Senate District H is located in East Anchorage centering in Muldoon and stretching onto the military base, JBER-Elmendorf. It’s an ethnically diverse, transient district. Because of its constantly moving population, local pollsters will tell you that it’s probably the most difficult district in the state to survey, which also makes it a bear to run in. The Senate seat in this district is held by Democrat Sen. Bill Wielechowski, who is extraordinarily popular and won’t be up for reelection until 2016. And, the House race in one of the two House districts–District 15—is almost sure to stay with the Democratic incumbent Rep. Max Gruenberg who is running against Republican challenger Don Hadley. However, the race in House District 16 between two smart and capable women–Republican incumbent Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux, and Democratic challenger Laurie Hummel—is a nail biter.
Here’s a little about the candidates running, and my take on the current status of these races, for what it’s worth.
House District 15
House District 15 covers Mountain View over to College Gate. The district has become slightly more Republican after redistricting with a greater inclusion of the College Gate area. The district is currently represented by Democratic Rep. Max Gruenberg who is being challenged by Republican Don Hadley. These two candidates faced off two years ago before redistricting in what was then called District 14. Gruenberg won the race with 3391 votes (53.85%) over Hadley’s vote count of 2883 (45.78%).
Gruenberg has served in the House for 20 years. He is currently the House Minority Whip and serves on the Judiciary, and in Military and Veterans Affairs committees. He is a keen reader of legislation and is best known for his interest in amending legislation to insure its consistency and clarity. Outside of the Legislature, he is an attorney in private practice specializing in Family Law. He is 71 years old.
Gruenberg has reported raising $22,764 as of the last APOC reporting period.
Hadley came to Alaska 47 years ago with the military. He’s a retired Major from the Air Force/AK Air National Guard and the Anchorage School District where he was a teacher. He is 72 years old.
Hadley’s campaign has reported raising $11,780.
Current State of the Race: Neither candidate has set any records raising campaign cash. Still, Gruenberg has out raised Hadley almost 2 to 1. This coupled with Gruenberg’s higher name recognition and history of electoral success, I’m calling this seat a Democratic keeper for Rep. Max Gruenberg.
House District 16
Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux was elected first elected to the House in 2004, and was the Kodiak Borough mayor before that. She is known as a hard-working campaigner and a tenacious fundraiser. She is currently on her fourth round of going door-to-door in the district, except for the Elmendorf precinct which is off limits to political candidates. Additionally, she has been running radio ads since the beginning of September and appears to have a solid media buy in place to continue to run them through the general election. She also seems to have a regimented direct mail program.
It should also be noted that LeDoux enjoys more union support than many of her Republican colleagues, which is no small thing in this election cycle, where the unions are fired up and dropping dollars, and campaign literature, all across town. According to her last APOC report, she has raised a total of $129,586, of which about $4,400 if from unions this reporting period, and $10,000 is her own money.
Prior to becoming a full-time citizen legislator, LeDoux was a practicing attorney. Her spouse, Kurt, and one of her sons, Daniel, were killed in a car accident in the mid – 1980’s. She has two adult children.
Although she’s in the majority, LeDoux has stayed clear of Republican orthodoxy, which hasn’t always sat well with the GOP. Sometimes she’ll dabble in the social-issues morass—which also doesn’t likely hurt her in her diverse district–but mostly she works to help insure capital funding for district roads and schools, and is a proactive supporter of the military men and women which account for a large segment of the voters in her district.
Laurie Hummel is a newcomer to Alaska politics. She is a retired Army colonel and has a Ph.D. In geography from the University of Colorado. Her husband, Chad, currently serves in the National Guard. In many respects, she brings a perfect resume to challenge an incumbent in this district. It also helps that she’s smart, hardworking, and is proving to be a strong fundraiser.
Early on this campaign cycle, she was being mentored by Hollis French who is one of the best Democratic fundraisers in the state, and it shows. Her last APOC report shows that she raised $90,919, which is no small shakes for a non-incumbent Democrat. And most of that money has come from small, individual contributions.
However, Hummel’s her campaign message might need some fine tuning. So far, she, as well as many of her fellow Democrats, has mostly focused on state spending. She appears to be mirroring Brad Keithley, who is supporting her with his independent expenditure committee that has been advocating fiscal discipline and reducing state spending. However, it’s unclear how much that’s going to resonate in her district, one that seems hungrier for parks and roads and government services then for savings. After all, when the cuts begin–not those who live in the Hillside, or in Turnagain, or in South Addition–but those who live in the East side will be hurt the most, because the less privileged always are.
Why anybody isn’t campaigning on NOT cutting services in this district is beyond me.
Current State of the Race: In many ways, the district has all the characteristics made for a Democratic seat: low income, ethnically diverse, and a transient population. Nonetheless, the district leans slightly Republican, primarily because of the JBER-Elmendorf vote. However, because of Hummel’s military background, that vote is likely more in play.
But LeDoux has higher name recognition, and in an already cluttered race, Hummel is going to find it difficult to raise her own name recognition. Likewise, it appears that LeDoux will continue to raise more money and she has the seasoned political firm Hackney & Hackney in her corner.
All that said: Hummel’s a fighter and won’t go down without one. She also has the Democrat’s ground game on her side. Remember, Begich is from East Anchorage, polls show that he’s up in the area, and he’ll be hitting those neighborhoods hard, which will likely help Hummel. She also has Brad Keithley’s support. And although his message might be falling flat in East Anchorage, every little bit helps.
For the time being, my prediction is a toss-up leaning in favor of the Republican incumbent Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux.
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