Senate Q race heats up as election nears

Posted: Sunday, August 18, 2002

The Aug. 27 Alaska primary election is just over a week away, and candidates are entering the last few days of the campaign.

Some know they will emerge from the election unscathed with their party's nomination in tow, largely because they are unchallenged. Others realize they have serious races on their hands.

In the most contested race of all, the race for Senate District Q, seven candidates are seeking the nomination on four different party ballots.

The Republican Party ballot will include incumbent Republican Sen. Jerry Ward and two challengers, Joe Arness of Kenai and Raymond P. VinZant of Soldotna.

Two Democrats are competing on the Democratic Party ballot. They are Soldotna resident Patrick Hawkins and Nikiski resident Kurt Loyal Melvin.

Also in the Senate Q race are Thomas M. Stroman of Kenai, who will appear on the Green Party of Alaska ballot, and Thomas H. Wagoner of Kenai, who is running unchallenged on the Republican Moderate Party ballot.

The Republican and Republican Moderate races for Senate District Q pit candidates who may differ more over methods than philosophy and who often express similar views on such things as the role and cost of government. All said Alaska's state government is too intrusive, and all would cut spending and promote resource development.

Some reluctantly agree that some form of taxation may have to be considered in order to generate revenues.

Other issues include whether to move the Legislature, how the state should address subsistence, how to fund education, public safety and transportation and the appropriateness of closed-door caucuses.

Differences dividing the Democrats in that party's primary are hard to define. Hawkins has responded to questions, attended forums and sat for interviews. Melvin has been absent from those forums and did not respond to the Clarion's questionnaire or to repeated efforts to reach him by phone.

Taxation is an issue for Hawkins. He favors an income tax over a sales tax. He blasted Republicans for failing to get the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge open, despite years of being in the majority.

Because they face no ballot opponents, Republican Moderate Tom Wagoner and Green Party candidate Stroman are guaranteed a spot on the Nov. 5 general election ballot. Their campaigns can be expected to become more aggressive after they know the winners from the Republican and Democratic primaries.

One issue that is a concern for Wagoner is Ward's residency.

Ward survived a recent challenge to his claim that he lives in Nikiski when the Alaska Division of Elections ruled that Ward met all its residency requirements. The outcome of the Republican primary for Senate District Q, and possibly the November general election as well, could depend on how voters view Ward's claim to represent them.

Stroman said a major issue for him was promoting the natural gas pipeline and funding for vocational education.

Each candidate professes to be the best for the office. For voters, it may come down to whose views resonate with their own, and whose life experiences best qualify him for elected office.

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