Alaska voters turned back Democrat Gov. Bill Sheffield's attempt to overcome bad publicity on impeachment proceedings he survived and elected Steve Cowper as their gubernatorial candidate. State Sen. Arliss Sturgulewski won the Republican nomination over former Gov. Walter Hickel, who served as Interior secretary under President Richard M. Nixon.
In Oklahoma, Republican former Gov. Henry Bellmon whipped four others in a comeback bid to succeed retiring two-term Democratic Gov. George Nigh.
Cowper, a 48-year-old Fairbanks lawyer and former state legislator, boasted that he defeated the 57-year-old Anchorage hotelier without harping on negative issues--notably the impeachment proceedings against Sheffield, who was serving his first term.
"I lost and Steve Cowper beat me," Sheffield said as he conceded early today.
With 84% of the ballots counted, Cowper had 30,503 votes to Sheffield's 20,279. Sheffield, who beat Cowper--pronounced Cooper--by 259 votes in the 1982 primary, said Tuesday that he was confident of winning in a close race.
Sheffield is the only governor in Alaska's 27-year history as a state whose actions prompted formal state Senate impeachment hearings, but he was cleared of charges that he steered a state office building contract to a political crony.
Sturgulewski is the first woman nominated for governor in Alaska. In ending Hickel's comeback bid, she had 22,331 votes to his 20,298.
Republican Sen. Frank H. Murkowski had no opposition for renomination and will face Democrat Pegge Begich, who ran unopposed.
Nuclear Freeze Favored
A nuclear freeze initiative on the ballot gained 58% voter support.
In the Oklahoma race to fill the governor's office being vacated by Nigh after a maximum eight years, Bellmon beat four other Republicans, as expected. With 2,189 of 2,374 precincts in, he had 100,450 votes or 70.6% to 27,780 votes or 19.6% for his nearest rival, state Rep. Mike Fair.
Bellmon became Oklahoma's first Republican governor in 1962 and served two Senate terms before choosing not to seek reelection in 1980, but he decided to get back into politics this year.
The Democratic battle was another story. Atty. Gen. Mike Turpen had been favored in a six-way contest but ran second and braced for a runoff with Oklahoma City businessman David Walters. With 2,152 of 2,374 precincts in, Walters had 207,113 votes or 45.7% to Turpen's 181,791 or 40%.
Democratic Rep. Jim Jones, who is vacating his 1st District seat to run against incumbent Don Nickles in November, held a solid 67% lead, with 2,184 of 2,374 precincts counted, over George Gentry, a follower of extremist Lyndon LaRouche.