precincts counted, Wilson had 4,285 votes (67 percent) to Houston's 2,089 votes (33 percent).

Voters talked about the need for a better ferry system, concern about schools, the state's fiscal condition, and jobs, Wilson said.

"I really think it's just a relationship I've built with my constituents. I really work hard at keeping them informed when we're in session," she said.

In House District 5 - which represents residents in Skagway, Haines, Yakutat, Tenakee Springs, Kake, Cordova and several other coastal communities - Democrat Tim June, 51, and Republican Bill Thomas, 57, were locked in a tight race. Both are commercial fishermen from Haines.

Kookesh, the incumbent, ran for state Senate seat C.

June co-founded the Alaska Clean Water Alliance in 1992 and served as a special assistant on oceans and watersheds for then-Gov. Tony Knowles in 2002. Thomas, a board member for the Native corporation Klukwan Inc., has lobbied the Alaska Legislature for the Kensington Mine, the Haines Borough, and other entities.

June, reached at 10:20 p.m. in Juneau, said he wasn't sure which seven of the district's 18 precincts hadn't been counted by that time. Thomas had 2,439 votes (50.26 percent) to June's 2,401 votes (49.47 percent).

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