Key legislative races remain too close to call
Upsets, landslides and races too close to call drove this year's primary that began to also reveal prospective changes when the Legislature returns to Juneau in January.
With more than 99 percent of the statewide ballots counted late Wednesday, three incumbents trailed challengers, and a fourth suffered a setback to a colleague.
The Division of Elections hopes to certify the primary election by Sept. 4, per state law, agency spokeswoman Samantha Miller said in an email.
House Rep. Dan Saddler trailed fellow Rep. Lora Reinbold by nearly 17 percentage points. Both sought to succeed outing Senate Finance Committee Chair Anna MacKinnon.
In South Anchorage, House Minority Leader Charisse Millett trailed challenger Josh Revak by 15 percentage points.
Millett posted a Facebook concession Wednesday morning, congratulating Revak and telling residents of her district that she felt proud of her 10 years in the Legislature.
"Thank you to my family -- I love you very much," Millett said. "To the volunteers and supporters that have helped me for the last decade I am eternally grateful for your love and support!"
Millett declined further comment beyond the Facebook post Wednesday morning.
Revak, a former Army tank crewmember whose military career was ended by an explosion, said Tuesday night that voters told him they were disappointed by Millett's stance on crime measure Senate Bill 91 and restructuring the Alaska Permanent Fund, projects which she had initially backed before withdrawing her support.
“Crime is a big deal; all of our neighbors have the buttons and the cameras at their doors, the security systems, you know, that cost a lot of money," Revak said. "I watch a lot of (the) Nextdoor app and every day there's something, something happening where folks are experiencing property crime at an alarming rate. And they feel like not enough has been done about it.”
Perhaps the biggest surprise took place in the Kenai Peninsula. Incumbent Senate Majority Leader Peter Micciche (R-Soldotna) trailed Ron Gillham by nine votes – or less than one percentage point.
In another Anchorage primary, House Rules Chair Gabrielle LeDoux trailed challenger Aaron Weaver by three votes. After a 2014 victory, LeDoux aligned herself with Democratic-led caucus putting her in the party's crosshairs. GOP leaders vowed to push her out of office. LeDoux still defended the move after the results.
"I did what I did because I thought it was the right thing for my district," LeDoux said, "and I still think it's the right thing for my district."
Weaver said the results may reflect just how the district felt about LeDoux's work.
"The results are what they are not because necessarily I'm a great candidate or anything like that, but I think it really reflects how poorly so many of the neighbors in Northeast Muldoon feel about Miss LeDoux," Weaver said.
GOP Chairman Tuckerman said he expects LeDoux -- whom he has repeatedly called a turncoat -- to prevail when absentee ballots get counted, but remained critical of her decision to align with Democrats along with fellow Republicans Paul Seaton of Homer and Louise Stutes of Kodiak.
"The point for her is, you're on the wrong track, get back to principles, get back to constituents, stop playing all the games," Babcock said.
Babcock added he typically supports any GOP candidate who wins a primary by "honoring the will of the voters."
"The exceptions are when you are lying and you're misleading people and that's why I'm not sure where LeDoux is because she has done that so consistently, which is why her district turned against her," Babcock said.
Under state law, the Micciche and LeDoux races could undergo a recount. The state can conduct a recount at no charge to candidates if fewer than 20 votes separate the candidate or the difference is less than .5 percent of the total cast for both candidates. Candidates would have to apply for the recount.
A third race could also be subject to recount: that between newcomers Wayne Ogle and Benjamin Carpenter for a seat vacated by Mike Chenault, who held the position of House Speaker for eight years. Ogle led Carpenter by three votes, 1,222-1,219.
These races sat against the backdrop of a higher-profile race between GOP gubernatorial candidates Mike Dunleavy and Mead Treadwell. Dunleavy, a former Mat-Su Borough senator, punched his ticket to the November election with a 30-point lead.
Dunleavy faces incumbent Independent Bill Walker and former U.S. Sen. Mark Begich in a three-way battle.
