1996 United States Senate election in Alaska

← 1990 November 5, 1996 2002 →
Ted Stevens 109th pictorial photo.jpg
No image.svg
No image.svg
Nominee Ted Stevens Jed Whittaker Theresa Obermeyer
Party Republican Green Democratic
Popular vote 177,893 29,037 23,977
Percentage 76.7% 12.5% 10.3%

U.S. senator before election

Ted Stevens

Elected U.S. Senator

Ted Stevens

The 1996 United States Senate election in Alaska was held on November 5, 1996. Incumbent Republican United States Senator Ted Stevens ran for re-election to a fifth term in the United States Senate. Stevens faced off against Democratic nominee Theresa Obermeyer, a former member of the Anchorage School Board,[1] and Green Party nominee Jed Whittaker, a commercial fisherman. Stevens won in a landslide.

Open primary






Open primary results[2]
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Ted Stevens (incumbent) 71,043 58.87%
Republican Dave W. Cuddy 32,994 27.34%
Democratic Theresa Obermeyer 4,072 3.37%
Green Jed Whittaker 3,751 3.11%
Democratic Joseph A. Sonneman 2,643 2.19%
Democratic Michael Beasley 1,968 1.63%
Democratic Henry J. Blake Jr. 1,157 0.96%
Democratic Lawrence Freiberger 921 0.76%
Republican Charles E. McKee 842 0.70%
Democratic Frank Vondersaar 655 0.54%
Democratic Robert Alan Gigler 631 0.52%
Total votes 138,492 100.00%

General election


The race drew national attention for Obermeyer's erratic behavior: she blamed Stevens for her husband's failure to pass the bar exam twenty-one times, and contended that Stevens had passed the bar by fraud. She "trailed" him to campaign events, frequently wearing a prisoner's outfit and once dragging a ball and chain behind her. In June and July 1996, she served a sentence of 30 days in prison for disorderly conduct because of her role in a disturbance at a federal courthouse, while on probation for a 1994 conviction of disorderly conduct for instigating another disturbance at the same courthouse.[3][4] Obermeyer attracted public attention, and possibly sympathy, during the campaign when, after serving seven days of her sentence in Alaska state prison, she was moved in the middle of the night to a Portland, Oregon county jail, and after a week there, she was moved to a federal prison in Dublin, California; her husband and attorney each complained about the moves, and a Federal prison official acknowledged that they were unusual.[4] During the televised debate before the general election, after discussing diseases of the brain, Stevens earnestly said to his opponent, "I think you need help, Mrs. Obermeyer," a response described fourteen years later in The Anchorage Daily News as one that "has become, it is safe to say, legendary."[5][6]

The televised primary election debates on August 21, 1996, also drew national attention for the unusual cast of characters seeking to oppose Stevens, particularly the seven candidates on the Democratic side. A column on the national PoliticsNow website, headlined "Alaska Displays the Scary Side of Democracy," described the debate as "what would happen if the Addams Family appeared on Meet the Press," leading to nationwide sales by public TV station KAKM of a record number of copies of the debate video.[7] Anchorage Daily News columnist Mike Doogan described the debate as "what would happen if the folks from Jabba the Hutt's headquarters dropped by the Mad Hatter's tea party."[8]

Remnant of Whittaker's campaign bumper sticker, photographed on a light pole on South Cushman Street in Fairbanks in 2014.  The bumper sticker read "Tired of Ted?  Vote for Jed!".
Remnant of Whittaker's campaign bumper sticker, photographed on a light pole on South Cushman Street in Fairbanks in 2014. The bumper sticker read "Tired of Ted? Vote for Jed!".


In the general election, Stevens was re-elected in an overwhelming landslide, and Whittaker finished ahead of Obermeyer.

1996 United States Senate election in Alaska[9]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Republican Ted Stevens (incumbent) 177,893 76.71% +10.48%
Green Jed Whittaker 29,037 12.52%
Democratic Theresa Obermeyer 23,977 10.34% −21.85%
Write-ins 1,009 0.44%
Majority 148,856 64.19% +30.15%
Turnout 231,916
Republican hold Swing

See also


  1. ^ Kirtley, Jane. "Gag Her with an Injunction | American Journalism Review". Ajr.org. Archived from the original on May 10, 2006. Retrieved September 16, 2013.
  2. ^ "Official State of Alaska - Primary : August 27, 1996". Elections.alaska.gov. Retrieved September 16, 2013.
  3. ^ "Aliens From Outer Space and Other Election Tales". The New York Times. November 7, 1996. Retrieved June 4, 2014.
  4. ^ a b Phillips, Natalie (July 4, 1996). "Obermeyer Went on a Fast Track: U.S. Marshal Denies Special handling". Anchorage Daily News.
  5. ^ "Alaska 1996 US Senate campaign debate - Ted Stevens and Theresa Obermeyer (at 4:00)". Youtube. Archived from the original on 2021-12-15. Retrieved May 18, 2020.
  6. ^ Alaska Beat (August 12, 2010). "Video: 1996 debate, Stevens v. Obermeyer". Anchorage Daily News. Retrieved May 18, 2020.
  7. ^ Demer, Lisa (September 7, 1996). "KAKM Debate Video Becoming Cult Classic". Anchorage Daily News.
  8. ^ Doogan, Mike (August 23, 1996). "Democratic U.S. Senate Field is Crowded with Strange Rangers". Anchorage Daily News.
  9. ^ "Statistics of the Presidential and Congressional Election of November 5, 1996" (PDF). Clerk.house.gov. Retrieved September 16, 2013.