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Blog Home Page --> House -- Alaska

AK: Races Closing

Ted Stevens isn't done yet, according to a new poll, and even Rep. Don Young is creeping back into competition. The Research 2000 poll, conducted 10/14-16, surveyed 600 likely voters for a margin of error of +/- 4%. Stevens and Mark Begich, the Democratic nominee, were tested, alongside the House matchup between Young and Ethan Berkowitz.

General Election Matchup
(All / Dem / GOP / Ind / Men / Wom)
Begich.......48 / 86 / 11 / 55 / 44 / 52 (-2 from last, 9/17)
Stevens......46 / 7 / 85 / 39 / 51 / 41 (+2)

Berkowitz....50 / 85 / 14 / 58 / 46 / 54 (-3)
Young........44 / 8 / 79 / 38 / 50 / 38 (+5)

Stevens' corruption trial continues in Washington, and if he is vindicated in the next week, he could zip ahead of Democrat Begich. Republicans aren't finished in Alaska just yet.

AK: Begich +3

Forget the indictment, Senator Ted Stevens is still Uncle Ted to Alaska voters. A new poll suggests Democrats will have a tougher time getting rid of the long-time incumbent than once thought.

The survey, conducted 8/30-9/2 by Ivan Moore Research, a Democratic-leaning firm, polled 500 likely voters for a margin of error of +/- 4.4%. In the Senate contest, Stevens was matched up against Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich. In the House race, Young and fellow Republican Sean Parnell are matched up with former State House Minority Leader Ethan Berkowitz. Young currently leads Parnell by 239 votes out of more than 100,000 cast, though late absentees have until Wednesday to trickle in.

General Election Matchup
Begich............49 (-7 since last, 8/12)
Stevens...........46 (+7)

Berkowitz.........54 (+3)
Young.............37 (-4)

Parnell...........49 (+3)
Berkowitz.........38 (-4)

McCain/Palin......54
Obama/Biden.......35

If Young's narrow lead in the primary holds up, Democrats are in great position to take the seat from the GOP. But if Parnell, the state's Lieutenant Governor, somehow pulls out a come-from-behind win, national Democrats could become a scarce presence in Alaska. Parnell, like GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, is highly popular among independent voters in the state (The same poll, by the way, showed Palin's home-state approval rating at 82% positive to just 13% negative).

The results from the Senate race show a big Stevens bounce-back after his July 29 indictment and his July 31 not guilty plea. In a heavily Republican state, even Uncle Ted gets the benefit of the doubt, meaning Begich is going to have to run a nearly flawless campaign to steal a six-year term.

The great unanswered question: What effect will Palin's presence atop the ticket have on Stevens' and Young's performance? Palin took what might have been a close presidential race in the state (At least Barack Obama was interested in investing there) and made it a blowout. So conventional wisdom would suggest that Palin helps the Republican ticket.

But Palin, Young and Stevens aren't the closest of political allies. Palin endorsed Parnell in his primary against Young, and she has pointedly refused to say whether she will endorse, or even vote for, Stevens (Requests for comments from The Scorecard went unanswered as well). Any Republican voting for McCain because of Palin was likely coming out to vote anyway. Any independent voter who switches his or her vote because of the governor might be moved by the reform mantra of the GOP ticket. In that case, might Palin actually help Democrats in Alaska, or at least be a wash?

AK House Race Still Undecided

With all but nine of the 438 voting precincts in Alaska reporting, Rep. Don Young leads his GOP primary challenger Sean Parnell 45.48%-45.32% -- a difference of 145 votes. Parnell, Alaska's lieutenant governor, had led yesterday's contest until rural votes were counted early in the morning, giving Young the lead with just 2% of precincts left to count, the Anchorage Daily News reported.

Although Young has won relatively easily over the last three decades, his association with an FBI corruption probe -- part of which led to the recent indictment of Alaska Senator Ted Stevens -- placing his re-election to an 18th full term representing Alaska on thin ice.

