Voter turnout low in contentious Anchorage primary
The House District 15 Republican primary race began as one of the most closely contested this year.
Incumbent Gabrielle LeDoux went from trailing challenger Aaron Weaver by three votes on the Aug. 21 election night to leading by more than 100 after the final tally. But there weren't a lot of ballots cast in the East Anchorage district. In fact, significantly fewer people voted there than in any of the neighboring districts.
Nevertheless, it is certainly a place with many voices. If you take a drive down Muldoon Road, you'll find all kinds of international cuisine -- from Asian to Mexican or Polynesian -- a representation of the diverse people that live there.
Holidays are some of the busiest days for Kava's Pancake House on the corner of Muldoon Road and Boundary Avenue. Its owner, Robert Tofaeono, says a selling point is his portion size.
"I'm a big guy, so I make the plate for me. So, if it's not enough for me, it's not enough for my customers," Tofaeono said.
But so far, he says no one has tried to sell him on a political campaign.
"They just put a bunch of signs out there and that's about it," Tofaeono said of the candidates.
Even so, Tofaeono says he did vote in the state primary election -- and he's been encouraging members of his Polynesian community to do so too. It's a key component in the melting pot of House District 15.
The Rangeview Mobile Home Park, just up the road, is where many of Tofaeono's Hmong neighbors live.
Mary Vang is one of them. She says no one asked for her vote either.
"No, I haven't seen anybody or had anybody coming here," Vang said.
Even if a candidate did stop by, Vang says it likely wouldn't have made a difference. She didn't vote in the primary election.
"I'm too busy with other things, so, not now, but maybe in the future," Vang said.
Just next door, Rebecca May Stauss, originally from Bethel, says she never misses a vote -- Though no one approached her about the primary election.
"The whole family votes, we all have fun doing it," Stauss said.
Back at Kava's, things may be noisier, but politically, Tofaeono says his customers are quieter.
"Recently, it's just nothing, it's like there's not even an election going on," Tofaeono said. "It's like people have lost interest."
Lawmakers looking for votes may have their work cut out for them in the district.
According to a report filed with the Alaska Political Offices Commission, LeDoux paid a man from California, Charlie Chang, $10,000 to get out the vote in the Muldoon Hmong Community.
But LeDoux herself says the investment didn't pay off the way she'd hoped.
"Some years, he gets a lot of people to vote. This year wasn't a particularly great year. I think there were only 26, (maybe) 28," LeDoux told KTVA in an interview last week.
The Division of Elections is slated to certify primary results Tuesday.
Last week, the Division announced it had discovered potential voter fraud in the House District 15 race.
The case was referred to the Alaska Department of Law.
John Skidmore, director of the state's criminal division, will neither confirm nor deny whether a criminal investigation into the race exists.
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