A meager turnout in the Senate District E primary put Republican incumbent Sen. Jerry Ward, Democrat Mike Szymanski and the Green Party's William D. Bartee on the November ballot.
In the closed Republican primary for the seat representing Kenai, Nikiski and South Anchorage, Ward drew 1,497 votes or 59.36 percent of the total. Challenger Brad Brown drew 1,025 or 40.64 percent. Voter turnout was just 11.37 percent.
In the open primary, Szymanski, a former state senator, drew 1,319 votes, or 78.98 percent of the total. Democrat Kurt Melvin drew 134 votes or 8.02 percent, while Democrat R. Michael Allegrucci drew 56 votes or 3.35 percent. Bartee, the only Green, drew 161 votes, or 9.64 percent. Voter turnout was a dismal 7.79 percent.
Ward took his win as an endorsement, while Szymanski read the results as a call for change.
"I've never had a 20 percent win before," Ward said. "The issues I've been working on are the ones the district cares about -- getting a handle on government, making it smaller and protecting the permanent fund dividend."
Szymanski said Brown's 40 percent was impressive considering the meager turnout and how few resources Brown put into the campaign. Results in both primaries point to the same conclusion, he said.
"People are looking for a senator they can work with, a consensus builder with a positive attitude," he said.
Ward said he will campaign on the same issues he used during the primary.
"I'm going to make sure we have a smaller and smarter government. I'm going to make sure we have some development to make jobs for the people. That's what this campaign is going to be about," he said. "You have Jerry Ward, Don Young and George Bush who are going to lead Alaska into the 21st century for a brighter future with jobs. On the other side, you have the Democrats who want to lock it up and keep a pristine wilderness for a few mosquitoes and some wackos."
Szymanski said he thinks that if Ward mounts a negative campaign, "voters will see it for what it is and not be fooled."
Voters want a senator who can work with the congressional delegation and legislators from around the state to deal with subsistence and deal responsibly with the state's fiscal problems, "so we're not using the meat-ax approach," he said.
"They want someone who can set priorities, so we don't see cuts to education, public safety and road maintenance," he said. "People in Nikiski deserve road maintenance, too. And public safety -- we've reduced public safety almost to a point where we have a nonexistent state trooper force. We're going to have to rebuild it."
Szymanski said businesses want a legislator who will work with them.
"The fishing industry is looking for someone who will work with them to try to resolve problems and not just make excuses," he said. "I'll have my hands full trying to come up with a way to resolve commercial fishing issues and at the same time protect the resource. The past few years, it's deteriorated to where commercial fishermen are becoming second-class citizens."
Neither Bartee, Melvin nor Allegrucci could be reached Tuesday evening.
Brown said he was pleased with his showing as the newcomer against an incumbent. The only dark spot was the dismal turnout.
"For all the candidates, it's important to have a showing," he said.
He said many people told him they would not vote because of the closed Republican primary. That had a significant effect, he said. Some nonpartisan voters who would have voted for him skipped the closed primary, and some Democrats who would have voted for him did not want to change party affiliation.
Brown said he plans another bid at the Senate.
"I think in four years, probably less, I'm going to be back knocking on doors," he said. "Only instead of wearing out one pair of shoes, I'll wear out two."
He declined to say who he will support in the general election.
"Can I plead the fifth on that?" he asked. "I'm going to support the person I think will do the best for the state."
Peninsula Clarion ©2013. All Rights Reserved.