Story last updated at 1:20 p.m. Saturday, August 31, 2002

Seaton tops Scalzi for House seat
By Mark Kelsey
Staff Writer

photo: news
  Photo by Mark Kelsey, Homer News
Paul Seaton hugs his wife, Tina, before addressing campaign supporters Tuesday night at his headquarters. Seaton defeated incumbent Rep. Drew Scalzi in the Republican primary, becoming the new House representative for the Homer area.  
Underexperienced. Underfunded. Underdog. Victor.

Trumpeting the virtues of grass-roots campaigning over the political establishment, challenger Paul Seaton thanked an energetic crowd of supporters at his headquarters Tuesday night after returns showed him to be a surprisingly easy winner over incumbent Rep. Drew Scalzi in Tuesday's Republican primary election.

The lack of other candidates ensures Seaton passage to Juneau, where he will be seated with the new Legislature in January, barring a write-in campaign for November's general election.

"It sure shows one thing," Seaton told his cheering supporters, "Grass roots can overcome a bunch of politicians. That's why we won. We talked about issues of concern to regular people."

A political novice who lacked the resources to mount a visible media campaign, Seaton took his message to the streets of the new and far-flung House District 35, which encompasses both ends of the Kenai Peninsula. Campaigning on a platform of open government, accountability and fiscal responsibility, Seaton said he "walked the district and knocked on doors."

"Open lines of communication and accountability are key," Seaton said. "People are ready for responsive representation."

His campaign manager, Katie Shows, said the door-to-door strategy made the difference.

"We didn't take the traditional marketing approach," said Shows, who, at 22, is also a political novice. "Paul talked about voters' concerns. I have to thank the voters for doing their homework. That's what paid off here."

Shows, a recent graduate of Smith College, said she knew nothing about Seaton when the opportunity to manage his campaign came her way. She said she consulted her father, John Shows, for advice on whether to work for Seaton.

"Dad said '(Paul) is an honest man who follows through.' That's a good enough reason for me. It was a good enough reason for the people of the district, too."

Seaton garnered about 58 percent of the vote, while Scalzi polled just 39 percent. Pete Roberts, who withdrew from the race but was listed on the ballot, received about 3 percent of the vote.

At press time, 10 of 11 precincts had reported results. Seaton won eight of them, while Scalzi won only the Cooper Landing precinct and registered a tie in Seward.

The magnitude of the victory surprised Seaton, although he said it mirrored the feedback he received while campaigning.

"Sure I'm surprised," he said. "This is a validation of what people have been telling me. But I doubted it."

Seaton's wife, Tina, disagreed.

"I'm not surprised. I felt from the beginning that he was going to win big," she said. "I know Paul, and I know how good he'd be in this job.

"People have all been wonderful. It's really nice to see this kind of grass-roots support."

The atmosphere at Seaton headquarters, decked in red, white and blue balloons, became increasingly festive as the election results trickled in. Shortly after 10 p.m., with 10 out of 11 precincts reporting and the overwhelming victory all but official, Seaton thanked his campaign faithful and attributed his success to them.

"This has been a wonderful experience for me," he said. "But everyone of you has really helped on this thing."

"If we didn't have a good candidate, we couldn't have pulled it off," someone in the crowd shouted back.

At Scalzi headquarters, the mood was more somber.

Early in the evening, with eight of 11 precincts reporting, the numbers were not tilting in Scalzi's favor.

"Wow, 400 votes," he said. "I don't think we're going to be able to get that. It might be an early night."

An hour later, the results from two more precincts were in. Little had changed.

Someone made a joke about pregnant and hanging chads, referring to the 2000 presidential election debacle revolving around questionable Florida ballots, and a nervous laughter buzzed throughout the room like a mosquito.

For his part, Scalzi seemed forcibly nonchalant, reflecting on his campaign.

"There's nothing you can do at this point," he said. "There were some negative attacks that we tried to ignore, we decided we were going to stay positive. But I guess that's all part of the game. It all stayed on the issues."

Seaton said he looks forward to going to Juneau and representing the people of House District 35.

"People want change. They didn't like the way the Legislature worked," he said. "People want to see a reasonable working relationship and a reasonable solution to our problems."

He admitted it may take some time to learn the system and, hopefully, change it for the better.

"It'll be a continuous struggle," he said. "Now comes the work."

Mark Kelsey can be reached at Homer News reporter Chris Bernard contributed to this story.