House loses 1 incumbent, keeps GOP majority

Posted: Wednesday, November 06, 2002

ANCHORAGE -- Buoyed by the defeat of a Fairbanks incumbent and a strong showing in Alaska's largest city, Republicans won at least 27 seats in the state House of Representatives and easily kept control of the 40-member body.

The only incumbent to lose was Fairbanks Democrat Joe Hayes, who is completing his first term. He was defeated by businessman Jim Holm, the son of a former legislator and a Republican National Com-mitteewoman.

Coupled with Frank Murkow-ski's win in the governor's race, the victories gave Republicans control of both houses of the Legislature and an all-Republican congressional delegation.

With one precinct left to be counted, Anchorage Democrat Max Gruenberg, former legislator, led Randy Smith by 22 votes. A win by Gruenberg would give Demo-crats 13 seats, though Rep. Richard Foster, D-Nome, has in recent years aligned himself with the Repub-lican majority.

Representatives of both parties predicted Republicans would keep control of the House. House Minority Leader Ethan Berkowitz said felt like a ''Democratic salmon swimming upstream against a Republican bore tide.''

Berkowitz said one of the most disturbing outcomes of the evening will be the absence in Juneau of many of the legislators who had worked on solving the fiscal gap.

He said many Alaskans may still be hoping that the next big boom will come along and rescue Alaska from the current gap between state income and spending. He said he hoped so, too.

''But you can hope for the best and prepare for the worst,'' he said.

The Republican majority in the House began with a march back to office by incumbents. Republicans controlled nine House seats before voting began. Incumbents Bill Williams of Ketchikan, Carl Morgan of Aniak, John Coghill of North Pole, John Harris of Valdez, Gary Stevens of Kodiak, Lisa Murkowski, Norm Rokeberg and Kevin Meyer of Anchorage, plus newcomer Paul Seaton of Homer, faced no opposition.

Jim Whitaker of Fairbanks faced only an 11th-hour write-in challenge from perennial candidate Urban Rahoi, a Republican, and easily defeated him.

Republican incumbents Vic Kohring of Wasilla, Pete Kott of Eagle River and Mike Chenault defeated nonpartisan or minor party candidates.

Bev Masek of Willow fought off challenges by Wasilla Democrat Kay Bills and Alaskan Independent Jon Pinard. Anchorage incumbent Lesil McGuire defeated Democrat Jay Trumble and Libertarian Mickey Sexton.

Incumbent Peggy Wilson of Wrangell defeated Sitka attorney Denny Pearson, a Democrat, and Rep. Hugh Fate of Fairbanks defeated former Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly member Karen Parr.

In Juneau, Bruce Weyhrauch's victory over Tim Grussendorf in the Mendenhall Valley kept a Republican in the seat vacated by Rep. Bill Hudson.

Carl Gatto kept a Palmer seat in the Republican camp, defeating three opponents, as did Bill Stoltze of Chugiak, who defeated Alaskan Independent Larry Wood.

The other winners included Anchorage Republicans Cheryll Heinze, who defeated nonpartisan Andree McLeod and Democrat John Palmatier; Ralph Samuels, who defeated Republican Moder-ate and former legislator Ray Metcalfe; Mike Hawker, who defeated nonpartisan Pat Abney; and Bob Lynn of South Anchorage, who defeated nonpartisan Jim Crary; and Tom Anderson, who defeated Owen Cary.

Democrat Richard Foster, who has joined recent Republican majorities, was unopposed.

Four minority Democrats were elected without opposition: Les Gara of Anchorage and incumbents Carl Moses of Unalaska, Mary Kapsner of Bethel and Reggie Joule of Kotzebue.

Other than Hayes, Democrat incumbents were re-elected. In Anchorage, Berkowitz defeated Republican Steve Strait, Eric Croft turned back former state Rep. Roger Jenkins, Sharon Cissna defeated Mike Ryan and Harry Crawford prevailed in a vigorous challenge by Art Nelson and Republican Moderate Clyde Baxley.

In Southeast, Rep. Albert Kookesh of Angoon easily defeated Gary Graham and Rep. Beth Kerttula of Juneau defeated Mike Race to keep their seats.

In Fairbanks, Dave Guttenberg kept the University of Alaska seat in the Democratic camp by defeating Republican Tom Scarborough and Alaskan Independent William Nemec.

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