Democrat Ethan Berkowitz now must wait for the final results to come in before he knows who his general election competition will be. The former state representative won 54%-37% over Diane Benson, who was the 2006 Democratic nominee for the seat.

If Parnell pulls out the win, he and Berkowitz will face each other in a second straight election, as both were running mates in the 2006 election for governor. Republican Sarah Palin won 48%-41% over Democrat Tony Knowles, making Parnell the lieutenant governor.

--Kyle Trygstad

AK: Parnell +2

Republicans may complain about Democratic interest groups while Democrats have it in for GOP-leaning Freedom's Watch, but the Club for Growth remains the independent organization that has influenced the most elections so far this year. A week after the Club released its first poll of the cycle, they're back with a second in the race in which they would most like to have an impact, Alaska's House contest.

The poll, taken by the Republican firm McLaughlin & Associates, surveyed 300 likely primary election voters on 8/18 for a margin of error of +/- 5.7%. Republican Rep. Don Young, Lieutenant Governor Sean Parnell and State Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux were tested.

Primary Election Matchup
Parnell..........44
Young..........42
LeDoux........10

The Club has actively backed Parnell with advertisements slamming incumbent Young. And the poll is consistent with most other public surveys, which show both candidates in the mid-40s in a neck-and-neck contest. Polls also show Parnell running much better against likely Democratic nominee Ethan Berkowitz than would Young.

The Club for Growth can be a nuisance to national Republican leaders. In 2006, the group helped conservative Rep. Tim Walberg oust incumbent moderate Joe Schwarz in Michigan, and in 2008 helped State Senator Andy Harris beat moderate Rep. Wayne Gilchrest in Maryland. Both seats are now Democratic targets. But in Alaska, where Young looks like a sure loser in November and Parnell is in better position, Congressional Republicans have to be singing the group's praises behind closed doors.

AK: Parnell +4

Lieutenant Governor Sean Parnell is ahead of Republican Don Young just two weeks before Alaska's primary, a new poll conducted for his campaign shows. With the state's primary just two weeks away, the first-term Lieutenant Governor looks like he's in good position to knock off the seventeen-term incumbent.

The poll, conducted for Parnell's campaign by Maryland-based Basswood Research, surveyed 300 likely voters on 8/5 for a margin of error of +/- 5.7%. Young, Parnell and State Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux were tested.

General Election Matchup
Parnell...........42
Young...........38
LeDoux...........8

One-day polls are seen as less reliable than surveys conducted over several days, and the small sample size means Parnell's four-point lead is statistically insignificant. But to be an incumbent who trails his opponent and is under 50% with such a short amount of time left before the primary is to be in terrible political position. The poll comes after the release of another survey with a smaller sample showed Young leading by a small margin.

AK: Berk, Young Lead

A month before the primary, Alaska Rep. Don Young holds a narrow lead in the Republican nomination battle while former State Rep. Ethan Berkowitz has a big lead on the Democratic side. As Young's popularity plummets, that's the best outcome Democrats can hope for, according to general election matchups.

The survey, conducted by Ivan Moore Research, a Democratic firm that has not worked for Berkowitz this year, polled 505 likely voters between 7/18-22 for a margin of error of +/- 4.4%, with oversamples of 284 who say they will vote in the Democratic primary (+/- 5.8%) and 250 who plan to vote in the Republican primary (+/- 6.2%). The total sample was made up of 31% Republicans, 18% Democrats and 51% others and independents.

Young, Lieutenant Governor Sean Parnell and State Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux were tested among the Republican sample, while Berkowitz, 2006 nominee Diane Benson and retiree Don Wright were tested on the Democratic side. Wright was also tested as an independent candidate.

Primary Election Matchups
Young..............46
Parnell..............38
LeDoux..............6

Berkowitz........54
Benson............25
Wright................5

General Election Matchups
Berokwitz........52
Young..............37
Wright................7

Parnell..............43
Berkowitz........40
Wright................5

Positive/Negative View
Berkowitz........50 / 18
Parnell..............47 / 15
Young..............41 / 52
Benson............36 / 17
LeDoux............16 / 15

The same poll showed Democratic Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich leading Republican Senator Ted Stevens by an eight-point margin, just a week before Stevens was indicted on seven felony charges (Moore polled again just after Stevens was indicted, showing Begich's lead growing to 21 points).

