Coast Alaska News Director Ed Schoenfeld will be reporting on Southeast Alaska legislative races. While Juneau races lack opponents, three other districts in the region have competitive campaigns. The tightest is the Sitka-and-Haines-plus-Southeast-Islands House District 34. The Ketchikan-Wrangell House District 33 is also hard-fought. And Senate District Q, for most towns outside Juneau, is of interest. I’ll provide results, behind-the-scenes information, and analysis.
Gavel Alaska’s Jeremy Hsieh will be posting reports from races around the state including updates on Fairbanks and Anchorage results.
The state Division of Elections will be posting unofficial election results at their website as ballots are counted. Polls close at 8 p.m. and unofficial results are expected to start coming in around 9 p.m.
The latest unofficial, preliminary results suggest a new split of 25 Republicans and 15 Democrats in the House of Representatives – though two of those races are less than a percentage point apart.
House District 25 in Anchorage is between two incumbents pitted against each other thanks to redistricting, Democrat Pete Petersen and Republican Lance Pruitt. Pruitt leads by 97 votes with all 8 precincts reporting.
Ed’s already covered House District 34 in Sitka.
The status quo on the House was a 24-16 Republican/Democrat split. But four of those Democrats caucused and generally voted with the Republicans. Additionally, two of the Republicans, Kyle Johansen of Ketchikan and Charisse Millett of Anchorage, were ousted from the House Majority in 2010, but continued to vote with the majority.
Millett looks like she has a solid win tonight in District 24. Johansen, who ran as an independent in a three-way race in District 33, will not be headed back to Juneau. He had a poor third place showing behind Democrat Matt Olsen and incumbent Republican Peggy Wilson, who has 58 percent of the vote with all 10 precincts reporting.
That’s it for me tonight. Good night.
There are new numbers in the tight House District 34 race.
Sitka Democrat Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins has 3,114 votes or 50.27 percent. Incumbent Haines Republican Bill Thomas has 3,070 or 49.56 percent. It’s a 44-vote gap.
Questioned and early ballots could make the difference. Or it could go to a recount.
Let’s mop this up:
Unopposed District 32 Democrat Beth Kerrtula got 5,291 votes, or 96 percent. The rest were write-ins. It’s Juneau’s downtown and Lemon Creek, plus Douglas, Gustavus, Petersburg, Skagway and Tenakee.
Unopposed District 31 Republican Cathy Muñoz had 6,067 votes, about 97 percent. The rest were write-ins. She has Juneau’s Mendenhall Valley, Auke Bay and other neighborhoods.
And finally: Only one lawmaker,Juneau Democrat Dennis Egan, didn’t have to run. A few Republicans have indicated he’ll be invited into a coalition, if one’s formed.
All 15 precincts in the Senate District J race in Anchorage are reporting. Incumbent Democrat Hollis French holds a 249 vote lead over Republican Bob Bell.
That doesn’t include absentee, questioned, mail, fax, and e-mail ballots.
The super-tight race for the Sitka-Haines-Southeast Islands House district will probably not be decided for a while.
Absentee, questioned and early ballots could easily affect the results. And it could end up in a recount.
As of now, Sitka Democrat Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins has a thin, 76-vote lead over Haines Republican Bill Thomas. That’s about 0.8 percentage points.
One more precinct needs to come in. We’re not sure which one, but it’s likely a village where Thomas may get more votes.
If Kreiss-Tomkins wins, it will be a major upset. Thomas is a powerful politician. He’s overseen writing of the state’s operating budget, which guides departmental and programmatic spending.
It would also be the first time in years that a Sitkan served in the House. Wrangell Republican Peggy Wilson held Sitka’s House seat for the past decade. She just won the Ketchikan-Wrangell district.
One other note: When Thomas first won this seat, results were so close there was a recount. It left Thomas with a 59-vote victory over Democrat Tim June, also of Haines.
More numbers, 336 of 438 precincts reporting.
Incumbent Democratic Sen. Hollis French’s lead has widened to 101 votes over Republican challenger Bob Bell, though there’s one precinct outstanding. Mail-in ballots look like they’ll be a factor in this race.
Most of the other races look like they’re settling down.
Here’s how Alaska voted in the presidential race:
– Romney/Ryan, 56 percent.
– Obama/Biden, 40 percent.
– Libertarians Johnson/Gray, 2.51 percent
– Greens Stein/Honkala, 0.93 percent.
That’s with 70 percent of precincts reporting.
Another release of election numbers, http://www.elections.alaska.gov/results/12GENR/data/results.pdf, this time with 307 of 438 precincts in.
In the Senate District J in Anchorage, incumbent Democrat Hollis French now has a 17 vote lead over Republican Bob Bell. That’s less than one-fifth of a percentage point. Two of the 15 precincts in that district are still unaccounted for.
It’s worth noting that 32 votes have been counted so far that went to write-ins in that race.
