New voters in Alaska not as Republican as they were in '06

New voters in Alaska not as Republican as they were in '06

Posted: Monday, November 03, 2008

Alaska Democrats' uphill battle to take control of the Alaska Legislature is getting just slightly more likely to succeed.

Republicans still hold a dominant lead in voter registration in the state, 25.6 percent Republican to 15.5 percent Democrat, meaning it is unlikely Democrat Barack Obama, despite an aggressive Alaska campaign, has serious hopes of winning Alaska's three electoral votes.

Newly registered voters aren't quite as Republican as they were two years ago, however, and are more likely to register as Democrats. The proportion of new voters registering as Republicans has edged down to 22.7 percent while Democrats edged up to 16.4 percent.

Alaska Republican Party spokesman McHugh Pierre points out that the Republican Party is still maintaining its lead in registration, including among this year's key voter demographic, young voters.

"This clearly proves that Alaskans continue to choose the party that most closely represents their conservative values and beliefs," Pierre said.

Legislative seats are spread around the state, however. Some already Republican-held House districts, especially in the Mat-Su, are becoming even more Republican.

Rep. Carl Gatto, R-Palmer, added 628 Republican voters to his already solidly Republican district. Rep. Mark Newman, R-Big Lake, added 608 to his margin, and Rep Bill Stoltz, R-Chugiak, added 522 to his district's Republican lead.

The same thing happened with some already staunchly Democratic seats. Rep. Beth Kerttula, D-Juneau, increased the margin of Democrats in her downtown Juneau seat by 407. Kerttula's district is already so Democratic that the Republican Party did not even run a candidate against her.

Kerttula also serves as the minority leader in the House of Representatives and is working hard to make the Democrats the majority in the body. She said she's "cautiously optimistic," but is predicting "gains," rather than winning the three or more seats it would take for Democrats to win control. Republicans currently hold a 23-17 edge, but one Democrat - Richard Foster, D-Nome - caucuses with the Republicans.

Key to Kerttula's hopes is also in Juneau, where incumbent Democrat Andrea Doll is facing a spirited challenge from Republican Cathy Muñoz.

Two years ago, Doll won her Mendenhall Valley seat by just a few hundred votes, the closest legislative race in the state.

Pierre said that is one of the Republican Party's best hopes for picking up a Democratic seat and holding control of the House of Representatives.

New Democratic voters in the district may help out Doll, however. The valley district now has about 100 more Democrats than it did two years ago, closing the Republican lead there.

Republicans now hold 20.2 percent of voter registrations in House District 4, compared to 16.9 percent Democrats.

That's because more of the new voters in the valley, as with elsewhere in Juneau, registered as Democrats rather than Republicans.

Kerttula is predicting Democrats will hold that seat.

"Andrea has been there on capital move and ethics issues, but it may be close," she said.

More and more new voters are not declaring any party, however.

In Juneau, nearly 45 percent of new voters chose to not declare what party they supported when they registered, and another 17 percent say they are nonpartisan.

That includes the daughter of Gov. Sarah Palin, famously pregnant at 17 years old. Bristol Palin turned 18 last month and registered to vote as nonpartisan.

In fact, Sarah Palin might be the only Republican in the Palin household.

Palin's husband, Todd, and son, Track, did not declare which party they supported.

Statewide, 37 percent of voters are listed as "undeclared," while 43 percent of those registering for the first time since 2006 did not declare a party preference.

• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or e-mail

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