Throughout his campaign, Soldotna Mayor Peter Micciche referred to the political office he sought over a longtime incumbent as “District O, for opportunity.”
Now Micciche will have his opportunity to capitalize on that notion in Juneau during the next legislative session.
“I wouldn’t be in this race if I didn’t feel that District O was ripe for opportunity moving forward,” he said.
On Tuesday, Peninsula voters favored Micciche over incumbent Sen. Tom Wagoner in the Republican primary election for the Senate District O seat, which covers House Districts 29 and 30, further defined as Kenai and Soldotna south to Homer.
With all precincts reporting, Micciche had 3,274 votes or 59.54 percent to Wagoner’s 2,225 votes, or 40.46 percent. No Democrats filed to challenge Micciche in the general election.
“I’m very appreciative and honored and humbled that folks have chosen me to represent them for District O,” Micciche said.
Micciche, 50, is the superintendent of ConocoPhillips’ Kenai LNG facility, however he said he would take a “leave of absence” from that post while the Legislature is in session.
“I look forward to all of the incredible things we’ll do together as a district and for the great state of Alaska,” Micciche said. “To all of our supporters and the citizens that took the time to vote, the Micciche family and our team that worked so hard on this campaign thanks you.”
Wagoner, 69, is a former educator, businessman, and a commercial fisherman. He was formerly a member of the Kenai City Council and mayor of Kenai. He served in the state senate since 2003.
“Well, I think negative campaigning works,” Wagoner said. “Too bad, but we did everything we could do and everything we should do and we wouldn’t do it different.”
Wagoner said he would have liked to serve one more term, but “strange things happen” in primary races and he has other things he can do — retire, play golf, fish and spend time with his grandchildren.
“Enjoy myself,” he said.
Wagoner said he hopes the Kenai Peninsula is well-represented in the future.
“We thought we did the right thing by joining in the coalition and throughout the state it is showing that people didn’t like that,” he said. “Well, let me tell you, our district would have been a lot worse off had I not been in the coalition to do what I got done for the capital end of things. That’s just the way it is. I can live with what’s happened. It is not a big deal.”
Micciche said he wanted to congratulate Wagoner for competing well and said he wanted to remain friends.
“I know he has really done his best to represent the people of District O and he’s done a lot for the betterment of our community and for that I appreciate him,” he said. “I don’t know if you know this, but he taught me to commercial fish and now I hope he’ll work to advise me to serve the very best I can for District O.”
Wagoner said he was not inclined to do so.
“With the statements he’s made he seems to know which direction he wants to take and I don’t think it is up to me to advise him to take any direction,” he said. “That’s up to him to feel his way through this maze, and it is a maze.”
At the Kenai Mall, resident Janice Houtz said she voted for Wagoner based on her familiarity with the candidate.
“I feel a certain amount of respect for him and loyalty toward Tom Wagoner,” she said. “In some ways familiarity breeds contempt, but mostly not in politics. I mean, to me, the better the candidate knows his territory, I think the better for the state and for the community.”
Kenai resident Larry Bravo said the most important issue to him was a North Slope gas pipeline and that influenced his vote.
“Wagoner wants to bring it basically to Nikiski or somewhere close to reopen up Agrium, and, uh, what’s the other guy’s name? Micciche? He doesn’t care where it goes,” Bravo said. “So, I didn’t vote for him.”
Soldotna resident Bob Penny, 80, said he voted for Micciche because he thought he’d do “the best job.”
“Wagoner is too arrogant,” he said.
Guy Holand, 76, of Soldotna said he voted Micciche for a change as well.
“Wagoner, I wasn’t comfortable with his efforts,” he said.
Kenai resident Val Allen voted on the Democratic ballot and said he wasn’t enthused by any of the candidates.
“The Republicans, they have a lock on the state,” Val said. “I would pick a Republican ballot, but I don’t like any of them and I can’t vote for people I don’t care for. I think their policies are wrong. I think they are way too conservative for my taste. I think this is a beautiful state and we could do better with a little more Democratic representation.”
Clarion reporter Jerzy Shedlock contributed to this report.
Brian Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.