Most incumbents do well in Southeast primaries

I voted sticker
Secrecy folders for ballots and “I Voted” stickers at a polling place in the State Office Building for early and absentee voting, Aug. 15, 2016. (Photo by Jeremy Hsieh/KTOO)

Tuesday’s primary election was pretty low-key in Southeast Alaska. The real battle for state House and Senate candidates will come during the general election. But a few trends emerged.

The region had no primary match-ups. So, ballots showed only one candidate per race, or in some cases, none.

Primaries up north had more action. And some say they show a more conservative, anti-incumbent drift.

But political analyst Christopher Clark, who previously worked as a journalist and a legislative aid, said it’s not that simple.

“You can draw some speculation from each of the races. But each one has its own little explanation or cause for what happened,” he said.

Southeast results show incumbents polled stronger than their challengers in two of the region’s competitive races.

One is Juneau’s House District 34, which includes the Mendenhall Valley and neighborhoods to the north.

Incumbent Republican Cathy Muñoz got about 54 percent of the total vote, while Democratic challenger Justin Parish won about 46 percent. That’s based on a bit more than 1,550 votes cast on both parties’ ballots.

Southeast Alaska's House districts are 33, 34, 35 and 36. The Senate districts, which each include two House districts, are Q and R. (Map courtesy Alaska Redistricting Board)
Southeast Alaska’s House districts are 33, 34, 35 and 36. Senate districts are Q and R. (Map courtesy Alaska Redistricting Board)

The margin was much smaller in House District 35, which includes Sitka, Petersburg, Craig, Hoonah, Pelican, Angoon and Kake.

Incumbent Democrat Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins got just short of 51 percent of the votes. Republican challenger Sheila Finkenbinder won a little more than 49 percent. In all, just below 1,300 ballots were cast.

Clark said those and other competitive races will hang on candidates’ positions on the state budget crisis.

“This is the first step toward a fiscal plan. The primary was the first step. Because how you vote will shape what can get passed in the Legislature,” he said.

The third competitive race is House District 36, which includes Ketchikan, Wrangell and southern Prince of Wales Island. But the primary election gives no indication of how the candidates stand up against each other.

Incumbent Dan Ortiz wasn’t on the ballot, because he’s an independent, with no party primary. Constitution Party candidate Kenneth Shaw wasn’t on a primary ballot either.

Republican challenger Bob Sivertsen won all 860 primary votes. All three candidates live in Ketchikan.

Clark said the three-way race could help Ortiz, who caucuses with Democrats.

“And it can be argued that Ken Shaw, the ultraconservative, arguably, from the Alaska Constitution party, very well could take votes away from the Republican,” he said.

Two other incumbents ran unopposed in the primary and face no competition in the general election.

One is Sitka Republican Bert Stedman, who represents Senate District R. It includes his hometown, Ketchikan, Petersburg, Wrangell, Prince of Wales island and most Southeast villages. His primary vote count was just below 1,650.

The other is Capital City Democrat Sam Kito III, who represents House District 33. It includes downtown Juneau, Haines, Skagway and Douglas. His primary vote count was a bit over 1,300.

The candidates have just short of three months before the general election. Clark said they have a lot of work to do.

“It’s an old bromide, but it works. All politics is local and those who knock on doors tend to win. So the fundamentals still apply today, as they did yesterday and will tomorrow,” he said.

Five Southeast legislative seats are on the general election ballot. The sixth, Senate District Q, is not. The incumbent, Juneau Democrat Dennis Egan, is in the midst of a four-year term.

Like what you just read? KTOO news stories are member supported. Support your community news source today. Donate to KTOO.
Site notifications
Update notification options
Subscribe to notifications