It’s Stedman, Wilson and ? in the contested Southeast races.
Sitka Republican Bert Stedman has clearly won the Senate District Q race with 64 percent. Angoon Democrat Albert Kookesh got 35 percent.
Wrangell incumbent Peggy Wilson wins House District 33. She has 58 percent, Democrat Matt Olsen has 33 percent and independent Republican Kyle Johansen has 8.5 percent.
But in House 34, just 76 votes separate Sitka Democrat Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins and Haines Republican Bill Thomas. JKT leads 50.53 percent to BT’s 49.29 percent. This could end up in a recount.
So the Senate Majority (aka the Senate Bipartisan Working Group or the Senate’s bipartisan coalition) is definitely under the gun.
First, the status quo for context. The Senate has a 10-10 split of Republicans and Democrats, but the Senate’s internal hierarchy and voting patterns the last several years haven’t followed party lines. The ruling bloc was the bipartisan coalition made up of 10 Democrats and six Republicans. The other four minority senators are conservative Republicans.
If a few Democrats lose their seats to Republicans, it could pave the way to caucuses divided along more straightforward partisan lines.
The latest preliminary results suggest a the new Republican/Democrat split would be 14-6. Two of the races are very close and leaning Republican – Districts B in Fairbanks and District J in Anchorage. District B is between incumbent Democrat Joe Paskvan and Republican challenger Pete Kelly. With 10 of 15 precincts reporting, Kelly leads by about 3 percentage points, or 182 votes.
In District J with 11 of 15 precincts reporting, Republican challenger Bob Bell is ahead by 4.3 percent, or 381 votes.
The coalition came under more intense fire from the governor and oil industry after it blocked the governor’s oil and gas tax bill during the last legislative session. The governor proposed major tax cuts to the oil industry in the hopes that it would lead to additional oil field development, safeguard the Trans Alaska Pipieline System’s viability for years to come, and enhance all the attendant economic benefits of having a strong oil industry. Opponents said it was just too costly; the Department of Revenue projected the governor’s plan would cost the state hundreds of millions in forgone tax revenue even with substantial growth in oil production.
Another update just came through, 276 of 438 precincts reporting.
A correction from my last item: The Democrat is ahead in the Sitka-Haines-SE Islands district.
The House District 34 race is too close to call with Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins leading Bill Thomas 50.5-49.3 percent with 13 of 15 precincts in.
In Senate District Q, Bert Stedman has 65 percent to Albert Kookesh’s 35 percent. 22 of 25 precincts. Stedman has it.
And in House 33, Peggy Wilson has 61 percent, Matt Olsen’s at 31 percent and Kyle Johansen has 8 percent with nine of 10 precincts. Congratulate Peggy. She won.
It looks like there will be no constitutional convention this time around. But there will be a lot of money for transportation projects.
Ballot Measure 1, calling for a constitutional convention, is failing, 68-32 percent.
Ballot Proposition A, authorizing almost a half-a-billion dollars in transportation bonds, is passing. 56-44 percent. That’s with 27 percent of precincts counted.
Southeast projects include:
– Nearly $20 million for construction of and improvements to Ketchikan’s Shelter Cove Road.
– A $15-million-dollar upgrade to the Haines Boat Harbor.
– $14 million toward building Sitka’s Katlian Bay Road.
– $7.5 million for dock work at Sitka’s industrial park.
– $11.5 million to improve Juneau’s Glacier Highway and Mendenhall Loop Road.
The Senate District J race looks like the tightest of the 14 contested Senate races. Only 66 votes separate incumbent Sen. Hollis French, a Democrat in the ruling bipartisan coalition from Republican challenger Bob Bell.
That’s just a bit over 1 percentage point. Only 7 of the 15 precincts are reporting.
District J covers Sand Lake, West Anchorage and Turnagain,
Southeast results so far:
– Republican Peggy Wilson is way ahead with 112 votes in House 33. Democrat Matt Olsen has 112; independent Kyle Johansen, 97. Two of 10 precincts are in.
– Republican Bert Stedman leads Democrat Albert Kookesh in the Senate Q race, but not by much: 1,805-1,787. 11 of 25 precincts reporting.
– Republican Bill Thomas leads Democrat Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins 1,477-1,110 in the House 34 race. Nine of 15 precincts in.
As a result of redistricting, two incumbents are fighting for Senate District A, which covers parts of Fairbanks, North Pole, and Eilson Air Force Base.
Sen. John Coghill, a Republican from North Pole who is not part of the 16-person bipartisan majority that blocked Gov. Parnell’s oil and gas tax cutting bill last session, said there’s a pretty clear distinction for voters between him and his oppponent, Democrat Joe Thomas of Fairbanks.
“As far as the coalition goes, it will have some impact. I’ve made no secret I’d like to have a more conservative one,” Coghill said a few minutes ago. “I’m not against coalitions, I just want a more conservative one.”
