Tuesday, November 13, 2012

GOP takes majority in Senate, ensuring shakeup in 2013

Tim Bradner
Alaska Journal of Commerce

Incumbent Alaska State Senator Hollis French, a Democrat, enjoys good early returns with friend Susan Ridle Nov. 6 in Anchorage. French was holding a 249-vote lead over opponent Bob Bell with all 15 West Anchorage precincts reporting but with absentee ballots still to be counted.

Incumbent Alaska State Senator Hollis French, a Democrat, enjoys good early returns with friend Susan Ridle Nov. 6 in Anchorage. French was holding a 249-vote lead over opponent Bob Bell with all 15 West Anchorage precincts reporting but with absentee ballots still to be counted.

Republicans gained in the state Senate Nov. 6 but whether the margin is enough to ensure solid Republican control, and not a coalition-type organization of its leaders, remains unclear.

The current Senate has a 10-10 split among Republicans and Democrats, and while a Republican was Senate President, Kodiak’s Sen. Gary Stevens, Democrats held many key leadership posts.

It was enough for the Senate to block a controversial change in the state’s oil and gas tax laws in 2011 and 2012.

If current vote tallies hold, the GOP will control 13 seats and the Democrats seven when the next legislative session begins in January.

The oil tax issue will be back before the Legislature in 2013 but many members of the previous coalition in leadership positions survived the election.

Two who did not were two Fairbanks Democrats, Sen. Joe Paskvan and Sen. Joe Thomas. In a bitter and hard-fought race, Paskvan was defeated in his core Fairbanks district by his Republican opponent, Pete Kelly, a former state senator. Thomas had to run in a new district against Republican John Coghill, who defeated him by a hefty margin.

Click Bishop, the former state labor commissioner, easily won his seat in Senate District C as a Republican, defeating his Democratic challenger Anne Sudkamp 71 percent to 29 percent.

For the first time in many years Fairbanks will have no Democratic state senators, although the western part of the Interior city, changed in the 2012 redistricting, is now represented by Sen. Lyman Hoffman of Bethel, a Democrat.

In two hard-fought Anchorage state Senate races, Sen. Hollis French, the Democrat in District J, appears to have narrowly defeated Republican challenger Bob Bell with an edge of just 249 votes among nearly 13,000 ballots. French was a prominent member of the Senate coalition and a strong opponent of proposed oil tax changes.

Another opponent of oil tax changes also survived in Anchorage. Democrat Bill Wielechowski beat back a challenge by Republican Bob Roses, gaining 59 percent of the vote in District G compared with 41 percent netted by Roses. The oil tax issue figured prominently in both of the hotly contested Anchorage races, but French and Wielechowski had substantially more funds available because of heavy contributions to Democrats by organized labor.

In other Anchorage Senate races the outcomes were generally expected, state Rep. Anna Fairclough, a Republican, won handily over Democratic incumbent Sen. Bettye Davis, 60 percent to 40 percent, a result that was generally expected because of changes in the senate district M that favored the Republican.

State Rep. Berta Gardner, a Democrat, won easily over Republican Don Smith, 60 percent to 40 percent, in Anchorage Senate District H. Republican incumbent Sen. Lesil McGuire won reelection easily in Senate District K, beating Democrat Roselynn Cacy 67 percent to 33 percent. Sen. Kevin Meyer, an Anchorage Republican, was easily reelected in Senate District L, defeating Democrat Jacob Hale 73 percent to 27 percent.

As expected, incumbent Democratic Sen. Johnny Ellis easily won reelection in downtown Anchorage senate district I, with 67 percent of the vote over Republican challenger Paul Kendall.

Incumbent Republican Sen. Fred Dyson also cruised to reelection in Senate district F, mainly in the Eagle River/Chugiak area north of Anchorage, defeating Democrat Martin Lindeke, 76 percent to 24 percent. Similarly, incumbent Republican Sen. Charlie Huggins easily beat Democrat Susan Herman in Senate district E, 77 percent to 23 percent.

In the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, Republican Mike Dunleavy was unopposed, as was Peter Micciche on the Kenai Peninsula, a Republican running in Senate district O. Both are newcomers to the Senate. In Senate District N, covering parts of Anchorage and now parts of the Kenai Peninsula, incumbent Sen. Cathy Giessel won reelection, defeating challenger Ron Devon, who was unaffiliated with a party, 57 percent to 43 percent. Organized labor had contributed heavily to Devon.

In Senate District R, incumbent Republican Sen. Gary Stevens easily won reelection over challenger Robert Heinrichs, the Democrat, 69 percent to 31 percent. Incumbent Sen. Lyman Hoffman, a Democrat, was unopposed in Senate District S, encompassing the Yukon-Kuskokwim region and, after redistricting this year, west Fairbanks. In Senate District T, western and northern Alaska, incumbent Democratic Sen. Donny Olson easily won reelection over Republican challenger Al Minish, 77 percent to 23 percent.

In Southeast Alaska, in an outcome that was expected, Republican Sen. Bert Stedman defeated Sen. Al Kookesh, the Democratic candidate, in Senate District Q, which had been reformed by the 2012 redistricting to include two separate senate districts represented by both senators.

The Stedman-Kookesh race in Southeast and the Coghill-Thomas race in the Interior were the only instances where incumbent senators were matched against each other in new districts.

Sen. Dennis Egan, Democrat of Juneau, was the only senator who did not have to stand for election in the 2012 redistricting.

Read more: http://www.alaskajournal.com/Alaska-Journal-of-Commerce/November-Issue-2-2012/GOP-takes-majority-in-Senate-ensuring-shakeup-in-2013/#ixzz2C5UI1NX8