Republican Sen. Jerry Ward, R-Anchorage, said there is no question who put him back in office.
"It was Kenai and Nikiski, absolutely," said Ward, who was re-elected Tuesday to the Senate District E seat representing Kenai, Nikiski and South Anchorage. "From what I found from (Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly member) Jack Brown, (Borough Mayor) Dale Bagley and all the people who were waving signs for me, there was a tremendous response. It was very positive."
Ward had 6,969 votes, or 54 percent of the total, in preliminary results Tuesday night. Democratic challenger and former Sen. Mike Szymanski had 5,284 votes or 41 percent, while the Green Party's William D. Bartee had 569 votes or 4 percent. All three live in Anchorage.
"With three precincts out, I knew I would win," Ward said. "I called Jack Brown on his cell phone -- they're having a gathering there. I called Dale Bagley. They're having another gathering there. I thanked all those guys. Now, I'm headed to the Egan Center."
Ward said he has never before won an election by more than 10 percent.
"This is great," he said. "I don't know anyone who has. This is a tremendous show of support."
Szymanski said it was simply a Republican sweep. In House District 9, which represents Kenai and Nikiski, Republican challenger Charles "Mike" Chenault unseated Democratic incumbent Rep. Hal Smalley. Alaska voters returned Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, to Congress and supported Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush.
Ward ran newspaper advertisements saying Szymanski filled Tipper Gore's seat during a 1987 presidential debate.
"He tagged me as being Gore's campaign manager, which is a total lie, and I couldn't do anything about it," Szymanski said.
He agreed that Kenai and Nikiski determined the outcome.
"He has a very strong support group down there that came out and was better organized than anything I was able to do," Szymanski said. "He just out-campaigned me in Kenai. It was no particular issue. It was strictly Jerry's ability to convince people that he is a right-wing conservative."
Ward opposed the 1999 ballot measure asking voters whether earnings of the Alaska Permanent Fund should help fund state government.
"It was a phony vote to steal the permanent fund dividend," he said recently.
He also has opposed proposals to ask voters whether to amend the Alaska Constitution, which guarantees all Alaskans equal access to fish and game, to resolve the conflict with federal law, which requires a rural priority for subsistence.
"The constitutional amendment being pushed by liberal Democrats says we should be able to create a second class of people based on ZIP code," he said. "I don't believe in discrimination."
Bagley said Ward listens to his constituents.
"He's on the right side of those issues," Bagley said.
Ward said Kenai and Nikiski backed him "because I'm a defender of the permanent fund, I want resource development and I want privatization of certain parts of government."
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