Unofficial, preliminary results with six of 13 precincts reporting show Coghill with a strong lead, 58 percent to 42 percent.
Thomas’s campaign manager had no comment and said his candidate was unavailable.
First dump of election results are up:
Southeast Alaska has 42 election precincts. All had touch-screen voting machines.
All but one have optical-scan counters, which should speed results. The one is Kasaan, a small community on the east side of Prince of Wales Island. It’s in District 34, which includes Sitka and Haines.
A last-minute dust-up hit Southeast’s District 34 race, the Sitka and Haines plus islands district.
An ad run in the Sitka Sentinel newspaper included a photo of Native health-care leader Ethel Lund with Jonathan Kreiss-Tompkins, holding a campaign sign, at the time of the Alaska Native Brotherhood and Sisterhood convention.
Lund sent a letter to the editor, which was printed Monday. An excerpt: Kreiss-Tompkins “received a spontaneous standing ovation from delegates. It is the tradition of the ANB and ANS to encourage and support young people, especially those that posses positive attributes and are journeying on the path of public service like Jonathan is.
“It was in this broad context that I expressed words of encouragement to him as he faces life’s challenges. My words were not intended to be a political endorsement.”
ADN’s Julia O’Malley has a similar tweet about the mood at the state Division of Election’s sponsored election watching place in Anchorage: “Mood at Anchorage election central? Two words: buzz kill. Polls just closed here, but they’ve called the presidential election.”
#akelect is the hashtag to follow if you’re into Twitter.
APRN’s Emily Schwing tweets that the state’s Election Central room at the Westmark Hotel in Fairbanks is “pretty empty.”
Here’s a link to her instagram photo: http://instagram.com/p/Rt0jJMwamL/
The money’s flowed fast and furious in the last month of Southeast’s legislative election campaigns.
The nine candidates brought in close to $95,000. That brings the campaign contribution total (so far) up to around $415,000 for the entire region.
Top fund-raisers are House District 34’s Haines Republican Bill Thomas at $114,000 and Senate District Q’s Sitka Republican Bert Stedman at $75,000.
Thomas’ challenger, Sitka Democrat Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, brought in about $64,000. Stedman’s opponent, Angoon Democrat Albert Kookesh, collected $46,400.
Final reports will boost those totals. But that pays for a lot of travel costs and newspaper advertisements.
Southeast Alaska Natives are reacting with excitement to President Obama’s re-election. Here’s a brief sampling from the Sealaska Shareholders Facebook page:
– Ch’aa Y’aa E’esh Peterson: God bless America, Obama just won a second term with Ohio!!!!!
– Katy Silva: I do believe I am the happiest Voter on this side of the Equator♥♥♥
– Eileen Lena Osborne Muwwakkil: I’m in a red state BUT I’M SEEING “BLUE”
The Associated Press is reporting early voting numbers in Alaska appear significantly down compared to 2008, when 95,600 ballots were cast early, absentee or by fax or mail.
As of yesterday, about 54,100 ballots were cast in person, absentee, online, or by fax or mail.
Of course, 2008 was the year when Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin was on the ballot as the vice presidential running mate to Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain.
There’s a possibility that Southeast could lose its Native representation in the Legislature.
Angoon Democrat Albert Kookesh has all along said his chances of beating Sitka Republican Bert Stedman are slim. Both are incumbent senators, but the new Senate District Q has more of Stedman’s old district than Kookesh’s.
Haines Republican Bill Thomas says he expects a close count and at times has positioned himself as the underdog in the race. He faces a strong challenge from newcomer and Sitka Democrat Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins. The new House District 34 combines Sitka, which has half the population, with Haines and smaller communities, where Thomas is better known.
Thomas and Kookesh are Tlingit. Both also serve on the Sealaska regional Native corporation’s board of directors. Kookesh is chair.
Here’s some Alaska Senate factoids:
– There are 20 members
– The geographic lines of each Senate district correspond to two adjacent House districts.
– Each senator represents about 35,512 people, plus or minus 5 percent.
– Terms are 4 years, but since this election is coming as a result of redistricting, half of the senators’ terms will expire in 2014.
Here’s the contested Southeast races:
– Senate District Q, most cities outside Juneau: Angoon Democrat Albert Kookesh vs. Sitka Republican Bert Stedman. Both are incumbents.
– House District 34, Sitka, Haines, Angoon, Hoonah, Craig, Metlakatla, other villages: Haines Republican Bill Thomas vs. Sitka Democrat Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins. Thomas is an incumbent.
– House District 33, Wrangell, Ketchikan, northern POW Island: Wrangell Republican Peggy Wilson vs. Ketchikan Democrat Matt Olsen vs. independent Republican Kyle Johansen. Wilson and Johansen are incumbents; Wilson has party support.