Legislative candidates throw hat in ring as deadline ends

Posted: Sunday, June 02, 2002

JUNEAU (AP) -- Sen. Pete Kelly, a conservative Republican from Fairbanks and co-chair of the powerful Senate Finance Committee, will not seek reelection, he said Saturday.

Kelly, who would have faced fellow Republican incumbent Gary Wilken in the Aug. 27 primary, said he will leave after eight years in the Legislature.

Kelly's exit is one of numerous changes expected in this year's legislative races. Several key Republican leaders have already bowed out and at least one -- Sen. Dave Donley, co-chairman of Senate Finance -- faces a tough election fight.

Republicans hold a two-thirds majority in the Legislature, but under a new redistricting map Democrats expect to pick up some seats.

''We are looking at getting rid of the veto-proof majority. We think that's easily in our grasp,'' said Tammy Troyer, executive director of the Alaska Democratic Party.

Kelly, who was among a group of core conservatives in the Senate, served two terms in the House before moving to the Senate in 1998. He said he made the decision not to run in the closing days of this legislative session.

''Since I won my first election, I started asking myself how long I can continue the gypsy lifestyle in Juneau,'' Kelly said in a telephone interview from his home.

Wilken, a six-year veteran of the Senate, is the lone Republican running for Senate District E. Democrat Shirley Demientieff and Green Party candidate David Stanndard have also filed.

Regardless of the outcome of this year's elections, the Legislature will be quite different next year. The deadline to file for legislative races was 5 p.m. Saturday.

Senate President Rick Halford, R-Chugiak, House Speaker Brian Porter, R-Anchorage, and House Finance Co-Chairman Eldon Mulder, R-Anchorage, all chose not to seek re-election this year.

Alaska also approved a new redistricting map following the 2000 census and it will require that all but three of the 60 legislative seats to be on the ballot this year.

This is also the first year that candidates will run in a closed primary in which voters can cast their ballots only for candidates of a specific party.

At least 13 incumbents face challenges from candidates in their own party this August. Most notable, Rep. Lisa Murkowski, R-Anchorage, who sponsored a bill this session to increase the state's alcohol tax by a dime a drink.

Murkowski, daughter of gubernatorial candidate U.S. Sen. Frank Murkowski, will face challenges from Republicans William D. Cook and Nancy A. Dahlstrom.

Five House members have also filed to seek their party's nomination for Senate seats in August.

Democrat Rep. John Davies filed for Senate District D. Ralph C. Seekins has filed as the Republican for that seat.

In Senate District J, Rep. Gretchen Guess will seek the Democratic nomination to face Republican Tim Worthen. Republican Rep. Fred Dyson filed for Senate District I where he will face Democrat Roberta Goughnour.

Reps. Con Bunde and Scott Ogan filed for Senate districts P and H respectively. Ogan will likely face former Rep. Jerry Sanders and Joe Caswell in the GOP Primary. Bunde will face incumbent Sen. Randy Phillips. Democrats Ken Ziegahn and Paul Theodore filed to run in Senate districts P and H respectively.

Republicans currently control 14 seats in the 20-seat Senate and 28 of 40 House seats. Despite a redistricting map that generally favored the Democrats -- it pitted about 12 Republicans against each other in the primary -- 19 seats have no Democrat challenger.

Seven Republican incumbents have no challengers in the August primary.

Troyer said the party targeted races ''very strategically'' and could not launch a challenge for every seat.

''We would have loved to have taken on every Republican in the state, but we didn't want to spread our resources thin,'' Troyer said.

One key race will be for Donley's Senate District M where Democrat Hollis French, a former state prosecutor, will run, Troyer said.

French lost a bid for the Senate in 2000 against Sen. Loren Leman, who is running for lieutenant governor.

In other races, former lawmaker and Republican Moderate Party founder Ray Metcalfe plans to run in House District 29. Republicans Ralph Samuels and David R. Guzy have also filed.

At least six candidates have filed for legislative seats through the petition process, said Janet Kowalski, director of the Division of Elections. The deadline for gathering signatures for the November ballot is Aug. 27, she said.

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