State joins nation in GOP rout

Posted: Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Juneau's two representatives in the Alaska Legislature are each finding something to be happy about in Tuesday's early election results.

Republican Rep. Cathy Muñoz, representing the Mendenhall Valley, was reveling in the big Republican gains nationwide, which included taking control of the House and making strides in the Senate.

And in Alaska Republican Gov. Sean Parnell won easy election to the seat he moved up to after former Gov. Sarah Palin's surprise resignation last year.

That's good for Juneau, she said.

"He's been a pleasure to work with, and he's been very supportive of Juneau and Southeast," Muñoz said.

She was also happy with strong showings of Alaska Republicans in the Legislature. She, like all three of Juneau's delegation, was unopposed. She spent time campaigning for other Republicans, including Mia Costello in Anchorage.

Costello was leading incumbent Democrat Bob Buck 55-45, the only incumbent all but certain to have lost so far. Democrats also appear to have lost the seat currently held by Rep. Harry Crawford, who made an unsuccessful bid for the U.S. House of Representatives.

Muñoz said it is too soon to say what the final House will look like, but it is likely to be much like the last two years, with Rep. Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, retaining the speakership.

Rep. Beth Kerttula, who serves as the House's Democratic Leader and represents downtown and Douglas, said turning back a tea party attempt at winning an Alaska U.S. Senate seat is good news for the state.

"I'm proud of the turnout in Juneau and statewide in defeating the tea party," she said.

That race currently has write-in votes, likely mostly for Sen. Lisa Murkowski, leading Republican nominee Joe Miller by 4-5 percentage points, with about 70.5 percent of the state's votes counted.

Also failing was an amendment to the Alaska Constitution, with Alaskans voting 60-40 against expanding the Legislature by six seats, four in the House of Representatives and two in the Senate.

"I was pleased to see it go down due to the added seats that would have gone to Anchorage and the Mat-Su (Borough)," Muñoz said.

That could have acted to weaken Juneau's role as the capital, she said.

That measure won approval of two-thirds of the Legislature to be placed on the ballot, with Kerttula being a supporter.

She said people in the populous Southcentral region, where they have ready access to their lawmakers, didn't realize how difficult it is for rural residents in huge districts to get represented.

All of Southeast's incumbents who were up for re-election appear to have easily won new terms. Only in Juneau were the races not contested, Reps. Kyle Johansen, R-Ketchikan, Peggy Wilson, R-Wrangell, and Bill Thomas, R-Haines all turned back challenges.

In addition, several other positions on the ballot, including Judge Philip Pallenberg of Juneau, won judicial retention elections.

• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or patrick.forgey@juneauempire.

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