Carol McKenzie uses a new touch-screen voting machine to vote Tuesday at the Kenai Senior Citizens Center. "I wanted to try it, and I'm hoping it'll become the way to vote in the future," she said. "It's nice people have a choice, though."
Photo by M. Scott Moon
One of the most civil of campaigns came to a close Tuesday, but the unofficial results of one of the tightest primary races in House District 33 history produced no clear winner.
That won’t be known until absentee and questioned ballots are counted sometime Friday.
With all six precincts reporting, one-term incumbent Kurt Olson, of Soldotna, trailed his Republican primary challenger, Soldotna Mayor Dave Carey, by the nearly infinitesimal margin of two votes 1193 to 1191, or 47.55 percent to 47.47 percent. David L. Richards, of Soldotna, garnered 125 votes, or 4.98 percent.
Counting heavily on broad name recognition, Carey ran on a platform offering change, while Olson ran on his record and an appeal to voters to give him one more term so he could complete unfinished legislative business.
Reached in Anchorage, Olson said he had expected the race to be close, but not that only two votes would separate him from Carey.
“I’ve never been in a situation like this,” he said.
Asked what he thought the campaign issues would be if he runs against his Democratic Party opponent, Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly member Pete Sprague, of Soldotna, and Alaskan Independence Party winner John Osborne, of Kenai, who defeated Robert Pope, of Soldotna, 112 to 52, Olson said he’d been concentrating on the primary and hadn’t given that much thought.
“I imagine it will be differences in philosophies on spending,” he said.
He said he believed he and Sprague both want to see a gas pipeline built.
Carey, hoarse from weeks of campaigning and a full day of waving signs at Bridge Access Road and the Kenai Spur Highway, said he was surprised by the closeness of the vote tally.
“People kept asking me about polls. I had no idea,” he said.
During the race, Carey said he believed state lawmakers had caved in to Murkowski administration pressure to pass a new oil and gas tax. Asked Tuesday about the governor’s proposed gas contract with the major oil producers, Carey said he did not yet feel qualified to express any opinions on that or other issues likely to be debated in the general election campaign.
He did say he thought a major issue for voters would be deciding between a candidate who would be part of a majority and one who would be in the minority, presuming Republicans maintain control of the Legislature.
Carey said his race against Olson had been a “David versus Goliath” affair with regards to campaign financing. Carey said he stayed below $5,000. Olson had a war chest of more than $31,000 and spent nearly $20,000.
Sprague ran unchallenged for the Democratic Party nomination and got 619 votes.
“Looking at the primary vote, it shows that every vote counts,” Sprague said. “If you didn’t vote in the primary, be sure to vote in the general.”
Sprague declined to say whom he’d rather run against from the Republican side but said the gas pipeline and the contract were “absolutely huge” campaign issues. Decisions about them would affect the state for generations, he said. He opposes a profits-based oil and gas tax scheme.
Elected twice as assembly president and elected president of the Alaska Municipal League demonstrated his ability to work in a bipartisan manner, Sprague said, adding he would have no problem working with Republican colleagues should he win in November.
Rep. Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, ran unopposed in his bid for the Republican primary nod from District 34. No independent has filed to challenge him and it is likely the current co-chair of the powerful House Finance Committee is headed back to Juneau. He said the election in District 33 “surprised me.”
As for his own race, he said it showed “people in my district think I’m doing the job they sent me to Juneau to do.”
On the lower peninsula, Rep. Paul Seaton, R-Homer, ran unopposed in the Republican primary. He will face Democrat Anthony Sieminski, of Seward, in the general election.
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