Incumbents Menard, Wagoner defeated; Davis eeks out win
Pamela Marsch, center, a staffer for Sen. Bettye Davis, listens to some discouraging news as Davis, right, scrolls through primary election results Aug. 28 in Anchorage. After being down in early reports, Davis squeaked out a win against challenger Harry Crawford by a mere 75 votes.
With most ballots tallied, Alaska’s Aug. 28 primary results will send a couple newcomers to the state Senate and set up tough matches for incumbents in the Nov. 6 general election.
Among the newcomers are Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna, and Mike Dunleavy, R-Wasilla.
Each won his seat outright in the primary with no Democrat filed in either race.
Micciche defeated incumbent Sen. Tom Wagoner, R-Kenai, for his seat in District O. Micciche is Soldotna’s mayor and the superintendent at ConocoPhillips liquified natural gas plant in Nikiski.
“I look forward to all of the incredible things we’ll do together as a district and for the great state of Alaska,” Micciche told the Peninsula Clarion. “To all of our supporters and the citizens that took the time to vote, the Micciche family and our team that worked so hard on this campaign thanks you.”
Wagoner, 69, is a former educator, businessman, and a commercial fisherman. He was formerly a member of the Kenai City Council and mayor of Kenai. He served in the state senate since 2003.
“Well, I think negative campaigning works,” Wagoner told the Peninsula Clarion. “Too bad, but we did everything we could do and everything we should do and we wouldn’t do it different.”
Wagoner, a member of the Senate bipartisan coalition, told the Clarion joining the majority was the right thing to do.
“We thought we did the right thing by joining in the coalition and throughout the state it is showing that people didn’t like that,” he said. “Well, let me tell you, our district would have been a lot worse off had I not been in the coalition to do what I got done for the capital end of things. That’s just the way it is. I can live with what’s happened. It is not a big deal.”
Dunleavy beat incumbent Sen. Linda Menard, R-Wasilla, with 2,257 votes to Menard’s 1,620, in the new District D. After redistricting, many of Menard’s core areas in her current district were removed, with new regions added where she was an unknown.
Members of the senate’s bipartisan coalition will face competitive races in November that will determine the future of the 16-member group of 10 Democrats and six Republicans.
Longtime Anchorage Democrat Sen. Bettye Davis retained her seat in a narrow victory over fellow Democrat and former state Rep. Harry Crawford, taking home 1,294 votes compared to Crawford’s 1,219. Davis’ district was changed significantly by redistricting. She lost much of her core constituency, and had less familiar Eagle River territory added to the mix.
“I didn’t how how it was going to turn out,” Davis said.
Davis said the two had similar platforms, but she had more experience to back her up.
“I have a proven track record,” she said.
Davis is the longest serving female in the legislature. She’s been part of the Senate’s bipartisian majority coalition since 2006, with a total of 18 years in the legislature.
Davis will face Anna Fairclough, the current Eagle River representative, in the November election. Fairclough earned 4,160 votes in the primary, more than Davis and Crawford combined, and has represented much of the Eagle River territory in the past.
Sen. Hollis French, a prominent opponent of oil tax changes and a key part of the current Senate coalition, could also be in for a tough race.
Anchorage Republican Bob Bell beat Liz Vasquez to face French in November.
Bell, who landed 2,318 votes compared to Liz Vasquez’s 1,527, said he wouldn’t join the coalition if elected. He described that body as convoluted.
“Our system of government is set up for partisan politics,” he said.
Bell said he thought his message and experience had been well-received in the primary.
“I’m a quintessential Republican and feel like we should have minimum government and let the private sector run things,” Bell said.
Here’s a look at the rest of the contested Senate primaries:
In a new district without an incumbent, Republican Click Bishop, a former commissioner of the Department of Labor and Workforce Development, won the nomination against two opponents, former state senator Ralph Seekins, a local businessman, and David Eastman, a resident of a Palmer area that’s now part of District C, which runs from Valdez to Fairbanks.
With 18 of 19 precincts counted Aug. 29, Bishop garnered about 48 percent of the ballots, or 2,434 votes. Eastman took about 21 percent, and Seekins had 30 percent.
“I’m surprised,” Bishop told the Associated Press. “I knew I had a race on my hands right from the get-go and I’ve been running scared from Day One and working hard every day and not taking anything for granted.”
Bishop will face Fairbanks Democrat Anne Sudkamp in November.
Don Smith won the Republican candidacy with 1,137 votes to Clint Hess’ 777. He’ll face Democrat Berta Gardener, who has served in the house since 2004, in the general election.
Sen. Lesil McGuire, R-Anchorage, was also tasked with campaigning in a district with much new territory. Her South Anchorage district included more of Midtown than in the past, and, like Menard, was challenged for caucusing with the Senate coalition. She won by almost 500 votes, or 11 percent of the ballots, over Jeff Landfield, and will face Democrat Roselynn Cacy in November.
Despite running in a district that was vastly different territory than her old one, Sen. Cathy Giessel, R-Anchorage, beat Kenai Peninsula challenger Joe Arness for the Republican nomination. She’ll face Ron Devon in November, a non-affiliated candidate who landed a spot on the ballot with a nominating petition.
Senate District N’s new area included almost all of the Seward Highway, and Giessel said she spent several days a week campaigning on the Kenai Peninsula.
“As I talked to folks, we really seemed to connect, had shared issues,” Giessel said.
Those shared issues centered largely on the economy – filling the Trans Alaska Pipeline is her number one priority – and family values, she said.
Molly Dischner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.