To Be Young And In Trouble

While he's not under indictment like Ted Stevens, Republican Rep. Don Young faces the fight of his political life as well, a new poll from a Democratic firm shows.

The Hays Research Survey was conducted 7/24-25 among 404 Alaska adults for a margin of +/- 4.9%, including a subsample of 175 self-identified Republicans for a margin of error of +/- 7.4%. Young, Republican primary opponent Sean Parnell and former House Minority Leader Ethan Berkowitz, a Democrat, were tested in the House race.

General Election Matchup
Berkowitz.........33
Parnell...............30

Primary Election Matchup
Parnell...............46
Young...............42

A sample size of 175 is too small to use for drawing conclusions, but many Alaska Republicans and independent political observers think Young is in more danger of losing his primary than Stevens, as I wrote a few weeks back. Young's opponent, Lieutenant Governor Sean Parnell, is associated with the state's most popular politician, Governor Sarah Palin, and is seen as an outsider to the scandal-plagued Republican Party.

Dems Lead In AK

Given two strong pickup opportunities, Democrats have already made Alaska a big priority, and a new survey shows the party is already leading two long-time Republican incumbents. For Republicans, the good news is that incumbent Rep. Don Young doesn't look likely to win his primary, and that Senator Ted Stevens remains more popular than his House colleague.

The survey, taken for DailyKos by non-partisan pollster Research 2000, polled 600 likely voters between 7/14-16 for a margin of error of +/- 4%. Stevens and his Democratic opponent, Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich, were tested, as were Young and likely Democratic nominee Ethan Berkowitz, the former House Minority Leader. The party identification breakdown was 31% Republican, 20% Democratic and 49% independent or other.

General Election Matchups
(All / Dem / GOP / Ind / Men / Wom)
Begich........47 / 83 / 13 / 53 / 43 / 51
Stevens......45 / 7 / 81 / 38 / 50 / 40

Berkowitz....51 / 86 / 18 / 58 / 47 / 55
Young..........40 / 6 / 71 / 34 / 45 / 35

McCain.........51 / 10 / 82 / 48 / 54 / 48
Obama.........41 / 86 / 8 / 43 / 39 / 43

Both races look encouraging for Democrats, but the poll doesn't tell the whole story. In the Senate race, evidence of the state's overwhelming Republican tilt show through; Stevens wins 45% of the vote despite the fact that just 36% say they have a favorable opinion of the incumbent, while 61% have an unfavorable impression.

And in the House race, it looks increasingly possible that Young will not even be the Republican nominee. A strong challenge from Lieutenant Governor Sean Parnell, a fellow Republican, could deprive Democrats of an ethically-wounded foe in November. Only 37% see Young favorably, while 61% view him unfavorably.

Berkowitz and Begich are viewed much more positively, both with 52% of the state seeing them in a favorable light. Just 29% see Berkowitz unfavorably, while only 27% said the same about Begich. Still, the narrowness of both races that feature popular challengers to unpopular incumbents demonstrates that Democrats have their work cut out for them.

Young Fears Pombo II

In 2006, four environmental groups ganged up on House Resources Committee chairman Richard Pombo, a Republican from California, and sent him packing after spending millions attacking the incumbent. This year, the groups are targeting other states where they think they can have an impact, including Senate races in New Mexico, Colorado and New Hampshire, as we wrote in April.

Along with those Senate races, though, the groups -- Sierra Club, League of Conservation Voters, Defenders of Wildlife and Clean Water Action -- are expanding their reach, targeting other seats held by Republican incumbents they think can be replaced with more environmentally-friendly Democrats. Some of those targeted incumbents have taken notice and are determined not to become the next Pombo.

