Alaska House primary has the most candidates in 22 years

Voting booth at the Bethel City Hall.

A voter casts a ballot at the Bethel City Hall in 2016. The House primary this year has the most candidates since 1996. (Photo by Adrian Wagner)

Alaska is headed toward an unusually competitive primary in just over three weeks. And that competition is mostly within the Republican Party.

At the top of the ticket, both of the competitive primaries for governor and lieutenant governor are in the Republican Party. There are seven Republican candidates to be governor and six from the party running to be lieutenant governor.

Most of the attention right now is focused on the leading candidates for governor: former Wasilla Sen. Mike Dunleavy and former Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell of Anchorage.

Dunleavy has built up a lead, according to polls. Treadwell is trying to make up ground, arguing that he’s better qualified.

In the House, there are 109 primary candidates running, the most since 1996. Twenty-four of the 29 competitive primaries in the Senate and the House are on the Republican side.

Alaska Republican Party Chairman Tuckerman Babcock gave two potential causes for the interest.

One is the fact that the House had a Democratic speaker for the first time in 24 years.

“There’s a lot of interest and excitement in taking the House back. And that’s generated candidates,” Babcock said.

He said the second cause arises from debates within the Republican Party. One of those debates is over whether to repeal the 2016 law known as Senate Bill 91, which overhauled the state’s criminal justice system. And there’s also been a debate on whether to restore permanent fund dividends to the amount set by the formula used until 2016.

The Alaska Republican Party has voted to take the position that dividends should be restored to the full amount.

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