Republicans seize control of the state Senate

rmauer@adn.comNovember 7, 2012 

Republicans, with an assist from the state's redistricting board, completed the make-over of the Alaska Senate in election results Tuesday, turning the Democrats into a minority party after four years of 10-10 bipartisan split.

The partisan split was headed toward a 13-7 Republican majority. That would be a defeat for the state's unions and the oil-industry watchdog Backbone, which had hoped for closer parity and shared power between the two parties.

The Senate could still be controlled by a coalition, but Republicans are in position to be firmly in charge if they can bridge their own internal divisions.

Four Democrats in the Senate's bipartisan coalition were defeated Tuesday. The Republican primary in August had previously taken out two of the Republican members of the coalition.

Sen. Bettye Davis, a longtime Anchorage Democrat redistricted into a heavily Republican district that included Eagle River, lost to Rep. Anna Fairclough. In Fairbanks, Democratic Sen. Joe Thomas, placed into the same district with Republican John Coghill, also was defeated. So was Democrat Joe Paskvan, defeated by former Rep. Pete Kelly.

Democratic Sen. Hollis French appeared to defeat Republican Bob Bell by 249 votes with all 15 precincts counted, along with an unknown number of early-voter ballots an unknown number of absentee and questioned ballots are still out.

And in Southeast, where two coalition members, a Democrat and Republican, were put into the same district, Sen. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, beat Sen. Albert Kookish, D-Angoon.

Alaska's big election battleground was the state Senate, which for the last four years has been split 10-10 between Republicans and Democrats. A coalition of 10 Democrats and six Republicans ran the Senate, and they shut down the effort by Gov. Sean Parnell and the Alaska House to lower oil taxes by as much as $2 billion a year.

Parnell and the House said the cut was necessary to convince industry to drill more wells in old fields and get more oil in the trans-Alaska pipeline. Senators said the cut was too deep and would be given to producers regardless of whether they drilled more or stood pat. The senators in the coalition generally agreed that taxes should be reduced, but only in return for more investment by producers.

Parnell appeared buoyed by the results.

"The opportunity is here to create a tax climate that increases production," he said.

Here's district-by-district voting:


• District F (Eagle River, Fort Richardson, Chugiak, the Butte): Incumbent Sen. Fred Dyson, a Republican who refused to join the bipartisan coalition and instead served with the minority, cruised to victory. He faced Democrat Martin Lindeke, who called himself the Rogue Candidate when he ran for the House in 2010. This will be Dyson's fourth term in the Senate after serving three terms in the House.


District G (Muldoon, College Gate, Russian Jack, Elmendorf): This was one of the most hotly contested Senate seats. Incumbent Sen. Bill Wielechowski, a Democrat and a leading member of the bipartisan coalition, beat Bob Roses, a Republican and former president of the Alaska Education Association.


District H (University, Spenard, Rogers Park): In this new district without an incumbent and in which the redistricting board placed a nearly equal number of Democrats and Republicans, Democratic Rep. Berta Gardner beat Don Smith, a Republican. Gardner served four terms in the Alaska House. Smith, who served in the House from 1967-1968, campaigned as the "father" of the Anchorage tax cap, passed by voters in 1982.


• District I (Mountain View, Airport Heights, Downtown). Incumbent Sen. Johnny Elllis, a Democrat and member of the bipartisan coalition, was elected to his sixth Senate term after facing token opposition from cold-fusion advocate Paul Kendall, a Republican.


District J (West Anchorage, Turnagain, Sand Lake): This district has one of the key Senate races, with French, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, against Bell. French was one of the leading opponents of Parnell's oil-tax cuts; while Bell said he wouldn't automatically vote for the governor's plan, he was heavily backed by the oil industry and its supporters.


District K (Oceanview, Bayshore, Taku, Midtown): Sen. Lesil McGuire, a Republican veteran of two terms in the Senate and three in the House and a strong advocate of energy projects, easily defeated Democrat Roselynn Cacy. Cacy is a literacy advocate who came to Alaska in 1966 as a Vista volunteer in the early days of the War on Poverty program.


• District L (Huffman, Lower Hillside, Abbott): Sen. Kevin Meyer, another veteran who served as majority leader of the bipartisan coalition, cruised to victory over Democrat Jake Hale. Republicans outnumber Democrats in the well-off South Anchorage district by more than 2 to 1.


District M (Basher, East Anchorage, Eagle River Valley): Long-term legislator Davis was redistricted from a fairly safe Anchorage district to one that included a majority of Republicans from conservative Eagle River, and her defeat was not surprising. Davis had been elected to six terms in the House and Senate, served 11 years on the Anchorage School Board, and was the only African-American in the Alaska Legislature. Her opponent, Fairclough, had been elected to three House terms and served on the Anchorage Assembly from 1999 to 2006.


District N (South Anchorage, Nikiski, Seward): Incumbent Sen. Cathy Giessel, one of four members of the conservative Republican minority, faced a surprisingly tough challenge by an independent, Ron Devon, a former retail store owner, but voters sided with her. Giessel objected to the bipartisan coalition and supported conservative social issues; Devon said he would join a coalition if it was in the best interest of his district, supported the coalition's position on oil taxes, and opposed Giessel's stands on abortion and school vouchers.


District A (North Pole, Eielson, Fairbanks): Unions poured huge sums into Thomas' campaign, while business interests and social conservatives supported Coghill.


District B (Fairbanks City): Paskvan, a leader in the bipartisan coalition's efforts to block the governor's oil-tax bill, faced a tough campaign against Kelly.


District C (Fairbanks, Delta, Valdez): Redistricting created this open seat in which Republican Click Bishop won easily against Democrat Anne Sudkamp. During his hotly contested Republican primary campaign, Bishop said he would join a bipartisan coalition if it helped his district.


• District D (Rural Mat-Su, Talkeetna, Willow): Republican Mike Dunleavy was unopposed after knocking off Menard in the primary. She had been a member of the coalition.


District E (Wasilla, Big Lake, Point MacKenzie): Incumbent Sen. Charlie Huggins, a Republican member of the Senate minority, took a strong lead against Susan Parsons Herman, a licensed massage therapist.


District O (Kenai, Soldotna, Homer, Ninilchik): Soldotna Mayor Peter Micciche, a Republican, was unopposed after beating Tom Wagoner, a member of coalition, in the Republican primary.


District P (Mendenhall Valley, Juneau, Skagway): Sen. Dennis Egan, a Democrat, was the only senator who didn't have to stand for election because his old district was almost the same as his current one.


District Q (Ketchikan, Wrangell, Sitka, Hoonah): Stedman, who as co-chair of the Senate Finance Committee led the campaign against the governor's tax plan, had the advantage in terms of party registration over Kookesh. Stedman, from Sitka, is a financial services professional; Kookesh, from Angoon, is chairman of the Sealaska Corp.


District R (Kodiak, Cordova, Naknek, Whittier): Sen. Gary Stevens of Kodiak, the Senate president for the last four years of the bipartisan coalition, beat Democrat Robert Heinrichs of Cordova.


District S (Bethel, Aleutians, Nenana, Tanana): Democrat Lyman Hoffman, a strong advocate of funding for rural projects, was unopposed.


District T (Interior villages, Nome, Tok, Barrow, Kotzebue): Incumbent Donny Olson of Nome, a Democrat who joined conservative Republicans on social issues like abortion, won against Allen Minish, a Republican from Chitina.


Reach Richard Mauer at or 257-4345.



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