One of the most endangered incumbents is Pombo's predecessor, Alaska Rep. Don Young. A member of Congress since the early 1970s, Young has been the fiercest advocate for drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, among other pro-energy exploration stances he's taken. Now, his chief of staff worries Young will be next on the target list, a point he made in an email to lobbyists, the Anchorage Daily News reported.

"While each of you may have different opinions as to what may have contributed to [Pombo's defeat], at the strategic level, we will all agree it is a textbook case in how Outsiders [sic] can reach into a district with money, volunteers, and a well coordinated attack (to) defeat an incumbent not necessarily on his/her record, but on innuendo and perception," wrote Mike Anderson, Young's top aide, in an email obtained by the Daily News.

Outside groups have already gotten involved in Alaska. Defenders of Wildlife has made Young's defeat a top priority, running an advertisement already that highlighted Young's ties to Veco Corp., an oil services company that is the subject of a federal investigation that has already sent several state legislators to jail. A spokeswoman for Defenders of Wildlife confirms plans to get involved in the race to a greater extent in the future.

Republicans in Washington, too, are worried about Young's prospects. In November, the Republican nominee will face former State Rep. Ethan Berkowitz, who has run ahead of Young by double digits in several public polls. Still, the good news for the GOP is that Young may not be the nominee: He faces the state's Lieutenant Governor, Sean Parnell, in an August primary. Parnell's ticket beat a ticket with Berkowitz on it in 2006, and Parnell could prove a better candidate in the Fall.

Young has at least two chances of losing his re-election bid this year. In either case, Defenders of Wildlife and other organizations will do their best to see that he does so. Whether they claim credit for Young as the second round of Pombo, or if they save that distinction for another incumbent, remains to be seen.

Clarification: Young, or Parnell, will not necessarily face Berkowitz in November. Berkowitz has his own primary, in which he will face Diane Benson, who ran against Young in 2006 and ran for governor in 2002. Benson held Young to 57% in 2006, his lowest win percentage since 1994. National Democrats will privately admit they favor Berkowitz, but Benson has run before and could benefit from better name recognition.

Poll Has AK Dems Up

A new survey taken for an independent group shows Senator Ted Stevens and Rep. Don Young, both long-time Republican incumbents, trailing in their bids for re-election, thanks in large part to a scandal involving an oil services corporation that has already ensnared several GOP state legislatures. The poll has good news for Democrats, though in Young's case the party may not get the opportunity to make their case.

The poll, conducted by Hellenthal and Associates for lobbyist Sam Kito, surveyed 269 likely voters between 5/6-10 for a margin of error of +/- 6%. In the Senate contest, Stevens and Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich were tested. In the House race, Young, Lieutenant Governor Sean Parnell, a Republican, and former House Minority Leader Ethan Berkowitz, the likely Democratic nominee, were included. 27% of respondents were registered Republicans, while 22% were registered Democrats, and the remaining 51% were unregistered.

General Election Matchups
Begich..........51
Stevens........44

Berkowitz.....58
Young...........38

Parnell...........43
Berkowitz.....38

Stevens has yet to attract a credible challenger in the Senate GOP primary, giving Democrats a flawed Republican to run against. But Parnell's surprise entry into the Republican primary against Young could throw a cog in the works. Parnell leads Young in a hypothetical primary matchup by a small margin (the sample, though, is so small that the margin of error would make results virtually meaningless), and if he wins the primary, the significant anti-Young vote would be free to head back to the new Republican nominee in November.

The disparity in the Senate contest is similar to that in the House race. 58% of respondents had a positive view of Begich, the two-term mayor of the state's largest city, while just 16% see him unfavorably. 49% see Stevens favorably, while 40% say they view him unfavorably. The poll is the first of recently released data to show Stevens with a net favorable rating, but just a nine-point gap for a six-term incumbent is not comforting.

In the House race, the story also comes down to favorable ratings. Berkowitz (41% positive, 13% negative), his party's nominee for Lieutenant Governor in 2006, and Parnell (46% positive, 8% negative), the candidate who beat him, each have high favorable-to-unfavorable ratios. Young, on the other hand, is viewed positively by just 35% of those surveyed, and negatively by a whopping 52%.

