Alaska certifies final election results, but three state House races face further hurdles

Elections workers double-check the results of Alaska’s Aug. 16, 2022 primary election during a meeting of the state review board on Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2022 at the Alaska Division of Elections in Juneau. (Photo by James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)

The Alaska Division of Elections uneventfully certified the results of the state’s Nov. 8 general election on Wednesday, becoming the 26th state to finalize its election.

None of Alaska’s 62 legislative and statewide races changed leaders as members of the multipartisan state review board examined unofficial results for accuracy, then signed an oath on Tuesday.

All three statewide incumbents — Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy, Republican U.S. Sen Lisa Murkowski, and Democratic U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola — were re-elected.

In the state’s closest race, Anchorage Republican Rep. Tom McKay leads Democratic challenger Denny Wells by seven votes, a slight increase from the four-vote lead he held when final unofficial results were announced a week ago.

The margin is well within the range for a state-paid recount, which Wells must request within five days. Speaking on Wednesday afternoon, he said he had not made a final decision but was leaning toward that request.

Also Wednesday, attorney Stacey Stone said four west Anchorage residents who attempted to challenge the eligibility of Rep.-elect Jennifer “Jennie” Armstrong will refile their case.

Armstrong, a Democrat, defeated Republican Liz Vazquez by 805 votes in the final result, but the four residents — all Vazquez supporters — have alleged that Armstrong did not live in Alaska long enough before registering as a candidate for office.

An Anchorage judge dismissed a prior version of the lawsuit, saying it was untimely and needed to be refiled after the election.

A third state House seat is also subject to legal challenge. Incumbent Rep. David Eastman, R-Wasilla, won re-election with 51.3% of the vote in his state House district, but a Matanuska-Susitna Borough resident has accused him of violating the Alaska Constitution’s disloyalty clause.

Eastman is listed in the roster of the Oath Keepers, a right-wing militia, as a lifetime member, and a lawsuit from resident Randall Kowalke claims that membership violates a constitutional clause that prevents someone from holding public office or working for the state if they belong to (or support) a group that advocates the overthrow of the U.S. government by force.

A trial has been tentatively set for the second full week of December to decide the issue, but preliminary arguments on Dec. 8 could negate the need for a trial.

All three races are significant for control of the Alaska House. Final results show Republican-registered candidates controlling 21 seats in the 40-person House, enough to control the body and dictate the flow of legislation.

It remains unclear whether those Republicans will stay unified or whether divisions among Republicans will cause some to defect to the multipartisan coalition that has controlled the House since 2016 but now doesn’t hold a majority of seats.

In the state Senate, the final results did not result in any changes to the makeup of a 17-member coalition majority that now controls the 20-person Senate.

Last week, a group of Republicans and Democrats announced that they will jointly control the Senate, excluding three more-conservative Republicans from leadership.

The cast-vote record, indicating how Alaskans voted in the state’s ranked-choice elections, is expected later this week, an elections official said.

Alaska Beacon

Alaska Beacon is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Alaska Beacon maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Andrew Kitchenman for questions: info@alaskabeacon.com. Follow Alaska Beacon on Facebook and Twitter.

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