Some Alaska Republicans build large leads through Wednesday’s vote count, with counting to resume in a week

Supporters of Republican U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan gather for an election night party at 49th State Brewing in Anchorage, Nov. 3, 2020. Republicans did well in the first day of vote counting, which concluded on Wednesday. But more than 133,000 more ballots will be counted next week. (Photo by Jeff Chen/Alaska Public Media)
Supporters of Republican U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan gather for an election night party at 49th State Brewing in Anchorage, Nov. 3, 2020. Republicans did well in the first day of vote counting, which concluded on Wednesday. More than 133,000 additional ballots are scheduled to be counted next week. (Photo by Jeff Chen/Alaska Public Media)

Alaska Republican candidates up and down the ballot built large leads in Election Day results. And both ballot measures — which were opposed by most Republican politicians — also trailed by significant amounts. But with more than 40 percent of the ballots left to be counted, the outcomes of several hotly contested races remained unknown. 

Republican President Donald Trump is currently leading in Alaska by 28% of the 192,918 ballots counted through Wednesday afternoon. 

U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan is leading in his race against Al Gross by 30%, and U.S. Rep. Don Young in his race against Alyse Galvin by 26%. 

But more than 133,000 absentee and early votes remain to be counted next week. And the state Division of Elections is still adding absentee ballots that were postmarked by Election Day to that total. 

For many Republican candidates for the state’s Legislature, the margins were large. One is Robert Myers, a state Senate candidate for a district that includes his hometown of North Pole. He led independent challenger Marna Sanford by 35% of the votes counted so far, or 4,158 votes, with roughly 5,900 ballots to be counted next week. 

Myers said he expects the margin to tighten, but he doesn’t see the outcome changing. He’s surprised by the count so far.

“I thought we would pull it off, but I didn’t think it would be this dramatic,” he said. “I thought that I would end up with a lead at the end of the night, but it wouldn’t be nearly so big that we’d be able to claim victory so easily.”

His campaign positions included returning permanent fund dividends to the amount under the formula in state law — currently more than $3,000. Meyers said voters wanted change.

“They’re wanting the state to go in a different direction, in large part,” he said.

Seven Democratic state legislators were trailing their Republican opponents on Wednesday, but at least some of them expect that to change once all of the ballots are counted next week. 

Anchorage Democratic Sen. Bill Wielechowski is among those projecting what he says will be a “huge shift” in who’s winning these races as more ballots are counted. He’s trailing his Republican opponent — Madeleine Gaiser — by 207 votes, and there are roughly 5,000 votes to be counted next week in the district. 

Wielechowski said conservative Republicans elected with promises of full dividends without new taxes will face practical and political problems. The size of the state’s deficit with full dividends is more than $2 billion.

“You got to make that up somewhere, and with this current group of legislators that we’re expecting, they’re not going to support additional revenue, and I don’t know where they think they’re going to cut $2.4 billion out of the budget,” he said. “The math just doesn’t add up, unfortunately.”

Wielechowski supports Ballot Measure 1 — which would raise taxes for major oil companies in Alaska. He described the measure as essential to paying full dividends. 

It trails by 29% of the votes counted so far.

And while Ballot Measure 2, which would overhaul Alaska’s elections, is trailing by a smaller margin — 23% — it still faces a significant deficit in votes that it would need to make up. 

While Alaska conservatives did well on Election Day, one cause favored by social conservatives — removing some judges — was not successful. At least half of ballots counted so far favored retaining all state judges. That includes state Supreme Court Justice Susan Carney, who was the subject of a campaign against retaining her.

While the final turnout remains unclear, the combination of early, absentee, and in-person Election Day results appear certain to surpass the turnout in the last presidential election.