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

Scalzi, supporters face reality of defeat
by Chris Bernard
Staff Writer

photo: news
"I knew I was going to get attacked. But you don't shirk the responsibilities of the job to get re-elected." -Rep. Drew Scalzi  
The mood was grim at Drew Scalzi's headquarters Tuesday as a crowd of friends and supporters made small talk while awaiting the election results trickling in from the 11 House District 35 voting precincts.

Scalzi, the Republican incumbent for state House, faced Paul Seaton in Tuesday's primary election. Though one precinct remained to be counted at press time, Seaton led by nearly 20 percent of the vote.

Scalzi election headquarters was a former Pioneer Avenue pizza parlor that Stan and Nikki Wells have converted into a comfortable home. Close to 20 people picked nervously at the food that filled a table in the large kitchen, sipping drinks and huddling around the computer as Scalzi's campaign manager, Brian Bennett, periodically checked for updated results.

Seated at the head of a table, Scalzi joked that someone should have brought cards.

"In Juneau, we play cribbage while we wait for special sessions to begin, or on lunch breaks," he said. "You hear all these senators calling each other (names) because they didn't salt the crib by throwing a nickel -- a five -- in it."

Conversation topics varied, but none delved too deeply into any subject. People were nervous and trying only to fill time.

About 45 minutes after the polls closed, Bennett announced the first round of results.

"I wish it were better news," he said. With 8 of 11 precincts reporting, Scalzi's opponent, Paul Seaton, led by nearly 400 votes.

"I don't think we're going to pull three precincts," Scalzi said. "I don't think it looks good. He's got almost 60 percent, and that's a pretty good indicator."

As he spoke with friends, Scalzi appeared resigned to his impending defeat. His legs crossed, he wiggled his foot and tapped his hand on the table while reviewing the results.

How did he feel?

"Fine, I guess," he said. "No worries. There's nothing you can do at this point."

"When I found out Paul was running, I knew he was going to be a hard campaigner," Scalzi said between frequent calls to his cell phone. "I think he did a lot of work getting people out to vote. He did a lot of door-to-door, and I have to give him credit for getting people out there to vote. This was a good turnout for a primary.

"I certainly did not campaign that hard," he said. "We're not allowed to campaign during the (legislative) session, and then I had to fish, and there was a special session, so we got a late start. Paul was out there in April."

Scalzi said he did not plan to seek office again if he did not win Tuesday.

"This campaign took a toll," he said. "I've still got to fish. I've got some quota to finish, and I'm still on the salmon task force, so I'll spend some time on that."

Speaking about some of the changes he'd helped accomplish in the Legislature, Scalzi said he knew they might hurt him in the long run.

"We said at the time that we were not doing this to get re-elected," he said. "We focused on the issues, and we knew the moves would spawn some opponents. It spawned one who was hardworking and tenacious.

"I knew I was going to get attacked, but you don't shirk the responsibilities of the job to get re-elected," he said.

Around 10 p.m., with 10 of 11 precincts reporting, Bennett updated Scalzi on the results. Seaton still led by nearly 400 votes.

"There's good news, though. Alan Austerman is doing great," Scalzi joked, referring to the Republican senator from Kodiak who ran unopposed.

By 10:30 p.m., the first people began to leave. The candidate, who'd spent much of the evening pacing outside while talking on his cell phone, thanked them for coming.

"When you really run a campaign, you go out hard," he said. "Paul did that. That's no excuse, really. I just don't think we campaigned as aggressively as he did. I know we didn't."

"I can think of 100 things we'd do differently," Bennett said.

A few friends arrived to headquarters late, poking their heads in the door. They looked around expectantly.

"It's not good news," Nikki Wells told them, greeting them at the door. "I wish it were going better. But there's food!"

Chris Bernard can be reached at