Incumbents Murkowski and Dunleavy leading in Alaska primaries

Governor Mike Dunleavy answers the speaker on the phone about waiting for election results at Dunleavy’s main headquarters on Fairbanks Street on Aug. 16, 2022. (Photo by Mizelle Mayo/Alaska Public Media)

Updated — Aug. 18, 8:32 a.m.

Initial results Tuesday showed U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski very narrowly leading in the primary race to keep her seat and Gov. Mike Dunleavy with a lead in his race.

Murkowski’s lead has since widened slightly, with 44% of ballots cast to Tshibaka’s 40% as of Wednesday night, when about 80% of votes had been counted.

In this pick-one primary, the top four vote-getters advance to the general election on Nov. 8. 

Democrat Pat Chesbro is third, with 6.2% of the vote. Republican Buzz Kelley is in fourth with 2.2%.

Murkowski, a moderate Republican, is facing a well-funded challenge from Tshibaka, a former commissioner of the Alaska Department of Administration. Tshibaka has the endorsement of former president Donald Trump, who has publicly directed ire at Murkowski for being one of a handful of Republican lawmakers to vote for his impeachment in 2021.

Murkowski has far out-fundraised Tshibaka, with $7.5 million in campaign contributions as of last month, compared to Tshibaka’s $3.3 million.

In a statement shortly after results were posted, Tshibaka sounded encouraged by the close race. 

“Voters have clearly indicated that it’s time for a change in our representation in the Senate,” she said. 

In the race for governor, early results have incumbent Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy leading the primary at 42% of ballots cast.

Dunleavy is followed by independent former governor Bill Walker and Democratic former state representative Les Gara, who each have about 22% of the vote.

Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce is in fourth place with about 7% of ballots cast.

Dunleavy, Walker and Gara were expected to land in the top three for the gubernatorial race. Pierce and Wasilla Rep. Christopher Kurka meanwhile vied for fourth place. Both candidates say they are running to the right of Dunleavy.

Reached by phone late Tuesday night, Dunleavy said he’s looking ahead to campaigning for the November general election.

“We’re pretty happy with the results,” he said. “But this is just the primary. The real race really starts here tomorrow, so we’re not going to take anything for granted.”

In a statement late Tuesday night, Walker said he believes he and Drygas are still on track to amass enough general election votes to defeat Dunleavy.

Gara said he expected to be neck-and-neck with Walker. He thinks Democratic voters will turn out in greater numbers in November and emphasized that he’s the only pro-choice candidate in the race.

“I think in ranked choice voting, with our first place votes, and then the second place votes that come from the Walker voters. I think that’s how we get over 50%,” Gara said Tuesday night.

Volunteers explain the double sided ballots at the Alaska State Museum polling place on Aug. 16, 2022 in Juneau. (Photo By Paige Sparks/KTOO)

Dunleavy, Walker and Gara were expected to land in the top three for the gubernatorial race. Pierce and Wasilla Rep. Christopher Kurka meanwhile vied for fourth place. Both candidates say they are running to the right of Dunleavy.

All but one of the 59 state legislative races included four or fewer candidates. That means in nearly every state House and Senate race, all candidates will advance to the general election.

The exception is the election in Fairbanks House District 35. Early results for the district show Democrat Ashley Carrick, Republican Kevin McKinley, Republican Ruben McNeill Jr. and nonpartisan Tim Parker will advance to the general, while Alaska Constitution Party Kieran Brown will not.

Absentee ballots have another 10 days to arrive and be counted. The state expects to certify final results on Sept. 2.

This story has been updated to include comment from Dunleavy, Walker and Gara as well as the latest numbers from the Division of Elections.

Alaska Public Media

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