No wonder, too, that first-term Governor Sarah Palin is generating internet-based buzz about a vice presidential nomination. After ousting fellow Republican Frank Murkowski two years ago, the governor, who had her fifth child in April, enjoys an incredible 82% positive rating, while just 10% don't see her in a good light.

To Be Young And In Trouble

As the scandal surrounding VECO Corp. threatens to take down the biggest fish in the state, Senator Ted Stevens, Democrats are also optimistic about their chances to beat Alaska's lone congressman, Republican Don Young. Young has been in office for seventeen full terms, but his bid for an eighteenth could fall short thanks to the problems state Republicans have faced.

The poll, conducted by independent pollster Research 2000 for DailyKos, was conducted 5/12-14 among 600 likely voters for a margin of error of +/- 4%. Young and former State Rep. Ethan Berkowitz, who leads the Democratic primary, were tested. The survey sample was 32% Republican, 20% Democratic and 48% independent or otherwise affiliated.

General Election Matchup
(All / Dem / GOP / Ind / Men / Wom)
Berkowitz 50 / 85 / 18 / 57 / 46 / 54
Young 40 / 6 / 71 / 34 / 45 / 35

If Young is the Republican nominee in November, it is unlikely Republicans will be able to save his seat. Just 38% of Alaskans view him favorably, while 58% say they have an unfavorable impression of him. On the other hand, Berkowitz, the Democratic nominee for Lieutenant Governor in 2006, is seen in a favorable light by 49% of voters, compared with 23% who think of him unfavorably.

For the GOP, though, there may be hope. Faced with a highly unpopular governor running for re-election in 2006, Alaska Republicans instead nominated a reformist candidate who beat a popular Democrat. Young, too, faces the prospect of losing his primary fight after Lieutenant Governor Sean Parnell made his surprise entry into the race last month. State Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux is also running for the Republican nod, and should either score an upset in the August 26 primary, their party might have a much better chance at holding the seat come November.

Berkowitz faces Diane Benson, an activist who has run for several offices before, including against Young, in the Democratic primary. Benson trailed Young by a 57%-40% margin in 2006, though that was the slimmest margin by which the incumbent won since 1994.

For AK Dems, An Easy Ride

A new survey shows, once again, that Republican Rep. Don Young trails his Democratic challenger and remains in terrible position in his battle for an 18th term in Congress. What makes the survey surprising is that the poll was conducted for a little-known Democrat unlikely to make it through the primary to face Young in November, suggesting Young's electoral position is all that much worse.

The survey, by Alaska-based Hays Research, was conducted 3/10-12 among 401 registered voters for a margin of error of +/- 4.9%. The poll was taken on behalf of former state Democratic Party chairman Jake Metcalfe, who, along with Young, was tested.

General Election Matchup
Metcalfe 45
Young 37

Generic Dem 41
Young 34

What the survey doesn't note is that Metcalfe's name identification is likely significantly below that of former State Representative Ethan Berkowitz, the front-runner for the Democratic nomination. Berkowitz, the 2006 Democratic nominee for Lieutenant Governor, has a statewide profile and has led Young in earlier surveys, while Metcalfe's biggest claim to fame is as state party chair and as former head of the Anchorage School Board.

Ahead of the August 26 primary, Republicans Lieutenant Governor Sean Parnell and State Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux will try to convince Alaskans to nominate them over the long-time incumbent, who is embroiled in a scandal involving an oil services company that has already seen several state legislators go to jail. Electability could prove a valuable argument to either candidate, and Alaska Republicans are not completely unwilling to kick out their incumbents: In 2006, now-Governor Sarah Palin ousted GOP incumbent Frank Murkowski by a wide margin. Palin is now backing Parnell in the primary.

But if Parnell can't overcome the Alaska institution that is Don Young, either because he splits the reform vote with LeDoux or the GOP electorate just isn't ready to oust Young, Democrats maintain a strong chance to pick up a House seat in one of the most Republican areas of the country. As the poll suggests, it may not matter that Berkowitz, the party's preferred candidate, make it through to November; with Young as unpopular as he is, any Democrat with a pulse stands a fighting chance.

