Szymanski cleared for Senate run

Republicans say appeal to Supreme Court likely

Posted: Wednesday, September 06, 2000

Kenai Superior Court Judge Jonathan Link has ruled Democrat Mike Szymanski is qualified to run for the Senate District E seat now held by Sen. Jerry Ward, R-Anchorage.

Szymanski easily won the Democratic primary election in August with nearly 80 percent of the vote.

Link's ruling came Monday morning after two days of evidentiary hearings held last week.

"It's a well-written decision by Judge Link, and it doesn't leave any question in my mind that the law supports my candidacy unequivocally," Szymanski said.


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However, George Martin of Soldot-na, who initiated the complaint against Szyman-ski, is not as impressed with Link's ruling.

"We don't believe that it was a very considered opinion founded in law," Martin said. "I discussed it with my attorney and other attorneys, and they said, 'You've got to be kidding.'"

Martin, along with the Republican Party of Alaska and Tommy Thompson, chair of District 9 Republicans, brought the lawsuit after the director of the Division of Elections, Janet Kowalski, ruled Szymanski was a qualified candidate.

Randy Ruedrich, the chair of the Republican Party of Alaska, told The Associated Press, ''The judge's interpretation and application of the law seems to be less than complete.''

He also said there was a chance the Republican Party will appeal Link's decision to the Alaska Supreme Court.

Martin was more certain.

"We are appealing it," he said.

Martin said his attorney, Ken Jacobus of Anchorage, would most likely file an appeal later this week or sometime next week.

"There are several areas where (Link) had to really convolute what the law said to fit his theory," Martin said. "There is no question that the Supreme Court will turn this over."

Szymanski said he would be surprised if the decision was appealed.

"I guess I'm a little surprised that the (Republican) attorney would appeal," Szymanski said. "I thought Judge Link's order and finding was detailed and didn't leave a whole lot of questions."

Link ruled on several points outlined in two complaints brought forth by Martin, a Republican Party activist.

Martin alleged Szymanski was not a resident of Senate District E, nor of the state of Alaska. He supported his argument with voting records that show Szymanski voted outside of District E on two occasions in the year prior to his filing for office. One was last September's special statewide election and the other was the Anchorage mayoral race.

Szymanski admits that he did not change his residency on his voter registration card until this year but claimed neither of the two elections he voted in were district-specific, and therefore he was still eligible to run for office.

Link agreed, giving an interpretation of state statutes that govern voter eligibility.

The law states a voter loses residency of his district when he votes in another district or another state. Link said if that statute were applied strictly, it would mean anyone who cast questioned or absentee ballots in districts other than their own, would be barred from running for office.

"In this case the Legislature's apparent intent can (be) expressed with the following language: 'A qualified voter loses residence by voting in another district's election or in another state's election,'" Link wrote. "Read this way, the subsection is in harmony with the remainder of the election code and the Alaska Constitu-tion."

He went on to say that where a person casts a vote does not necessarily establish residency for the purpose of running for office. That, he said, is outlined in statute as principally where the person lives.

Link said the evidence brought out in the hearing clearly shows Szymanski to have been a resident in his companion's condominium, which is in District E, since 1998.

Martin said Szymanski's cohabitation with his girlfriend would not sit well with conservative voters of District E.

"People down here go to church and frown upon a candidate sleeping wherever," Martin said. "He won't do well in District 9."

House District 9, encompassing Kenai and Nikiski, along with District 10 in South Anchorage, make up Senate District E.

Szymanski described having his girlfriend and her private life dragged into the campaign by Martin as "disgusting" and nothing more than "muckraking."

"They are so absurd and so far out of line that they don't deserve comment," Szymanski said. "I'm not going to wallow in the mud with Martin and Ward.

"I think there are some important issues facing our district, and would like to maintain a positive campaign. I just hope Ward would."

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