Republicans gain in state House

November 2, 2010 

Alaska voters have spoken, and for state lawmakers that's likely to mean more power for House Republicans.

The 20-member Senate had been evenly split, and with 78 percent of precincts reporting in Tuesday's general election, that balance was holding.

But Republicans likely will add to their slight edge of 22 members in the 40-member House, with two GOP contenders toppling Democratic incumbents and a Republican leading the race for an open seat held by Democrat Harry Crawford, who lost to Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, in the race for the U.S. House seat.

Three other House seats were open, all formerly held by Republicans. GOP candidates in those races were looking at overwhelming victories.

GOP incumbent Mike Kelly, however, was losing in Fairbanks, running 105 votes behind Democrat Bob Miller. Kelly was targeted for defeat by Alaska labor unions over what they call his unfriendly stance toward working family issues.

Heading into the election, leaders of both parties anticipated gains on their side.

In the sole open Senate seat among the 10 on the ballot, Republican Cathy Giessel was leading a three-candidate contest with almost 49 percent of the vote, followed by Democrat Janet Reiser, with 39 percent. Phil Dziubinski, who is running as an independent candidate, is trailing with nearly 12 percent. The seat became open after minority leader Con Bunde, R-Anchorage, decided not to seek re-election.

In Alaska, Republicans far outnumber Democrats, but those considered undeclared or nonpartisan account for more than half of the state's nearly 495,000 registered voters. They hold considerable sway for either major party.

Other notable House races include the seat held by Anchorage Democrat Mike Doogan, who was handily winning re-election following the removal of a brain tumor in July. It's a condition he played with in a radio ad airing this week.

"He's got the brains to get things done in the state House of Representatives -- and the CAT scans to prove it," the ad voice says.

In Eagle River, Bill Cook was unsuccessfully waging a write-in campaign after losing the Republican primary by four votes to Dan Saddler, who commanded almost 66 percent of the vote late Tuesday. Write-in votes accounted for almost 7 percent. Democrat Martin Lindeke had 27 percent.

That open seat was vacated by Republican Nancy Dahlstrom when she was assigned by Gov. Sean Parnell to the newly created position of military affairs adviser. She resigned from that position amid questions about the legality of her hire.

Also on Tuesday, voters defeated a measure calling for an increase in the number of state legislators, from the current 60 to 66. The measure would amend the Alaska Constitution to expand the Senate to 22 members and the House to 44.

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