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A few key races you may have overlooked in Alaska primary on Tuesday

Ben Anderson,Amanda Coyne
Aaron Jansen illustration

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On Tuesday, Alaskans will head to the polls to vote on their respective party’s candidates for the upcoming general election. The Alaska Dispatch has published briefs on three big-money 2012 primary races, and have done profiles of other races. Below are a few races, and an aspect of one race, that haven’t gotten as much press as the other, big money races.

House District 17: Two different kinds of Democrats

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Two very different kinds of Democratic candidates are duking it out to represent the historically Democratic leaning district that covers Mountain View, Russian Jack, and a swath of Airport Heights. One, 37-year-old Geran Tarr, has all the correct Democratic stances. She’s pro-choice, pro-education, pro-fiscal responsibility, and pro-union. She’s got Democratic street cred by being Sen. Johnny Ellis’ former chief of staff and has outgoing Rep. Sharon Cissna’s blessing. She served as Airport Heights Community Council President, was named to the "Top 40 Under 40" list by The Alaska Journal of Commerce, and she's an adjunct faculty member of UAA's Biology Department. She’s also running the kind of traditional campaign that many others similarly entrenched in the party are running. Namely, appealing to “super voters,” who tend to live in the nicer areas in the district.

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Cal Williams is going the other way. He’s been campaigning in the areas most politicians avoid: the trailer courts, the trash-strewn streets. In his words, he’s reaching out to the neediest among us. And he knows that need. His resume is long on community activism, beginning when as a young man he began to organize for racial equality in the South. He’s a Vietnam Vet. A member of the Knights of Columbus. He’s been endorsed by former Govs. Tony Knowles and Bill Sheffield. He’s rarely still, and believes that what separates those “super voters” from the ones who aren’t is that they haven’t had a candidate yet.

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We’ll see.

Senate District M: Three big names in Anchorage and Eagle River

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It's hard to overestimate the importance of the incumbency factor: the name recognition that comes from being a sitting or former senator or representative is the best kind of advertising, which almost no amount of ad-buying can make up for.

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One race where it's hard to say who has the edge in name recognition is in Senate District M, which covers Anchorage's Scenic Foothills and Stuckagain Heights neighborhoods and stretches all the way into Eagle River. That race will see two recognizable Democrats square off in the primary -- former state Rep. Harry Crawford and current Sen. Bettye Davis. The winner will face Eagle River's Anna Fairclough, a Republican and current representative, in the general election.

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Davis has outraised and outspent Crawford thus far, according to the most recent campaign reports. Crawford has seen more than $20,000 come into his campaign, but has managed to spend all of it. Davis is sitting on a surplus of nearly $40,000 out of the almost $80,000 her campaign has raised.

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That may mean that Davis is saving up and looking ahead to the general election, but who knows if Crawford's spending strategy will pay off? If it does, he'll have an uphill battle just to get on pace with Fairclough, who already has more than $57,000 in the campaign coffers. And he’ll also be known as the man who took down the only black woman to be elected to state office.

Senate District K: Fiscal fur flies

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If there were ever an election in which 27-year old upstart Jeff Landfield could rattle fellow Republican and incumbent Sen. Lesil McGuire, one of the most powerful and visible state senators in Alaska, this would be it. Moderate Republicans are under fire in this state, and McGuire hasn’t helped herself by spending lavishly on travel, and shepherding through what appear to be pet projects. And worse, she can come across as if she’s entitled to her seat. Landfield, who is a Ron Paul supporter, is smart enough and has worked hard enough to pry an opening there. His attacks have focused squarely on McGuire’s spending, her vote on former Gov. Sarah Palin’s huge oil tax increase, and that she along with other five Republican senators, joined the bipartisan Senate coalition.

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The money, however, is still on McGuire, who’s a great debater and an articulate defender of her stances. Too, she’s much better at the fundraising game. His roughly $12,000 pales in comparison to McGuire’s more than $66,000, much of which comes from some of Alaska’s largest businesses and business titans.

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Landfield, however, is counting on good old-fashioned door-knocking, if nothing else, to get his name out for future runs.

Coastal Zone Management: The get naked campaign

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As has been reported, the “Vote No on 2,” the group opposing a ballot measure that supporters claim would restore Alaskans’ voice in federal coastal decisions, has big money behind it. In total, the group has raised more than $1,450,000 in cash and in-kind contributions. More than $690,000 was raised in the last three weeks alone. Very serious campaign ads, about all the havoc the measure would cause if enacted, are flooding the airwaves.

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The Alaska Sea Party, the group sponsoring the measure, isn’t nearly as well-funded. As of Friday afternoon, it had raised about $230,000, including a $25,000 donation from the Alaska Conservation Foundation.

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How to publicize the fight with so few funds? Get naked, of course.

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That’s what the folks at The Cook Inletkeeper, a group out of Homer that supports the initiative, decided they had to do at a staff meeting. What resulted is a group of photos posted on Facebook, that by Alaska standards, have gone viral. “Everyone loves nudity,” said Bob Shavelson, the group’s “Inletkeeper.”

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“If the Supreme Court is going to pretend money is speech, Alaskans are going to have to get creative because corporations do not want us in the way of their resource development,” he said.

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He said that even if the ballot initiative ends up going down, those who try to fight against such a tidal wave of money in the future will learn from the naked campaign.

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Contact Amanda Coyne at Amanda(at)alaskadispatch.com or Ben Anderson at ben(at)alaskadispatch.com