Republican Bert Stedman won his re-election bid Tuesday, and will return to the Legislature as the new District Q senator.
Stedman, the former District A senator from Sitka, beat his opponent, Democrat Albert Kookesh of Angoon, the former Senator from District C.
Stedman won about 65 percent of the votes cast on Tuesday. He said he’s pleased to continue his work as a Southeast senator.
“I’m very pleased that the folks in District Q decided to support me and send me back to Juneau for another four years, to continue to try to create some jobs and expand our economic base in Southeast,” he said. “It’s nice to be re-elected, no doubt about that.”
Redistricting pitted the two incumbent senators against each other. The two had worked cooperatively in the Senate, and ran a congenial race. Each touted his own record without denigrating the other’s.
“Albert and myself worked together in the coalition for six years, and helped each other on different issues throughout Southeast and other areas of the state, and I think that helped in how we addressed the campaign,” Stedman said.
Kookesh has served 16 years in the Legislature, eight each in the House and Senate. Stedman has served nine years in the Senate and is co-chair of the powerful Finance Committee.
Stedman said he’s not sure whether he’ll continue in that role.
“We’ll have some organizational meetings over the next couple of days and it really comes down to how many Republicans are elected out of Anchorage and Mat-Su, and how that dominant population center deals with other areas of the state,” he said.
Stedman said that some of the issues that likely will come up in the next session are the state’s oil tax structure and energy. He said he’ll continue to work on hydroelectric expansion for Southeast.
Southeast representatives will have to work harder to get support for projects.
“One of the bigger challenges that will inherently come up is that Southeast will have less representation after redistricting than we had before,” he said. “From the numeric side of things, it’s going to be a little more difficult to move Southeast issues forward.”
Kookesh said he knew the race was going to be an uphill battle.
“I knew that 70 percent of the vote came out of Ketchikan, Sitka and Wrangell, and that I only came into the district with 29 percent of my old district. I knew that Sen. Stedman had a good constituency and a good following in those communities, so I guess I wasn’t surprised when I eventually lost to him,” he said.
Kookesh said he remains interested in the issues affecting Southeast, and he now will work with Stedman as a constituent rather than a colleague.
“I live in Angoon, Alaska, and we have needs in the community that I’d like to talk to him about,” Kookesh said. “I’d like to talk to him about where they’re going with the coalition, I’d like to talk to him about other things that I’m still interested in. I think we have that kind of relationship, and that’s good.”
Kookesh said he has no plans for the immediate future.
“I’m not going to be uptight about doing anything for a while,” he said. “I’m old enough now that I can just sit and watch the sunset for a while.”
The new Senate District Q covers most of Southeast Alaska with the exception of Juneau.