Senate candidate gets OK to appear on primary ballot

Posted: Monday, July 10, 2000

The Alaska Division of Elections has ruled that Senate hopeful Mike Szymanski of Anchorage will appear on the Aug. 22 primary election ballot, despite a challenge to his residency.

On June 12, George Martin of Soldotna challenged Szymanski's candidacy, saying the Democrat was not a resident of the state of Alaska, nor a resident of District E, which encompasses Kenai, Nikiski and a portion of Anchorage.

In a letter on 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 does not address Martin's assertion that Szymanski didn't register in District E until January, which Martin said is 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 determination.

Martin contends that Szymanski voted in the Sept. 14, 1999, special election on the Alaska Permanent Fund in Anchorage House District 11, which is in Senate District F, not Senate District E. Martin backs up his claim with a letter from the Division of Elections in Anchorage which details where and when Szymanski voted and what his place of residence is and when it was last updated.

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

Szymanski served two terms in the House before representing South Anchorage and Nikiski in the Senate for one term, retiring in 1990. At the time, Kenai was not part of that Senate district.

Martin sent more documentation to the Division of Elections on June 29, but since it did not reach Kowalski within 10 days of the filing deadline, it was not immediately considered. But when Martin challenged Kowalski on that matter, the director wrote back saying she will consider that 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 wrote in a letter to Kowalski. "The allegation that I live in ZIP code 98614, Seattle, is ridiculous."

Szymanski said he recently has overcome an year-long 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.

According to records from the Alaska Public Offices Commission, Martin contributed $200 to incumbent District E Sen. Jerry Ward's (R-Anchorage) campaign on Dec. 15, 1999.

Martin has done a lot of leg work in collecting documents supporting his argument, including what address Szymanski registered an automobile at, 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 also is running, as are two Republicans, Ward and Brad Brown, also of Anchorage.

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