Incumbent Beth Kerttula has left one political battle behind, only to fight another.
The Juneau Democrat easily beat Republican Mike Race on Tuesday, winning her downtown-Douglas-Lemon Creek District 3 House seat with 64 percent of the vote. But now the fight for power begins.
Kerttula flew to Anchorage today to meet with other Democrats who hope to cobble together a majority coalition with moderate Republicans and seize control of the House. But some GOP moderates, including Juneau Rep. Bill Hudson, who also won re-election Tuesday, say that scenario is unlikely.
"I want to go up ... and talk to cohorts and see what's possible," said Kerttula, who ranks school funding and tighter controls on the cruise industry as top priorities next session.
Kerttula's minority status in the House became a battle cry for opponent Race, who owns a realty franchise. During his campaign, Race called Kerttula a "radical Democrat" who would never be in a position to deliver for Juneau.
Kerttula said her constituents just didn't buy that argument.
"I think people in District 3 understand it's really not whether you're in the minority or the majority. It's how effective you are and how well you work with other people, and I do that," she said.
Although Kerttula won by a nearly 2-1 margin, Race said he was pleased with the results. "I'm new at this. I didn't know what to expect," said Race, who claimed 35 percent of the vote.
When Race arrived at Juneau's election central last night, he immediately sought out Kerttula to shake her hand.
"I'll be back," Race told Kerttula, delivering the salvo made famous by film star Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Minutes later Race acknowledged some reservations about politics.
"Politics is an interesting sport. I don't know if I really like it. It's a lot different than being in business," he said.
Unofficial results from the Division of Elections show voter turnout in District 3 was 54 percent and that Kerttula took the lead in all precincts.
Voter turnout was also 54 percent in District 4 where incumbent Bill Hudson kept his House seat, capturing 94 percent of the vote.
"I'm pleased," said Hudson, who ran unopposed. "I don't know who those 144 people were that didn't vote for me, but obviously I need to get out and communicate a little more," he said, referring to voters who wrote in other names.
Hudson also is focused on the power struggle expected to play out among House members this week. Although he said during the campaign he would consider joining a bipartisan majority coalition if Democrats won more seats in the House, he ruled that out today.
"There are going to be a lot of new faces in the Legislature, but the majority of them are going to be in the Republican camp," Hudson said. "So it will clearly be an organization that satisfies the majority, and that happens to be the Republicans."
Hudson's past opponents in District 4, which includes the Mendenhall Valley and Auke Bay, have criticized him for failing to win leadership positions as a member of the majority. Hudson said he is lobbying House Republicans to chair the Rules Committee.
"I think I could serve well in that capacity, but it all depends on the mix and the politics after we get together (Thursday) in Anchorage," Hudson said.
Hudson said he thought Anchorage Republican Brian Porter would continue as House Speaker and members would appoint North Pole Republican Jeannette James as House majority leader.
One wild card in the House power struggle is the political defeat of Republican Ramona Barnes, a 10-term incumbent from Anchorage who lost her seat to a Democrat. The political conservative in the past has locked horns with Republican moderates, including Hudson, who said it's too early to tell whether his "good friend's" defeat will mean a more moderate majority coalition.
"Does it mean something more for the moderates? We don't know. We won't know until a lot of these new people get together for the very first time," Hudson said.