It’s not clear if two rural Democrats, who joined the House Republican Majority, are returning to Juneau.


With all precincts in, Rep. Ben Nageak and his opponent Dean Westlake, of Kotzebue are separated by a mere five votes, with absentee and question ballots still pending. With such a close race, a recount is likely to be requested. The pair is battling it out for House District 40, which encompasses the Northwest Arctic and Arctic Slope regions. With no challenger in the general election, the race goes to the winner in the primary.



Until Nageak was elected to the legislature in 2012, the region has been represented by lawmakers from Kotzebue, including Reggie Joule and Al Adams. In this latest round of geographical rivalry, it appears the District 40 seat returns to Kotzebue.


Nageak and another rural Democrat, Rep. Bob Herron of Bethel, were targeted by their own party, for caucusing with the Republicans.


In exchange for joining the Majority, Nageak received a plum assignment – co-chair of the House Resources Committee, which oversees oil and gas development, important to his district. Nageak has not only served as a state lawmaker but also as the North Slope Borough Mayor.


Herron has served as Majority Whip, a position that gave him the ear of House leaders and helped fund projects for his region. Herron represents House District 38, which encompasses Bethel and communities on the Lower Kuskokwim River. Herron has a long history of public service in Bethel, including city manager and president of the Lower Kuskokwim School District Board.


With all precincts but one counted, challenger Zach Fansler has almost 57 percent of the vote compared to Herron’s 43 percent.


Fansler is well known in Bethel as an organizer for the Kuskokwim 300 Sled Dog Race.


KTVA 11’s Rhonda McBride can be reached via email or on Facebook and Twitter.