State rejects residency challenge; Szymanski to appear on ballot

Posted: Monday, July 10, 2000

KENAI (AP) -- The state Division of Elections has ruled that Senate candidate Mike Szymanski of Anchorage can appear on the Aug. 22 primary election ballot, despite a challenge to his residency.

George Martin of Soldotna challenged Szymanski's candidacy last month, saying the Democrat was not an Alaska resident, nor a resident of District E, which includes Kenai, Nikiski and a portion of Anchorage.

But in a letter July 6, Elections director Janet Kowalski cleared Szymanski to appear on the primary ballot, saying, ''... the preponderance of the evidence supports the eligibility of this candidate.''

Kowalski said she reviewed the state's election records and found Szymanski has voted in the state for at least the past 10 years.

''The public record clearly indicates that Mr. Szymanski has maintained his Alaska residency through his Alaska voter registration,'' Kowalski said. ''Therefore, I am issuing this final determination upholding Mr. Szymanski's eligibility as a candidate for Senate District E.''

Kowalski did not address Martin's assertion that Szymanski didn't register in District E until January, which Martin contends was too late to be eligible to run for office in that district.

''I urge you to seriously reconsider this decision today while there is still time to prevent a great injustice to our process of free and lawful elections of public officials,'' Martin wrote in response to Kowalski's decision.

In his first letter challenging Szymanski, Martin claimed the former senator lived in Seattle and was not an Alaska resident.

Szymanski served two terms in the Alaska House before representing South Anchorage and Nikiski in the state Senate for one term. He retired from the Legislature in 1990. Kenai was not a part of that Senate district at the time.

Martin sent another batch of documentation to the Elections Division on June 29, but it was not considered because it didn't reach Kowalski within 10 days of the filing deadline.

When Martin challenged Kowalski about that, the director responded she would consider the information, nonetheless.

''However, due to the lateness of your subsequent complaint, I am unable to evaluate that complaint before the deadline for ballot printing for the upcoming election,'' Kowalski wrote. ''Based upon my evaluation ... Mr. Szymanski is an eligible candidate, and his name will appear on the printed ballot.''

Thursday was the deadline for printing the primary election ballot.

Szymanski said he has resided in District E since December 1998, making him eligible to run in that district.

''Except for cancer treatment, occasional business trips and a vacation, I have never been away from home for any extended period of time,'' Szymanski told Kowalski in a letter. ''The allegation that I live in ZIP code 98614, Seattle, is ridiculous.''

Szymanski said he recently overcame a yearlong battle against colon cancer.

In the same letter, Szymanski said Martin's challenge to his residency was on behalf of another Senate candidate.

''I would like to say that this challenge appears to be politically motivated by supporters of one of my opponents in the upcoming election,'' Szymanski wrote.

Martin contributed $200 to Sen. Jerry Ward's campaign on Dec. 15, according to records from the Alaska Public Offices Commission.

Martin has done a lot of leg work in collecting documents supporting his argument, including an address where Szymanski had registered an automobile, as well as collecting 54 signatures on a petition demanding Szymanski not be certified as a viable candidate.

Szymanski faces two others in the Democratic primary; Kurt Melvin of Nikiski and Michael Allegrucci of Anchorage. One Green Party candidate, William Bartee is running, as are two Republicans, Ward, the incumbent, and Brad Brown, from Anchorage.

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