Democracy Soup

Making sense out of the world of politics

Could Alaska turn blue in November? Democrats could be part of a serious political shift

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Originally published on on Wed, 08/27/2008 – 10:52am

Want to know how politics has changed in Alaska lately? Alaska had two long-time Republicans with their political lives on the line last night — in a primary.

Sen. Ted Stevens, currently under indictment for concealing more than $250,000 in gifts from an oil services company, survived a challenge from 6 would-be Republican suitors. Stevens’ luck may run out in November as he goes up against Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich, son of the late U.S. Rep. Nick Begich.

Nick Begich had the distinction of being the last Democrat elected to the House from Alaska. Begich died in the 1972 plane crash that also killed Rep. Hale Boggs; Begich posthumously won the 1972 re-election, however, Don Young won the special election and has held the seat since.

At least, this is true until we find out how Young did in the primary. Young, under a cloud over the VECO corruption scandal, may have pulled out the primary against Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell. With 98 percent of the ballots counted, Young leads Parnell by 145 votes.

Young/Parnell will take on Ethan Berkowitz, a former minority leader of the state House, who easily won the Democratic primary.

Oh, and the last Democrat to represent Alaska in Congress — Mike Gravel. Yes, that Mike Gravel, who served in the U.S. Senate from 1969-1981.

There are two sides of the coin: do you want the embattled yet weaken incumbents to survive the primary or take your chances on the new guy? Stevens is the more logical one to want to run straight on. Young is a little different, especially since Parnell has the blessing of popular Gov. Sarah Palin, a Republican.

Alaska has been considered Republican territory for some time. Lyndon Johnson (1964) is still the only Democratic presidential candidate to win the state ever.

But perhaps there are breaks in the ice, as it were, opening up opportunities for Democrats in Alaska. True, Stevens and Young are vulnerable due to political scandal. And Young is 75 and Stevens will be 85 in November. Democrats will have to earn their way in this state, but they haven’t had a better chance than now.

Barack Obama has been a champion for the state, opening an office in Anchorage in July. And Fairbanks North Star Borough Mayor Jim Whitaker, a Republican, gave a speech at the DNC in favor of Obama last night.

Alaskans in particular want certain things from their representatives, loyalty being high on the list. Stevens and Young have served them well in that sense. So Democrats will have to work much harder to make an impact. But if they can, November will prove to be more prosperous and Alaska might turn blue more often in the many years to come.


Written by democracysoup

August 27, 2008 at 10:52 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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