Shortly before votes began trickling in, Walker and Begich addressed being in a three-way race and any concern over splitting the Democratic vote against a Republican challenger.
Pollster Ivan Moore says money did play a role in the Republican primary race for governor.
“Had the money not been there, Dunleavy had a lot of momentum and had gotten a lot of support starting in the valley and radiating out from there,” he said.
As for the governor’s race, Moore thinks all candidates should stay in the race and run their campaigns until voting day, since he doesn't see a clear front-runner.
“People should relax, let it be a three-way race and feel blessed we have a choice between three good candidates instead of just two good candidates and may the best person win,” Moore said. “There’s a long way to go between now and November. I mean for crying out loud, let’s let the campaign begin in earnest post-primary and let them put their message forward and let Alaskans pick the best person. Simple as that.”
Moore said the LeDoux and Micciche races are too close to call, as absentee ballots still need to be counted, but he weighed in on Millett's loss.
“I think she just got lazy and had been embroiled in various controversies dating back many years and I think it just finally caught up with her,” Moore said.
Since Begich entered in the waning moments of the June 1 deadline, one question looms: Can either he or Walker win a three-way race? Recently Walker supporters created an online petition, asking Begich to step down.
Candidates have until Sept. 4 to withdraw from the race and have their names removed from the general election ballot.
Neither Walker nor Begich seems willing to budge.
“You know Alaska is known for three-way races don't forget we have a senior US senator (Lisa Murkowski) who won a three-way race and she wasn't even on the ballot,” Walker said. "And so we just have a history of having not the standard fare in elections.”
Begich has long said he’s in this race to win.
“We are excited about after tonight to be done with this so we can get on with talking about the three main candidates what their issues are and their differences, “Begich said. “And we are looking forward to that.”
Babcock downplayed conventional wisdom of Begich and Walker splitting the vote and favoring Dunleavy, but if Walker or Begich drop out, the remaining candidate defeats Dunleavy.
"These are three tremendous candidates," he said. "You've got a governor, a former U.S. Senator and the most popular Republican candidate we've had in a long time."
In other races:
Former Rep. Liz Vasquez’s efforts to get back in the Legislature has not been easy. She trails GOP challenger Sara Rasmussen by seven percentage points.
Former House Rules Chair Nancy Dahlstrom is a step closer to succeeding Saddler, with a 12-point lead over Craig Christenson and Bill Cook.
Incumbent Rep. George Rauscher (R-Sutton) has a 22-point lead in his third primary battle with Jim Colver, whom Rauscher defeated two years ago en route to his first term.
Incumbent Mike Shower, who succeeded Dunleavay, soundly defeated Mat-Su Borough Assemblyman Randall Kowalke. Shower joined the Senate in February after a prolonged appointment process that first had Kowalke receiving Walker's appointment only to have Senate Republicans reject it.
Sen. Kevin Meyer (R-Anchorage) will be on the same ticket as Dunleavy, having collected 36 percent of the vote -- nine points ahead of his closest competitor Edie Grunwald.
Outgoing Rep. Les Gara's Democratic successor will be Zach Fields, whom Gara endorsed, and recorded a decisive victory over Gliff Groh and Elias Rojas.
Alyse Galvin has won Alaska's Democratic primary for the U.S. House, becoming the first Independent to represent the party in a general election. She will face U.S. Rep. Don Young in November. Young is the longest-serving member of the House.
Even before Tuesday’s primary, six candidates – two for the Senate and four in the House – had a clear path toward another term in Juneau.
Running unopposed on the primary and general election are incumbent Sens. Click Bishop (R-Fairbanks) and Lyman Hoffman (D-Bethel) plus incumbent House Reps. Tammie Wilson (R-Fairbanks), Colleen Sullivan-Leonard (R-Wasilla), Gary Knopp (R-Kenai) and Neal Foster (D-Nome).
Scott Jensen, Megan Mazurek and Liz Raines contributed information to this story.
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