House veteran faces challenger with prominent name

Posted: Wednesday, October 18, 2000

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- The state House race in the district covering the University of Alaska Fairbanks features one of the state's most influential Democrats vs. a member of one of Alaska's royal Republican families.

That explains why incumbent John Davies and challenger Eileen Murkowski Van Wyhe have together raised more than $100,000 as they prepare for the election Nov. 7.

Van Wyhe is the daughter of U.S. Sen. Frank Murkowski and the sister of state Rep. Lisa Murkowski, R-Anchorage.

''People are concerned about my race, having a name like Murkowski in there,'' said Davies. ''Typically, Republicans raise a lot of money. So if you've got a senator there, that's the top of the ladder in this state.''

Davies, seeking his fifth two-year House term, reported contributions of $58,657.07 on his 30-day campaign disclosure form, which was due to the Alaska Public Offices Commission on Oct. 7.

Van Wyhe reported contributions of $38,156.10. She said she's been busy in the week since disclosing that figure and has probably reached $45,000 in contributions.

Van Wyhe has political credentials to go with her influential maiden name. She has managed several campaigns and was signed up to run the re-election campaign of state Sen. Gary Wilken, R-Fairbanks, until she decided to file.

She said she plans to raise more money.

''I absolutely plan to raise more,'' Van Wyhe said. ''More is better.

''I'm sure John is doing the same thing out there, dialing for dollars. That's the most important thing about a campaign, raising money.''

Davies said he planned for a stiff challenge after learning who his opponent would be. He believes Van Wyhe will not only play up the family ties, but will use them to fund the campaign.

Van Wyhe doesn't run from the association.

''People might say I'm using my family name,'' she said. ''I guess it is an advantage, but we're a longtime Alaskan family. The Wien family is known for flying. The Stepovichs do all sorts of things. And my family is a political family and I'm proud of that.

''It may be an advantage, but I'll tell you what, we've all worked very hard for it.''

Davies lists his biggest contribution for the period as $1,000 from the Railroad Workers Political Action Committee. Charles Robinson, chairman and chief executive officer of Alaska Communications System, and ACS senior Vice President John Ayers chipped in $500 apiece.

He also received several contributions from University of Alaska Fairbanks professors, including $500 from International Arctic Research Center Director Syun-Ichi Akasofu.

A large chunk of Van Wyhe's money comes from official Republican sources. She gathered $3,000 from the Republican Party of Alaska, $1,500 from the Fairbanks Republican Women and $1,000 from the Anchorage chapter.

Smaller donors included Northrim Bank President Mark Langland and new Fairbanks North Star Borough Mayor Rhonda Boyles.

''I would think it is probably one of the more watched races in the state,'' said Wilken, whose Senate district includes the UAF area. ''If you put a half dozen races together to watch in the House, this would be one of them.

''Here's an established legislator going against a sort of upstart person in her first campaign with a family that has a prominent name. It's kind of a classic matchup.''

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