Wagoner, Chenault win big

Posted: Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Incumbent Republicans Sen. Thomas Wagoner and Rep. Mike Chenault each easily defeated there party opponents in Tuesday's primary elections in Senate District Q and House District 34.

Photo By M. Scott Moon
Photo By M. Scott Moon
Benjamin Boersma, 3, watches other voters in the legislative affairs building in Kenai while waiting with his brother Oliver for his dad, Jim, to cast his ballot. Alaska's youth were cited by both the supporters and opponents of several of the ballot propositions voters considered Tuesday.

By 11:30 p.m., Wagoner was leading his opponent, James Kauffman, of Kenai, by a healthy margin, garnering better than seven out of every 10 votes. Chenault, meanwhile, was upending his challenger, Jonathan Becker, of Nikiski, by a similar divide.

In November, Wagoner will face Kenai Peninsula Borough Board of Education member Nels Anderson, of Soldotna, winner of the Democratic Party primary, in the contest for Senate District Q. Wagoner congratulated Kauffman for doing "pretty good" in his first foray into politics and encouraged him to stay involved.

With 12 of 13 precincts reporting by 11:30 p.m., Wagoner had 4,077 votes to Kauffman's 1,572. Dissecting the numbers was tricky in part because the Republican ballot is a closed ballot, open only to party members and independents, he said.

"If Republicans stay Republican, it benefits me," Wagoner said, adding that he intended to run his own general election campaign as if he were 10 points behind.

"I'm not running against Tom," Anderson said late Tuesday as he looked ahead to the general election. "I'm running for the things I want to accomplish. I want to get things out there, have people listen to me and make a decision."

Anderson had 1,906 Democratic ticket votes.

Democrat Tim Evans, of Sterling will vie for Chenault's District 34 House seat in November. By 11:30 p.m., with six of seven precincts reporting, Evans had garnered 808 Democrat votes. The returns, he said, didn't say much at that point.

"I think a lot of people voted the Republican ticket so they could vote in the Don Young and Ted Stevens campaigns," he suggested late Tuesday.

Evans said he was looking forward to the general election contest and debates with Chenault.

"Mike and I will run a good race," he predicted.

"I appreciate the votes I got," Chenault said when reached late Tuesday. With all precincts reporting, he had 2,155 votes to Becker's 743. Exactly what the numbers meant was unclear, he said.

"I think what people are telling me -- what I hope they're telling me is that they're happy about the representation they're getting. Certainly some aren't, but I don't know if that was because of one issue or a multitude of issues."

Now the race begins for the November general election, he said.

"I'm sure my opponent and I will be at different gatherings and debates. He'll have his ideas; I'll have mine. We'll see in November what the electorate would like to do."

Chenault acknowledged that it was possible that more people picked up the Republican ballot than otherwise might have because of the races involving Don Young and Ted Stevens, both under federal investigation.

In District 33, incumbent Republican Rep. Kurt Olson, of Soldotna, and Democratic Party choice Richard A. Waisanen, of Soldotna, each won their respective primaries unchallenged, and will face off in November, along with nonpartisan candidate Kelly Wolf, a former Republican House member.

Olson had 2,348 votes by about 11:30 p.m., while Waisanen had 965.

Reached fairly early in the evening, Olson declined to speculate what the early numbers meant. He could not be contacted later. His opponent, Waisanen, said the returns were what he expected.

"Most voters here would have taken the Republican ballot," he said. "It will be a lot different in the general election once they (voters) have all the candidates on the same ballot."

Waisanen said he hoped by then to have gotten his message out, to have let voters know his stands on the issues, and to say something about Olson's record. He said he was looking forward to a tight race in November.

On the lower Kenai Peninsula, Republican incumbent Rep. Paul Seaton, of Homer also was unchallenged in his primary bid to return to Juneau as the District 35 representative. He will face the Democratic Party winner, Philip Alderfer, of Homer.

Efforts to reach Seaton late Tuesday were not successful, but by 11:30 p.m. all precincts were in and he'd earned 1,950 votes. His November opponent, Philip Alderfer said he'd been watching the returns, but wasn't drawing much from the numbers since he and Seaton weren't running against each other directly.

"It's like two separate beauty pageants in two different buildings," he said. "I can tell you I'm looking forward to a spirited race and a sprint toward the election in November, that's the main thing."

Alderfer had 1,457 votes.

Hal Spence can be reached at hspence@ptialaska.net.

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