Incumbent Sen. Jerry Ward emerged from Tuesday's primary election the apparent victor in a three-way race for the Republican Party nod.
Ward survived a challenge earlier this summer to his claim to residency in Nikiski and answered a big unknown in his own camp -- whether he could appeal to voters in the new Senate District Q, a district entirely comprised of Kenai Peninsula precincts.
Ward currently represents portions of south Anchorage in the soon-to-be extinct Senate District E. But Anchorage is no longer part of his constituency.
With 13 of 14 precincts reporting by 11:30 p.m. Tuesday, Ward had 2,337 votes, or nearly 55 percent of Republican ballots cast.
His main challenger, Joe Arness of Kenai, was a distant second with 1,734 votes, or about 40 percent of the vote.
Raymond P. VinZant of Soldotna, the third Republican in the race, garnered 210 votes from the 13 of 14 precincts.
The figures are preliminary and do not include the results of absentee or questioned ballots, which will not be counted until Sept. 6.
In the Democratic Party primary for Senate District Q, Pat Hawkins of Soldotna defeated Kurt Loyal Melvin of Nikiski. Hawkins received 621 votes to Melvin's 118, with 13 of 14 precincts counted.
The race's lone Green Party of Alaska candidate, Thomas M. Stroman, won the right to compete in the November general election with only 43 votes.
Likewise, Republican Moderate Party candidate Thomas H. Wagoner earned his party's nod with 40 votes.
Ward was ecstatic late Tuesday night with his apparent success. He was most impressed, he said, with the fact he'd won by almost 15 percent.
"I never won an election by 15 percent before," he said. "They've always been closer. I'm very pleased, and I'm glad that all the people supported me and voted and worked on the campaign."
Ward said he thinks it came to down to philosophy.
"I was pretty straight about what I was trying to do -- make a smaller, smarter government that worked. Government should be the servant, not the master. The people that want to head in that direction voted for me."
Arness said he didn't understand why Ward got the support he did.
"I may sound a little caustic at the moment," he said late Tuesday, "but he (Ward) never said anything except that he saved your dividend."
Arness also said he was "still staggered" that people supported Ward "when he doesn't even live here."
He also said that from looking at the results statewide, it was apparent to him that the "really conservative types are taking the day."
Ward said in the five years he's represented peninsula communities in the Legislature, he's met a lot of people and helped them when he could.
"Apparently, people thought I did a fairly good job," he said. "It is a substantial vote of confidence. I appreciate it. I don't take it lightly, and I intend to do my very best."
Arness said he would put the disappointing result behind him and go on with life.
"You do what you can," he said. "I'm going to get up tomorrow, and it's going to be Wednesday. You have to have something you can hang your hat on."
Turnout for the Senate Q race was low, roughly 20 percent.
In the only other Senate race to directly affect portions of the Kenai Peninsula, incumbent Sen. Alan Austerman, R-Kodiak, was the only candidate. He will be returned to the Senate and represent Senate District R, which includes House District 35 on the lower and eastern peninsula.
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