AK LG Targets Young

Alaska Lieutenant Governor Sean Parnell will run against long-time Republican Rep. Don Young, the Associated Press reported over the weekend. Parnell, who won election to the LG's office after serving as a state senator and state representative, is the second prominent politician to join the race against Young, whose troubles with an investigation surrounding an oil services company could get worse before they get better.

What separates Parnell and former State Rep. Ethan Berkowitz, another top candidate challenging Young, is that Parnell is part of a new wave of Republicans in the state intent on ridding the Alaska GOP of what they see as a corrupt old boy's club. Parnell was elected on a ticket with Governor Sarah Palin, who in turn cleaned the clock of then-Governor Frank Murkowski, also a Republican, in the 2006 primary.

Young, who has been in office since winning a special election in 1973, has experience chairing the House Resources Committee and the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and like long-time Republican Senator Ted Stevens, he's steered millions to his home state thanks to his influence on Capitol Hill. Visitors to his posh Rayburn Building office are greeted by a massive bear pelt tacked to the wall.

The idea of facing Parnell is not one that Young likes. After Parnell's announcement, in Anchorage, Young, who had held a press conference earlier, offered a snappy comeback. "I beat your dad and I'm going to beat you," Young said, referring to his Democratic opponent from 1980, who Young bested by a wide margin.

Given recent polling data, though, Young has an uphill battle to fight. A recent poll from the Hays Research Group showed 55% of Alaskans viewed him unfavorably, Politico's Josh Kraushaar reports. The 40% who view him favorably may, though, be enough to get him through the Republican primary on August 26, in which he will face Parnell and State Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux.

The winner of that primary will face the winner of a Democratic primary featuring Berkowitz, former state Democratic Party chair Jake Metcalfe and frequent candidate Diane Benson, who faced Young in the general in 2006. Berkowitz, the former Democratic leader in the State House, is favored to win the primary and, should he face Young, could steal the seat for Democrats; an early December poll showed him leading the incumbent by seven points in a head-to-head matchup.

If Parnell pulls out a GOP primary win, though, Berkowitz may have a tough time in an overwhelmingly Republican state. The last time the two met, in the Lieutenant Governor's race in 2006, the Palin-Parnell ticket beat out their Democratic rivals by about seven points.

Members' Legal Bills Pile

It is not a coincidence that Washington has more lawyers per capita than any other city: They're following the money. One reason ethically challenged members of Congress cling to their offices long after their times have passed is massive legal bills they owe. Those bills can be taken care of using campaign funds.

Despite assurances that he's running for re-election, longtime Alaska Republican Don Young may just be hanging on until he pays off those bills. FEC reports out this morning show Young dropped $590,000 last quarter, much of it on legal fees to two prominent Washington firms. He raised just $43,000, Swing State Project reports, and retains almost $950,000 on hand.

Others under legal scrutiny spent heavily from their campaign treasuries as well. West Virginia Democrat Alan Mollohan, who has been scrutinized for earmarks he's attracted to his district, dished out nearly $25,000 in fees last quarter, while retiring California Republican John Doolittle lists debts of about $120,000 to a northern Virginia law firm and Arizona Republican Rick Renzi owes $106,000 to Patton Boggs.

As long as troubled incumbents can raise money in Washington instead of reaching into their own pockets to satisfy legal debts, they will do so. As FEC reports this month show, it's good to have a campaign account to fall back on.

Young To Run For Re-Election

Long-time Alaska Republican Rep. Don Young says he's running for reelection this year. The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports Young spent the recent congressional recess holding fundraisers in Alaska, and he told the newspaper, "People know I'm back and they know that I'm running."

