My turn: Juneau would be better served by Republicans

GOP's dominance of Alaska politics won't end anytime soon

Posted: Friday, November 03, 2006

In the 2002 gubernatorial election, Frank Murkowski captured 6,499 votes (42 percent) in the capital. There were about 4,000 registered Republicans and 4,600 Democrats in Juneau, yet many unaffiliated voters - who were eager for economic development and a road out of town - voted Republican.

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Juneau would be well-served by another Republican administration to continue the economic turnaround that began here in 2003 with the strengthening of our fisheries and progress on the Kensington Mine and the Lynn Canal Highway. Sarah Palin's pro-development, no-nonsense mindset combined with Sean Parnell's extensive legislative experience and fondness for Juneau are exactly what we need to survive and thrive.

The Republican commitment to build necessary infrastructure and strengthen the private sector will help Juneau employ and retain our youth, increase our population and school enrollment, and reduce the cost of living. When housing becomes more affordable and Alaskans can travel freely and inexpensively in and out of Juneau on a road, we will be less vulnerable to the threat of a capital move and better able to grow our population. Eventually, we can increase our legislative clout.

Because of Juneau's small population relative to the rest of the state, our three-member legislative delegation is outnumbered. Thirty-eight of the 60 members of the legislature belong to the Republican majority. With five highly competitive House races to be decided Nov. 7 and the Republican registration advantage at an all-time high, it is quite possible that Republicans will increase their majority in the House.

District 4 Rep. Bruce Weyhrauch, precisely because of his position in the Republican majority and chairmanship of key committees, secured many positive enhancements for Juneau during his tenure in office. While others take credit for blocking legislative-move bills, it was actually Weyhrauch, working quietly and skillfully with fellow majority Republicans for key votes, who kept Juneau secure.

It is apparent that a minority Democrat will continue to represent Juneau's District 3. That representative, like our incumbent state senator, has never - and will never - chair a legislative committee or wield the influence necessary to effectively defend Juneau. The scenario most threatening to Juneau's economic and social stability would be the election of a freshman Democrat to our District 4 seat.

In an Oct. 22 front-page Empire story, University of Alaska Southeast political science professor Clive Thomas said, "The Democrats won't re-take the Legislature. Even in the Senate, where the Republican majority is slimmest, the Republicans should retain control. And the Democrats won't get back the House in 10 years." To protect Juneau and balance out our Democrat downtown district, it is critical for Juneau to elect Randy Wanamaker to District 4.

The Alaska State Senate has been controlled by Republicans since 1982. The election of Mac Meiners, a moderate Republican from a well-known Democratic family would end 24 years of inconsequential representation in the "loyal opposition." Mac Meiners will provide a positive presence in the Senate majority, advancing necessary projects and making friends for Juneau.

Republicans took control of the Alaska House in 1994 and have held both the House and the Senate ever since. Then, registered Republicans outnumbered registered Democrats by 19,000 voters. Current statewide voter registration figures available from the Division of Elections Web site show 48,528 more registered Republicans than registered Democrats in Alaska.

Most in true-blue Juneau never believed that local favorite Fran Ulmer could lose to Murkowski by 35,000 votes or that Lisa Murkowski could possibly beat Tony Knowles. Many here refuse to believe that Palin may well be the second Republican woman to take out our former two-term governor.

It doesn't matter how many anti-war, anti-mine, anti-road demonstrations are staged on the Capitol steps, Alaska remains undeniably, overwhelmingly Republican. Juneau would be wise to put Wanamaker and Meiners in the majority. The alternative is self-inflicted irrelevance and invisibility in the Alaska Legislature.

Juneau's economy will always be based on government jobs, but the days of "growing government" ended long ago. Palin and Parnell are committed to Southeast Alaska and will keep the Capitol and Legislature in Juneau. Their focus on improving basic infrastructure and creating private sector opportunity and investment will strengthen the capital, improve our quality of life and provide a real future for our children.

• Paulette Simpson is president of the Alaska Federation of Republican Women. She has lived in Juneau for 30 years.

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