A win for Parnell where Republicans usually fare poorly

Posted: Thursday, November 04, 2010

Gov. Sean Parnell won a strong statewide victory to be elected to a full term as the state's governor, but in Juneau he did something rare for a Republican: He carried a majority of the votes in the capital city.

Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire

Parnell has a markedly different relationship with Juneau that did his predecessor, Sarah Palin, and that showed when he asked Juneau residents for their support, said Ben Brown, co-chairman of the Capital City Republicans. Brown is also a columnist for the Empire.

"Sean is very supportive of Juneau as the capital, and he gets the concerns of Juneau voters and residents that it remain the capital," he said.

Parnell won Juneau with 53 percent of the vote, compared to Democrat Ethan Berkowitz' 47 percent. Parnell did best in the more Republican Mendenhall Valley, where he exceeded his statewide 60-40 majority, and won the valley by enough to overcome Berkowitz' strength in downtown.

Brown said the Parnell campaign, which included Mead Treadwell as the candidate for lieutenant governor, was also very active in campaigning locally and asking for votes.

"He's also a very personable individual, and his wife is very nice as well, and that always helps," Brown said.

Berkowitz' campaign tactics of attacking the state's plans for an interstate natural gas pipeline and tax breaks for oil companies did not seem to persuade voters to support his campaign instead of Parnell.

Juneau showed its Democratic colors in the race for the U.S. Senate, where Democratic candidate Scott McAdams did well, pulling in 39 percent of the vote, just edging out Sen. Lisa Murkowski's write-in campaign with 38 percent of the vote. Republican nominee Joe Miller had just 23 percent.

While McAdams may have won some votes by having been the mayor of a neighboring Southeast community, he also did poorly in the region's Native villages which are traditionally Democratic stalwarts.

An aggressive effort by the Alaska Federation of Natives and the Alaska Native Brotherhood, as well as the financial backing of Alaska Native corporations appears to have brought success to Murkowski in places where McAdams needed to win to have a chance statewide.

In heavily Democratic Angoon, McAdams received only 13 votes, compared to 22 for Miller, but the write-in campaign sponsored by Murkowski received 155. Angoon is the hometown of state Sen. Albert Kookesh, who was one of Murkowski's most prominent backers. He is also chairman of Sealaska Corp., the regional Native corporation which also strongly supported Murkowski.

The numbers were more stark elsewhere.

In the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta village of Anvik, there were 31 write in votes, presumably for Murkowski, and none at all for Miller or McAdams, the two candidates actually on the ballot.

With the Senate race taking up most of the statewide attention, other candidates found it difficult to attract attention and the state's Republican majority carried most races.

The U.S. House race saw state Rep. Harry Crawford lose to Rep. Don Young for the incumbent's 20th straight general election victory. In Juneau, Crawford ran 16 points better than his statewide average, but still lost out to Young.

Young was supported by Juneau voters 53 percent to 47 percent, a lead not nearly as strong as his statewide margin of 69 percent to 31 percent.

Juneau votes joined those elsewhere in supporting bonding for veteran's home loans and education projects.

A measure to expand the legislature, seen as a benefit to rural communities fearing loss of representation, failed statewide 60 percent 40 percent, but did better in Juneau, failing 52 percent 48 percent.

That measure was supported by Juneau Rep. Beth Kerttula, but opposed by fellow Juneau Rep. Cathy Muñoz. That constitutional amendment even failed 366-317 in Wrangell, the hometown of its House sponsor, Rep. Peggy Wilson, R-Wrangell, who had shepherded it through the House of Representatives, where it needed a supermajority to be sent to the voters.

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



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