But if Young is to win an 18th full term in Congress, he will have to defeat challengers who are likely to make an issue of a wide-ranging federal investigation that includes the incumbent. State Representative Gabrielle LeDoux is challenging Young in the August 26 Republican primary. Democrats who have filed for the seat include Alaska House Minority Leader Ethan Berkowitz, former Alaska Democratic Party Chairman Jake Metcalfe, and Diane Benson, who lost to Young 57%-40% in 2006.

Though he will not release his 4th-quarter fundraising totals until the end of the month, Young retained about $1.5 million at the end of September, far more than Benson or Metcalfe, the only other two candidates who filed 3rd-quarter reports. The DCCC worked hard to recruit Berkowitz, the Democratic Lieutenant Governor nominee in 2006 who led Young by seven points in a December poll.

News of Young's re-election plans cannot be welcome for Alaska Republicans, many of whom have been stung by the investigation surrounding the VECO Corporation, an oil services company whose chief executive, Bill Allen, pleaded guilty to federal bribery charges. Also implicated was Senator Ted Stevens, whose home was raided by the FBI in late 2007, and several current and former state legislators.

Washington Republicans have seen good news lately, both in terms of strong recruitments and decisions by some ethically challenged members, including Arizona Republican Rick Renzi and California's John Doolittle, to step down. Young's decision to stay in can only cause heartburn for the NRCC.

-- Kyle Trygstad

Young, Stevens In Trouble

DailyKos is out with another Research 2000 poll today, and the results are not good for Republicans in the great snowy north. R2K tested embattled Republican Sen. Ted Stevens and Rep. Don Young alongside Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich and former House Democratic leader Ethan Berkowitz. Berkowitz has already announced his campaign against Young, while Begich continues to mull a bid against Stevens.

The poll, conducted 12/3-6, surveyed 600 likely voters for a margin of error of +/- 4%. The sample reflects the heavily Republican tilt of the state: 33% of those responding were Republicans, compared with just 19% of Democrats. The remaining 48% called themselves independent or identified with another political party.

General Election Matchups
(All / Men / Wom / Dem / GOP / Ind)
Begich 47 / 43 / 51 / 81 / 7 / 55
Stevens 41 / 46 / 36 / 7 / 81 / 35

Berkowitz 49 / 46 / 52 / 83 / 18 / 57
Young 42 / 46 / 38 / 8 / 72 / 35

There's a reason Berkowitz and Begich are out-pacing Young and Stevens: Alaska voters simply don't see the two incumbents in a very favorable light:

Fav/Unfav
Begich 48 / 19
Berkowitz 45 / 18
Young 40 / 54
Stevens 39 / 58

The numbers are pretty incredible: Independents choose both challengers by wide margins, though the state's Republican Party still maintains an incredible size advantage. But there is no guarantee that Young or Stevens will make another bid, or even be the GOP nominee come next year. Facing scandals, Republican Gov. Frank Murkowski looked to present Democrats with a great pick-up opportunity in 2006. That is, until Alaska Republicans did not renominate him, instead choosing Sarah Palin in his place.

Palin went on to win the general election over former Democratic Gov. Tony Knowles, who until Murkowski got routed was the favorite to win the seat. If Republicans choose other candidates over Stevens and Young, they are likely to be rewarded. Barring a new candidate, Democrats have the best chance they've seen in Alaska for more than a generation.

Young Down In Dem Poll

Congressman Don Young, the long-time sole representative from the Last Frontier, finds himself in some hot water, a new poll shows. Young has been connected to a scandal surrounding VECO Corp., which has led to prosecutions of several state legislators and an FBI raid of Sen. Ted Stevens' Alaska home.

The poll, conducted by Democratic firm Craciun Research Group for 2006 candidate Diane Benson, was conducted 10/27-11/2 among 601 registered voters. The margin of error Benson, Young and former House Democratic Leader Ethan Berkowitz, as well as State Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux, a Republican who is thinking of challenging Young in a primary.

The Democratic primary sample tested Benson, Berkowitz and former Alaska Democratic Party Chair Jake Metcalf. 292 voters who plan to participate in the Democratic primary were surveyed, for a margin of error of approximately +/- 5.7%.

