The race for House District 34 is all tied up. Haines Republican Representative Bill Thomas and Sitka Democrat Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins now have 4,054 votes each.
State Division of Elections Director Gail Fenumiai said two question ballots from Port Alexander were counted Friday morning. Both went to Kreiss-Tomkins. He was trailing Thomas by two votes after more than 2,100 absentee ballots were counted earlier this week.
But the vote count isn’t over. Fenumiai said at least 85 absentee ballots will be counted Monday and as many as 128 more could be received in time for the final vote count next Wednesday.
At that point, Kreiss-Tomkins said he anticipates a recount.
“With anything this close it would make sense to have maximum diligence,” Kreiss-Tomkins said.
Thomas agreed a recount is likely.
According to Fenumiai, if the two men are tied after the final vote count, the state automatically schedules and pays for a recount. She said if less than 20 votes – or a half of percentage point – separates the two candidates then the defeated candidate can officially request a recount and it will be paid for by the state. If there is a wider margin, the candidate behind on votes can request a recount, but must pay a deposit.
In the meantime, Kreiss-Tomkins said he’s home in Sitka trying to stay upbeat about the long process.
“We’re just having a whole lot of fun right now just because it’s, I mean this calendar of vote counting just couldn’t be scheduled in more of a maximumally entertaining fashion,” he said. “So we’re pleased to be the source of such quality electoral entertainment.”
Thomas on the other hand, doesn’t see the bright side. He’s still disappointed in the loss of representation for the district on House committees and in leadership positions. Without a clear winner in the race, Republicans assigned committees and chairs without Thomas, who served as co-chair of House Finance the last two years.
“What’s sad is we lost the co-chair of the House Finance for Southeast,” Thomas said. “And I don’t know if there’s any way to recover from that and I don’t we’ll ever be able to.”
Kriess-Tomkins said the ongoing vote count does makes it challenging for him to either move on from the election or make plans for a move to Juneau.
“I’m sort of in the background, having conversations with potential staffing hires, trying to learn ins and outs about legislative approvals and offices, session dates, calendars, that kind of stuff,” he said.
Meanwhile, Thomas said he’s occasionally going to his legislative office in Haines, but otherwise hunkered down at home, awaiting results and working on next season’s fishing gear.
“Right now I’m sitting here tying halibut gear,” he said. “Life goes on.”
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