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Compass: Election shifts party balance, but not lawmakers' duty

Regardless of political party or position on national issues, Alaskans stand up for local candidates who stand up for Alaska. While new districts forced some incumbents out of office, last Tuesday's results still prove Alaskans across the state put party politics aside to vote for candidates who wouldn't turn a blind eye while the governor tried to give away Alaska's oil. That's not to say every winning candidate shares those values, but rather that those who did stand against the giveaway received broad bipartisan support.

Looking at a local candidate's performance against the presidential candidates is one way to gauge Alaskans' willingness to cross party lines. For example, a local democratic candidate who earned a higher percentage than President Obama in her district must have earned the support of some Romney voters. Similarly, Obama voters must vote for a state republican candidate for that candidate to outperform Romney.

In races cross the state, that's just what happened. In races with a heavy focus on oil taxes, Alaskans supported the candidate who opposed the governor's giveaway proposals in far greater numbers than the presidential candidate from the same party. Those who made some of the strongest stands against the giveaway earned the strongest bipartisan support from their communities. For example, Senate President Gary Stevens, a Republican, earned an astounding 53 percent more support than Romney in his district.

Even in races where giveaway opponents were unsuccessful due to redistricting, they still pulled significant support from voters willing to break from their party. For example, key members of the Bi-Partisan Working Group, democratic Senators Joe Paskvan and Joe Thomas from Fairbanks outperformed President Obama by twelve and 25 percent respectively, pulling Romney voters away from staunchly conservative opponents who championed the giveaway.

The same happened in Anchorage. Senator Kevin Meyer, the republican Majority Leader of the Senate Bi-Partisan Working Group earned almost 1700 more votes than Mitt Romney. Also in South Anchorage, Representative Chris Tuck, the democratic representative who has always been a strong advocate for Alaska-first resource policy, earned 478 more votes than President Obama.

The list goes on and on, but the point is the same. Alaska is not a partisan state. We are an independent state, the Last Frontier, a rugged state with challenges unique to Alaska and a history of pitching in, working side by side with our neighbors, and standing up for our values to overcome those challenges. We've been blessed with tremendous resource wealth which has built Alaska and made it one of the last places in America where you don't have to get an expensive degree to get a good, high-paying job.

For centuries, from furs to fish, copper to oil, our resources have attracted those who wish to claim the resource as their own and take the wealth out-of-state, undercutting Alaska's ability to build for the future. Alaskans have learned that it takes courage, cooperation, and integrity to defend against those Outside interests. That's why the bi-partisan framers of Alaska's constitution made it clear: "The Legislature shall provide for the utilization, development, and conservation of all natural resources belonging to the State, including land and waters, for the maximum benefit of its people."

In Alaska, it is our oil. We own the subsurface resources as a state. Alaskans know that, and as legislators, it's our duty to make sure those resources are developed for the maximum benefit of all Alaskans. While the election may have changed the party makeup of the Legislature, it did not change that duty to Alaskans. Far from a mandate for an oil giveaway, the results show Alaskans' desire to put party aside and stand up for what is best for Alaska.

So when the session begins in January, House Democrats will be there, working across party lines to ensure that, whatever the changes to oil taxes, Alaska gets more oil in the pipeline, more jobs for Alaskans, and the maximum benefit for Alaskans from our resource.


Rep. Beth Kerttula, D-Juneau, is the minority leader in the state House of Representatives, where she has served since 1999.