Election Day is over; it's time to move on

Posted: Sunday, November 07, 2004

Robert Hale is publisher of the Juneau Empire.

Almost a week after the fact, anyone still grinding their teeth over last Tuesday's election needs to be getting over it.

In Alaska, incumbent U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski prevailed in what became an ugly, negative campaign against former governor and Democratic challenger Tony Knowles. In the end, it mattered not to most voters that Murkowski was appointed by her father to fill his Senate seat when he was elected governor two years ago, or that she had hardened her stand on some issues in order to appeal to the more conservative wing of the state's Republican Party.

What did matter is that Murkowski positioned herself as the candidate her party wanted her to be, and more voters in this state were OK with that than they were with the Knowles campaign. While most Juneauites feel that Murkowski is out of touch with their political views (Murkowski didn't carry a single precinct in Juneau voting), she's in touch with the views of a majority of the voters elsewhere.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that the Senate campaigns and the talk are over. Murkowski worked hard this political season with the help of her supporters, and she will return to Washington as a duly elected member of our Alaska congressional delegation. If anything got handed to the governor's daughter this time around, it was by the voters of this state. That's as it should be.

With the presidential election, which caused far less heartburn than the debacle of 2000, the very same holds true. Voters across went to the polls - in record numbers in many parts of the country - and they chose the candidate they thought best suited to hold the job (retain the job, in this case).

The battle royal between George W. Bush and John Kerry was almost as much of a squeaker as the race four years ago between Bush and Al Gore. But more voters put their trust in the known quantity of the incumbent than they did in changing the hands of power. Regardless of the outcome, this year's vote would have been easy for me to accept because of the tens of thousands of Americans who, in some states, stood in line to cast their votes even though the polls had closed several hours earlier.

Such a close presidential election - this one hinged on the final outcome in Ohio rather than Florida - had been brewing since the day after the election of 2000. The map of red and blue states (for Republicans and Democrats, respectively) was almost identical to the breakdown of reds and blues of four years ago. Little changed in this election except for the candidates and the timeliness of the outcome.

Whether you're shocked, dismayed, saddened or downright disgusted with the outcome of Alaska's U.S. Senate election, the presidential election or the balance of power in the Congress, it's time to pick yourself up and get back in the game. Trust me when I say we're all better off knowing that in 2004 nobody is packing off to public office because they stole it or because it was given to them. In that respect we're already way ahead.

• Robert Hale is publisher of the Juneau Empire. He may be reached at robert.hale@juneauempire.com.

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