Republicans retain control of state House

Fairbanks' Jim Holm leading in one of the closest House contests

Posted: Wednesday, November 03, 2004

ANCHORAGE - Republicans retained their hold on the Alaska House of Representatives on Tuesday. By how much was still in question.

All 40 seats, which carry two-year terms, were up for election. Republicans the past two years held 27 seats and presided over the legislative session with a coalition of 28 with the inclusion of Rep. Richard Foster, D-Nome. The remaining Democrats formed a minority of 12.

As of late Tuesday, Republicans won or were holding sturdy leads in 24 districts.

One of the closest contests was in Fairbanks, where incumbent Republican Jim Holm led Democratic challenger Scott Kawasaki by just 34 votes, 2,931-2,897, with all nine precincts reporting.

In District 24, an Anchorage seat vacated by Republican Rep. Cheryll Heinze, Democrat Berta Gardner held 152-vote lead over Republican Andree McLeod with 85 percent of the precincts counted. Gardner, 50, is manager of Brown Bear Software. McLeod, 49, lists her occupation as "public and citizen advocate."

In District 21 in Anchorage, Republican Jeff Gonnason, 53, an optometrist, led Democratic incumbent Harry Crawford, 52, an iron worker, by 78 votes with 83 percent of precincts reporting.

In District 6, the vast horseshoe that stretches around the Railbelt from Russian Mission in the west to the border with Canada in the east, Democrat Woodie Salmon had 76-vote lead over Republican Ward Sattler of Stony River with 87 percent of precincts reporting. Sattler, 63, is a former legislative aide. He has been an electric utility manager, a teacher and administrator, commercial pilot and a flight instructor. Salmon, 52, is a pilot from Beaver and a former mayor of Fort Yukon.

Republicans easily won three other open seats.

In Fairbanks, Republican Jay Ramras, 40, defeated Democrat Carole Ann Newcomer, 46, a property manager for Doyon Ltd., the Fairbanks-based regional Native corporation. Ramras is a restaurant and hotel owner. In the primary Ramras defeated Nick Stepovich, the Murkowski appointee who took over Jim Whitaker's term when Whitaker was elected mayor of the Fairbanks North Star Borough.

Republican Mike Kelly, 58, the former head of Golden Valley Electric Association, the rural power utility that serves customers outside Fairbanks, defeated Democrat Kathy Dietrich, 49, a former business agent for the Alaska State Employees Association.

In District 15, a Parks Highway district that covers Big Lake, Houston, Willow, and Talkeetna, Republican Mark Neuman, 45, of Big Lake defeated Democrat Doyle E. Holmes, 67, owner of a Willow True Value Hardware and Myrl Thompson, 45, Wasilla, who works in the construction and hotel businesses. Neuman defeated five-term incumbent Beverly Masek in the primary.

On the Kenai Peninsula, Kurt Olson, 56, of Soldotna, a former legislative aide, defeated former state Rep. Hal Smalley, 57, of Kenai, a retired teacher. The seat was vacated by Rep. Kelly Wolf, R-Kenai

Most incumbents retained their seats.

In Interior Alaska, the only Democrat to hold a seat, David Guttenberg led challenger Joseph Miller by 295 votes with 85 percent of precincts reporting. Miller is an attorney.

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