Primary Election Matchup
Berkowitz 29
Benson 21
Metcalf 8

General Election Matchups
Berkowitz 50
Young 35

Benson 45
Young 37

Berkowitz 49
LeDoux 14

Benson 45
LeDoux 12

The incumbent faces a huge uphill battle, but Republicans don't have to despair yet. The status of the race seems familiar; early polls in 2006 showed former Gov. Tony Knowles handily defeating then-Gov. Frank Murkowski. But Knowles lost his comeback bid primarily because Murkowski wasn't his opponent. The scandal-plagued incumbent finished third in his own primary to Sarah Palin, who beat Knowles in November.

If Young is the nominee, Alaska Democrats have a real shot to take back the seat. If another Republican takes his place, the GOP is likely to have a better chance at holding on.

Something to consider as Young and Stevens face re-election next year: After Palin, a decided outsider, knocked off good ol' boy Murkowski, are Alaska voters ready for change regardless of party? The state is still heavily Republican, and the two remaining incumbents could face tough battles in their own primaries.

Murkowski's big problem was nepotism, a charge he endured after appointing his daughter to his old Senate seat. If Alaska Republicans wouldn't stand for that, will they really allow Young and Stevens, tainted by a corruption investigation, to continue as their nominees?

Young Trails In Poll

Veteran Alaska pollster Ivan Moore today gave more credence to the theory that Alaska voters are ready for a change. While Gov. Sarah Palin (R) turned former Gov. Frank Murkowski (R) out of office in 2006, few thought that long-time Sen. Ted Stevens and Rep. Don Young, two Alaska institutions, could possibly be in trouble.

Moore's poll shows former State Representative Ethan Berkowitz, a Democrat, leading Young in the race for Congress. The poll, conducted just after Berkowitz announced his entry in the race for the Democratic-leaning Swing State Project, surveyed 497 voters, with a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4%.

Positive/Negative
Young 43 / 50
Berkowitz 42 / 17

General Election Matchup
Berkowitz 51
Young 45.5
Other/undec 3.5

Cross-tabs show 35% of voters are strongly for Berkowitz, while just 19% are strongly for Young. Alaska voters, of course, are heavily Republican, though Democrats have to be ecstatic that Berkowitz begins not only with a lead, but with a lead over 50%. Party registration in the poll shows just 17% of the state's voters are Democrats, while 32% are Republican. 51% are independents or no registered party.

With a Democrat on the presidential ticket, or facing a candidate other than Young, Republicans remain the favorite in the race for the Last Frontier. But with Young on the ticket, and because Berkowitz has gotten an early and impressive start, Democrats believe they maintain a strong chance to pick up the seat.

Update: Politico's John Bresnahan reports Young's 3rd quarter FEC reports show he spent more than $180,000 on attorneys, more than he raised in the entire quarter. Young maintains a total of $1.65 million cash on hand, and has raised more than $600,000 for the cycle.

Alaska Chessboard Becomes Clearer

Former State Representative Ethan Berkowitz today announced his plans to run against Alaska Congressman Don Young, the Republican who has represented the state in the House since 1973. Young has been associated with scandals currently roiling Alaska's Republican Party, and is widely considered to be thinking about retiring.

Despite his long history of bringing home the bacon for Alaska, Young won re-election last year with just 56% against an opponent who once ran for governor on the Green Party line. Berkowitz, the Democratic candidate for Lieutenant Governor in 2006, wins high praise from national Democrats, who see the seat as a possible pickup.

The move also means another Democratic recruitment target will be free for Senate Democrats. With scandal surrounding Senator Ted Stevens, Democrats smell an open seat. The DSCC has long sought to recruit Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich, seen as the most popular Democrat in the state, to run either against the weakened incumbent or for an open seat.

Begich has yet to make a decision on the Senate race. National Democrats are said to covet his entry into the race, and rumor had it he and Berkowitz were deciding between themselves which would enter the House race and which would go for Stevens' seat. If Begich enters the Senate race, the DSCC and the DCCC will have scored major recruiting coups.