Tight primary race in District 7

Posted: Monday, August 14, 2000

For more information on the District 7 election, please see:

Candidate profiles:

Q & A with the candidates:

Editor's note: Today, the Peninsula Clarion begins a series of stories about the Kenai Peninsula's legislative races: House District 7 is featured today; House District 8 on Tuesday; House District 9 on Wednesday; and Senate District E on Thursday. Each day's coverage will include an overview of the race, profiles of the candidates, Clarion questions posed to the candidates and their written answers, as well as guest columns the candidates were invited to write.

The primary election will be Aug. 22.

HOMER -- Candidates have been hard at it -- shaking hands, knocking on doors and attending public functions in an effort to sell their messages to a largely impassive audience busy with summer activities.

But some of the electorate's political lethargy is about to end. In less than two weeks, Homer-area voters will go to the polls to judge the worthiness of those messages -- and the messengers -- as they choose candidates to run in the statewide general election Nov. 7.

The outcome of the Aug. 22 primary election could have a great effect on the make-up of the Alaska Legislature next year. In any event, District 7 voters will choose a new representative. Rep. Gail Phillips is not seeking a sixth term in the State House.

A recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling calling California's open primary process unconstitutional has forced a change in Alaska's ballot, as well. Voters will no longer see all candidates for an office on the same ballot regardless of their party affiliations.

As a result of the ruling, Alaska will return to the modified open primary system used in 1992 and 1994 in which only registered Republicans and voters not registered with other parties could vote on the Republican ballot. Democrats and those registered with other parties will get a separate ballot that will have no Republican candidates.

The "official open ballot" will include Democrat Amy Bollenbach, who is running for House District 7. She will face the winner of the three-man Republican race.

Also on the open ballot will be six candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives vying to challenge Rep. Don Young.

They include Democrats Clifford Mark Greene, Dae Miles and Frank Vondersaar, Alaskan Independence Party candidate Jim Dore, Libertarian Leonard J. "Len" Karpinski, and Green Party of Alaska candidate Anna C. Young.

The "official Republican ballot" will include House District 7 candidates Drew Scalzi, Dale Wunderlich and Doug Ruzicka. Rep. Don Young has no opposition for the Republican nod.

On page 6 of today's Peninsula Clarion are interviews with the three Republicans and one Democrat running for House District 7.

Democrat Bollenbach will appear on the Nov. 7 ballot. She is unchallenged in the primary, so the Aug. 22 election victory will be hers unless a write-in candidate puts on a last-minute challenge.

The Republican race is another matter, and while it may be argued Scalzi enjoys more name recognition than Wunderlich or Ruzicka, the outcome is not assured.

Scalzi describes himself as a moderate, while Wunderlich and Ruzicka say they are more conservative.

The major issues facing all four candidates include matters that have hung over the last several legislatures -- subsistence, budget-cutting, developing a long-term fiscal plan, whether to tap the Alaska Permanent Fund as a source of revenue to run state government, as well as environmental and social issues.

But these four also have to answer voters when it comes to a heated local issue -- Homer's petition to annex 25-square miles of surrounding territory. Whoever is elected may face a recommendation from the Local Boundary Commission to OK the annexation. State lawmakers would have to pass a resolution against it to stop an annexation.

Hal Spence is a staff writer for the Homer News.

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