New Faces Coming To Alaska Legislature

Alaska was assured of new faces in the Legislature, as redistricting pitted incumbents against one another. But that was just the beginning of the changes.

As usual Alaska went overwhelmingly Republican for President, and only one state-wide office was in contest. Republican Congressman Don Young had no trouble defeating Democrat Sharon Cissna and will go on to pass Ted Stevens record of 40 years representing Alaska.

With the defeat of Mitt Romney and no prospect of taking the Senate, Young and other Republicans will now quickly go into a lame duck session to deal at least temporarily with the longstanding budget standoff.

The political complexion of the state changes with its population every 10 years.  The faster growing parts of the state are gaining legislative
seats and less populous parts of the state end up with large districts.  In Southeast, this meant the end for Democratic Senator Albert Kookesh, who was in the same district with Bert Steadman of Sitka.  It wasn’t even close, with Steadman getting 64 percent of the vote.  Both were in the bi-partisan leadership coalition, which took some other hits as well, and some apparent near misses. In the Fairbanks area, minority member John Coghill faced Democrat Joe Thomas, and emerged with 52.7 percent of the vote. Coghill has no interest in joining with Democrats:

Also in Fairbanks, conservative Republican Pete Kelly defeated Democrat Joe Paskvan.  And down in Anchorage, Republican Minority member Cathy Giessel fended off a challenge from independent Ron Devon.  On the east side of town, Republican Anna Fairclough was the victor in Democrat Bettye Davis’ district, considerably changed from the one she originally ran in.

A number of the members of the Senate majority coalition survived. Republican Lesil McGuire was re-elected, and Democrat Hollis French ended the night ahead of Republican challenger Bob Bell by less than 200 votes. That one was a see-saw battle. Democrat Bill Wielechowski defeated Republican former House member Bob Roses.

The Senate will get some new faces. Republican Peter Micciche was unopposed in a new district. Republican Mike Dunleavy moves into a new seat in the Palmer area. Anchorage Democrat Berta Gardner prevailed in another open district in a race against Republican former House member Don Smith.

House races also sent a number of new faces to Juneau, though some races are close enough that absentee and questioned ballots could still change the outcome.  For instance in Southeast, where Democratic newcomer Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins of Sitka holds a 44 vote lead over incumbent Bill Thomas. Kreiss-Tomkins says among the votes not yet counted in that contest is his own:

In Anchorage, Republican newcomer Lance Pruitt defeated Democratic incumbent Pete Peterson.  Democratic newcomer Andrew Josephson bested Republican Dick Traini.  Democrat Geran Tarr joins the House after coming out ahead of Cean Stevens.  And Democrat Harriett Drummond topped three other candidates for a seat on the west side.

Republicans still held much of their edge in the House, though. Lynn Gattis comes into a new seat in Mat-Su.  Incumbent Charisse Millett fended off a challenge from Democrat Patti Higgins, Republican Gabrielle LeDoux is back in a House seat in Anchorage, and down in southeast, Republican Peggy Wilson was the easy winner in a district that pitted her against fellow Republican Kyle Johansen.

At this point there is much talk of bi-partisanship.  Organizing bids for the Senate are already underway, and if they can agree, Republicans could form a majority without any Democrats.  Thought more likely by pundits is another bi-partisan coalition with more Republican leadership than the last one.  And last night, Governor Sean Parnell was indicating a willingness to negotiate for a compromise on oil taxes:

Yesterday voters also turned down a constitutional convention, voted to retain all judges and okayed a 300 million dollar transportation bond issue.

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