Senate race features party twists

  • By Mark Thiessen
  • Monday, November 7, 2016 10:39pm
  • News

ANCHORAGE — When’s a Republican not a Republican, or a Libertarian for that matter? And could Alaska be turning blue? Here are some things to look for in this year’s general election in Alaska:

You might want to take a scorecard into the voting booth with you to figure out who’s who and who used to be what in the U.S. Senate race.

Here’s the easy one: U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski is a Republican, even though some on the far right consider her a RINO, or Republican in name only. No matter, the incumbent first appointed to the seat by her father, former Gov. Frank Murkowski, in 2002 is representing the Grand Old Party in her re-election bid.

Now it gets tricky.

Ray Metcalfe is the Democratic candidate for Senate. But the party is really doing nothing to advance his candidacy, and that’s fine with him. Metcalfe, a former Republican state lawmaker from Anchorage, bills himself on his website as “Alaska’s anti-corruption candidate, and a Berniecrat.”

Metcalfe has painted the state’s leading Democrat, former U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, as part of the corrupt elite.

For his part, Begich has endorsed independent candidate Margaret Stock. So have regional Democratic groups in the Interior and southeast Alaska.

Stock, a MacArthur Foundation genius grant winner and Hillary Clinton supporter, could almost be seen as the party’s preferred candidate — except she didn’t run as a Democrat. Notwithstanding, the immigration lawyer had a prime speaking role before this year’s Democratic caucus in Anchorage, and the party unsuccessfully sued the state after it denied a request to allow candidates not affiliated with a political party to run in the Democratic primary.

Now we’re back to the Republicans, sort of. Remember Joe Miller? He upset Murkowski in the 2010 GOP Senate primary, seemingly riding high on a wave of tea party support. Instead of folding her tent, Murkowski mounted a historic write-in campaign to retain her seat. Miller ran again in 2014, losing the Republican primary to Dan Sullivan, who went on to upset Begich.

This year, Miller sat out during the primary. Then Cean Stevens abandoned the general election race, creating a vacuum on the Libertarian ticket. Miller stepped in as the Libertarian candidate for Senate.

That could be seen as good news for the entire Libertarian ticket, right? Maybe not. Miller says if he’s elected, he’ll caucus with Republicans. Oh, and he doesn’t plan to vote for Gary Johnson, the Libertarian presidential candidate. Instead, Miller’s backing Donald Trump.

Johnson’s running mate, Bill Weld, supports Murkowski.

Is seniority important, or does Alaska need a fresh face for the state’s sole U.S. House seat?

That’s the issue facing voters, who will choose between incumbent Rep. Don Young and Democrat Steve Lindbeck.

Young remains popular in Alaska after serving four decades in the House, despite investigations into alleged wrongdoing over the years.

He first won the seat in a 1973 special election when U.S. Rep. Nick Begich was declared dead after disappearing in a plane in southeast Alaska.

Young has since easily dispensed of Democrat after Democrat. His toughest challenge came in the 2008 primary, when Gov. Sarah Palin’s then Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell lost a close primary race, during which Young dubbed his opponent “Captain Zero.”

Young points to 79 bills he passed out of the House. But Lindbeck, a 63-year-old former newspaper reporter, editor and media executive, wonders why Young hasn’t done more for Alaska since Republicans controlled Congress for most of the past 20 years.

Lindbeck says Young’s years of service should be applauded, but the state needs new energy from its representative.

The Supremes’ “Baby Love” topped the charts Nov. 3, 1964, when President Lyndon Johnson defeated Barry Goldwater in a landslide. That was also the last time a Democrat carried Alaska, and the state has been very red since.

Could this be the year it returns to the blue column?

Alaska is traditionally a difficult place to conduct reliable polling, but some in the weeks ahead of the general election have indicated Clinton could be positioned to upset Trump.

Trump came in second to Ted Cruz in Alaska’s Republican presidential preference poll, and both of the state’s GOP U.S. senators called for him to leave the race following the release of the “Access Hollywood” tape. However, the state party continues to back Trump.

Clinton has a connection to Alaska that Trump probably can’t, and wouldn’t want, to match. In summer 1969, she worked a slime line, cleaning the entrails out of fish in Valdez.

More in News

Courtesy photo / Juneau Raptor Center
This golden eagle was rescued by the Juneau Raptor Center over the summer after being found weak and thin.
Rescue center, birdwatchers look back on 2021

Juneau Christmas bird count was way down this year.

This satellite image taken by Himawari-8, a Japanese weather satellite operated by Japan Meteorological Agency and released by National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT), shows an undersea volcano eruption at the Pacific nation of Tonga Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022. (NICT via AP)
Tsunami advisory issued after eruption

An undersea volcano erupted Friday near the South Pacific island of Tonga, triggering concerns of damaging waves across Pacific coastlines

Flowers bloom at Soldotna City Hall on Wednesday, June 24, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Multiple public works projects underway in Soldotna

Soldotna City Council received an update on eight different projects

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Hospitalizations rise as state reports increase in COVID cases

There were a total of 112 COVID-related hospitalizations in Alaska as of Friday

Terri Carter’s class celebrates the National Blue Ribbon award after their assembly at Soldotna Montessori Charter School on Friday, Jan 14, 2022. (Camille Botello / Peninsula Clarion)
A ‘pathway to a brighter and fulfilling future’

Soldotna Montessori Charter School celebrates national achievement

Homer City Council member Rachel Lord discusses her concerns with funding the Alaska Small Business Development Center Homer Business Advisory position during the Jan. 10 council meeting. (Photo by Sarah Knapp/Homer News)
Council says ‘yes to small businesses’

Homer City Council votes 4-2 in favor of partially funding the Homer Business Advisory position.

AP Photo / Becky Bohrer
Sightseeing buses and tourists are seen at a pullout popular for taking in views of North America’s tallest peak, Denali, in Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska, on Aug. 26, 2016.
Bridge proposed along section of slumping Denali park road

Landslides in the area go back decades but usually required maintenance every two to three years

A sign directs voters at Soldotna City Hall on March 5, 2019. (Peninsula Clarion file)
Locals to join national voting rights march Saturday

The march in Soldotna is part of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Action

Soldotna City Hall is seen on Wednesday, June 23, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Soldotna approves $32,000 federal grant for airport

The funds were made available through the American Rescue Plan Act for improvement projects at the Soldotna Municipal Airport

Most Read