Taylor survives tough challenge in Senate primary

Posted: Wednesday, August 23, 2000

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Wrangell Sen. Robin Taylor easily fended off a tough challenge in the Republican primary while three Democrats battled for an open seat at the other end of the state.

With 100 percent of all precincts reporting in the Southeast district that includes Wrangell, Sitka, Petersburg and Ketchikan, unofficial results gave Taylor 59 percent of the vote in Tuesday's primary, while former Wrangell Mayor Bill Privett had 41 percent.

Although 10 of the 20 seats in the Senate are up for election this year, only six were in play in the primary. Most of the races weren't close, but the contest in District S in Northern Alaska came down to the wire.

With 88 percent of precincts reporting in the district that stretches across northern Alaska from the Canadian border to the Chukchi Sea, Donny Olson of Nome had 42 percent of the vote, Richard Glenn of Barrow had 31 percent, and Andy Baker of Kotzebue had 27 percent in the Democratic primary.

The winner gets the seat vacated by retiring Sen. Al Adams, D-Kotzebue, because no candidates from other parties are running. Six villages had not reported late Tuesday evening, said Virginia Breeze, a spokeswoman for the Division of Elections.

At the other end of the state, Taylor, R-Wrangell, is trying to return to the Legislature after eight years in the House and two four-year terms in the Senate. He's known for unyielding stands against using the Alaska Permanent Fund to balance the budget and amending the state constitution to allow a subsistence priority for rural hunters and fishermen.

A well-financed attempt by Privett, a wealthy businessman, to attack Taylor on those issues apparently failed.

''Mr. Privett attempted to buy the election, and it appears from the returns that southern Southeast is not for sale,'' said Taylor, who also lives in Wrangell.

Privett said voters were apparently less worried about Taylor's confrontational style than he was.

''I guess my level of concern was higher than the voters','' Privett said. ''I think the voter turnout was extremely dismal.''

In November, Taylor takes on Democrat Greg Middag, a Ketchikan teacher he beat four years ago.

In Anchorage, former Rep. Terry Martin trounced former lawmaker Marco Pignalberi in the Republican primary for the seat being vacated by retiring GOP Sen. Tim Kelly. Martin won 80 percent of the vote. On the Democratic side, former Rep. Bettye Davis had 71 percent.

In Senate District C, which stretches from Kodiak down to the rural parts of Southeast, a crowded slate of Democratic candidates was trying to replace retiring Sen. Jerry Mackie, R-Craig.

Tim June of Haines won with 38 percent of the vote, defeating John Waldron of Yakutat, John Mielke of Skagway and two Klawock men, Aaron Isaacs and A. Webster Demmert. June faces Rep. Alan Austerman of Kodiak, who was unopposed in the Republican primary.

In District E, which covers south Anchorage and the northern Kenai Peninsula, incumbent GOP Sen. Jerry Ward defeated Brad Brown with 59 percent of the vote. That sets up a confrontation in November with former Sen. Mike Szymanski, who won the Democratic primary with 79 percent of the vote.

In District G in Anchorage, Democrat Hollis French defeated Scott Heyworth with 57 percent of the vote in the race to tackle incumbent Republican Loren Leman.

Four Senate elections this year had no primary races.

Republicans have held a lopsided 15-5 majority in the Senate for the past two years, an advantage that allowed the GOP to steamroll the Democratic minority by overturning some of the Legislature's standing rules.



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