ELECTION RESULTS: Republicans set to control executive, legislative branches
Republicans are poised to control the executive branch and both chambers of the legislative branch for the first time since 2014. That's when Mike Chenault served as House Speaker and Charlie Huggins served as Senate President during the Sean Parnell administration.
Former state Sen. Mike Dunleavy, a Wasilla Republican, held a decisive lead over Democratic challenger Mark Begich early Wednesday morning and is poised to succeed incumbent independent Gov. Bill Walker as the state's 14th governor.
"I'm going to hire the right people to do the best job possible, and we're going to implement our agenda," Dunleavy said. "Public safety is number one."
Meanwhile, Republicans lead in 23 of 40 House races and are poised to retake a majority a Democratic-led caucus held for Walker's final two years. Also, the Republicans still have a stronghold on the Senate, claiming seven of 10 races, but Fairbanks incumbent Sen. Pete Kelly leads by just nine votes and could face a recount.
Tuesday's results also featured another victory for U.S. Rep. Don Young, Alaska voters shooting down the only measure on this year's ballot, and a judge got in the crosshairs for a controversial sentencing, failing to be retained.
Dunleavy was leading Democrat Mark Begich by almost 10 percentage points (123,173 votes) to Begich's 93,762 votes with 88 percent of precincts reporting. Gov. Bill Walker, who withdrew from the race last month, had 1.96 percent of the vote with 4,288 votes.
Speaking to supporters at the Anchorage Alehouse on Northern Lights Boulevard, Dunleavy expressed his appreciation for his initial lead.
"I've gotta say it's looking pretty good right now; I want to thank everyone for being here, everyone for their support," Dunleavy said. "I'm going to wait for everyone to be here but I have an idea of what this state could look like – I love this state like all of you do, I think there are amazing opportunities for this state."
At about midnight, Dunleavy released a statement declaring victory over Begich.
“Over these past four years, too many Alaskans have been shut out of the big decisions facing our state – from changes to the Permanent Fund to crime policy to addressing the state’s budget deficit," Dunleavy said. "Elections remind us that in our system of government the people rule, and today the people made their voices heard."
Begich, who had been optimistic about his chances Tuesday evening, did not issue a statement.
“I’ve always run close races, so I expect it to be close,” Begich said. “But I tell you, when I look around here the amount of people who have come forward to see Alaska they want to see, I think they’re ready to see an Alaskan; that’s why I’m here born and raised Democrat, born and raised in this state as an Alaskan. What’s great about Alaska is they elect whoever is the best person, and I think I am that person.”
If the results hold until the Nov. 23 Division of Elections certification, the House will have 23 Republicans, 16 Democrats and one independent. The Senate will stay unchanged with 14 Republicans and six Democrats, though Bethel Democrat Lyman Hoffman traditionally joins a Republican majority while holding a seat on the powerful Senate Finance Committee.
Some key results:
* Republican Gabrielle LeDoux won her House District 15 East Anchorage race, a contest Republicans deemed tainted for irregular ballots in the Aug. 21 primary. Already at odds with Republicans for joining the Democratic-led majority, LeDoux solidly led three write-in candidates and Democratic challenger Lyn Franks.
* Incumbent independent Jason Grenn trailed Republican Sara Rasmussen in a key race for the Republicans retaking the majority. Grenn was part of the Democratic-led majority.
*Another incumbent could be showed the door. It's Rep. Paul Seaton, who, as a Republican joined the Democratic majority, and became a target for Republicans. Newcomer Sarah Vance won the Homer district with 58 percent of the vote.
* Senate President Pete Kelly, R-Fairbanks, held a nine-vote lead over House Rep. Scott Kawasaki, D-Fairbanks, creating a possible recount. Even if Kawasaki overtakes Kelly, Republicans still hold strong majority.
* East Anchorage Republican Lance Pruitt held off another challenge, this one from Democrat Liz Snyder, who came within one-and-a-half percentage points from defeating Pruitt.
U.S. House race
Longtime U.S. Rep. Don Young is still "Dean of the House."
He faced a serious challenge from Alyse Galvin, the Great Alaska Schools organizer who made an aggressive run against Young.
Young disputed Galvin's claim at the same debate, saying his longevity shows he has "the best record working across the aisle." As he and Galvin made their final weekend appearances before Tuesday's vote, he expressed confidence that Alaskans would send him back to the Capitol for another term.
The incumbent congressman was ahead in his re-election bid holding 54 percent of the vote.
Young, however, will begin his next term as a member of the minority with Democrats retaking the U.S. House.
"It’s going to be interesting right now. When you have a smaller majority, it’s better to work with a minority," Young said. "With a big majority, it’s very difficult to do that. I think this is going to be good for Alaska. We have a great senate and not much harm can be done if they want to get things done and I think you’ll see us working better together.”
Ballot Measure 1
The only ballot measure that went before Alaskans Tuesday, which sought to impose restrictions on development affecting salmon habitats, appeared headed to a decisive defeat with more than 64 percent of voters rejecting it.
Since being partially cleared by the Alaska Supreme Court to go before voters, Ballot Measure 1 has become a proxy battleground for supporters of the environment and the economy, with Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mark Begich in favor but an array of Alaska Native corporations and development interests opposed.
Judicial retention votes
Alaskans also decided whether 15 state judges should be retained, in votes conducted every six years under state law. Superior Court Judge Michael Corey, appears to have been rejected, getting only 46 percent support.
By far the most prominent of them, Corey, has faced an emotional recall campaign over his approval of a plea deal without jail time for Justin Schneider, who admitted to strangling and masturbating on an Alaska Native woman. Gov. Bill Walker has said that state law which restricted Corey's actions in the case needs to be changed, and Corey has said on Facebook that "victims are at the forefront of my mind every single hearing."
Scott Jensen, Megan Mazurek, Liz Raines and Daniella Rivera contributed information to this story.
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