Alaska Democrats dump Senator Gravel

Clark Gruening, grandson of former Sen. Ernest Gruening, took the Democratic nomination for the US Senate from incumbent Mike Gravel in Tuesday's primary. Senator Gravel had won the seat from the elder Gruening in 1968.

The State's other senator, Ted Stevens (R), commented that Gravel's defeat means the time has passed when a senator can restore good relations with his constituents during his final year in office.

"You cannot dust it off in the sixth year," he said, adding, "I really feel sad that we were never able to maintain the rapport that two senators from the same state should have. In the beginning we tried . . . I tried."

Alaskans were so split over a proposed Alaska Statehood Commission that as of late Wednesday (est) it was not certain whether the measure has been approved, although it was ahead by a few hundred votes.

The commission was proposed to review Alaska's relationship with the federal government. The longtime territory that was originally acquired from Russia became a state 21 years ago. Although there was no organized opposition to the study and recent US Senate passage of the Alaska Lands bill was controversial in the state, many alaskans apparently feared the commission would lead to secession from the union.

No other such panel has ever been formed in any state.

Alaska's lone representative, Republican Don Young, ran unopposed in the primary, but will face Keven (Pat) Parnell, and Anchorage businessman, in the general election. Gruening will run against Frank Murkowski, a Fairbanks banker , in November's Senate race.

In the Oklahoma primary Aug. 26, the State's only incumbent to face the voters this year, rep. Wes Watkin (D), swept away his opposition with 90 percent of the vote to run unopposed in the general election.

But the heated battle in Oklahoma is over the seat of retiring Sen. Henry Bellmon (R). The race was locked into a runoff on both the GOP and the Democratic sides.

Front-runners Robert S. Kerr in the Democratic race and John Zink in the Republican will each face their opponents again September 16.

Mr. Kerr is the son of an Oklahoma governor and senator once known as "the uncrowned king of the Senate." He is now director of an oil company his father founded.

Andy Coats, Kerr's challenger for the Democratic nomination, says he is looking forward to a debate. "I'll work harder than he will," Mr. Coats said. "Bob [Kerr] wants the title and I want the job."

Kerr cautioned his supporters against underestimating the "tough campaign ahead."

In the GOP race for the same Senate seat, John Zink is also scheduled to debate his contender, state Sen. Don Nickles. Mr. Zink is an industrialist and a builder and promoter of racing cars. Nickles campaigned as a strong conservative and the candidate most like presidential candidate Ronald Reagan.

Earlier this month, Missouri's Democratic Gov. Joseph P. Teasdale and his closely matched GOP opponent in 1976, Christopher S. Bond, each emerged from their party's primaries to face off again this November.

In other recent primaries where Senate seats are up for election, the incumbents have safely won their party nominations, including Frank Church (D) of Idaho, Thomas Eagleton (D) of Missouri, and Robert Dole (R) of Kansas.

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