Alaska Election Day takeaways

Early results for the U.S. Senate race in Alaska
Published: Nov. 8, 2022 at 11:52 PM AKST|Updated: Nov. 9, 2022 at 8:12 AM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - All ballots have been cast in the first general election in Alaska that utilized ranked-choice voting. While some candidates built insurmountable leads in the results posted on Election Night by the Division of Elections, many others will have to wait weeks until the second-place votes of eliminated candidates are redistributed.


In the race to determine who will become Alaska’s governor for the next four years, incumbent Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy and running mate Nancy Dahlstrom carry a strong lead out of Election Night.

“We like these numbers,” Dunleavy said. “We hope they hold, you know. All the precincts aren’t in yet, we’re going to stay up late and watch the numbers but so far we like what we’re seeing and we really appreciate the people of Alaska supporting us.”

Dunleavy has over 52% of the votes with 386 out of 401 precincts reporting their numbers. Dunleavy’s 111,165 votes are more than twice the quantity any other gubernatorial ticket received, and if it stands, would not require an “instant runoff,” using second-place votes to decide the winner when the leading candidate has less than 50% of the first-place votes.

Democrat former Rep. Les Gara and running mate Jessica Cook are in second place with 49,361 votes, accounting for 23.1%.

“It’s been great,” Gara said. “I’ve learned a lot, I’ve gotten to travel the whole state. I think one thing that binds people together is fish and these factory trawlers destroying our fish in Western Alaska, the danger of the pebble mine, people want change. They see the governor on the wrong side of these things and I think it’s time to make sure we make sure our fish come back to our rivers.”

Former Gov. Bill Walker and running mate Heidi Drygas are currently in third place with 42,919 votes, just over 20% of the tally.

“Knowing what I know about what’s happened in Alaska and the opportunities, I can live with not winning, but I can’t live with not making an effort to turn this state around,” Walker said. “We are imploding as a state, I mean our numbers are off the charts. We are the worst in the nation in our economy.”

Former Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce received 9,717 votes, just under 5%.

U.S. Senate

Republican Kelly Tshibaka currently holds a lead of over 3,500 votes over incumbent Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a gap that shrunk as election night wore on — Tshibaka’s lead was almost 10,000 votes when the first batch of results was released.

“One of the things I’ve noticed in our last couple weeks is a huge shift of support even at the doors that are marked undecided or center-left and it seems like almost every door we go to is now supporting Kelly Tshibaka,” Tshibaka said. “That’s just like something I never expected to see and I think a lot of that is because of the work that we have put in in connecting with voters one on one.”

Tshibaka’s 44.3% gives her a slender lead over Murkowski, who has 42.6% of the ballots with 387 of 402 precincts reporting.

“So many of the folks that have helped me have been young Alaskans, just high-energy Alaskans that are giving their all for our state’s future,” Murkowski said. “They’ve really helped me lead and build coalitions that have been good, fun, energetic, so we’re all happy to be on the end of this because it has been a long year but we’re ready, we are ready.”

The big question now is whether Tshibaka can hold on to that lead if an instant runoff election is utilized, which is likely since no candidate is near 50% of the vote. Democrat Pat Chesbro garnered 20,180 first-place votes — about 9.5% — a vote count that could easily sway the numbers in favor of Murkowski once second-place votes are counted. Buzz Kelley, who suspended his campaign weeks before the election, got 6,187 votes, with many believing a large chunk of those will likely go to Tshibaka in the instant runoff.

“We got started late and we didn’t have a lot of money but we’ve done the best we can,” Chesbro said. “We’ve had lots of people support us.”

U.S. House

In the race to determine who will serve the next term as Alaska’s only representative in the U.S. House, incumbent Democrat Mary Peltola gained momentum from her Aug. 16 special general election win to serve out the remainder of the late Rep. Don Young’s term.

“I think just having a real Alaskan message and Alaskan practicality about things and not really boxing anyone in by party or the national rhetoric, I think Alaska is unique and Alaskans really appreciate being messaged to in a unique Alaskan way,” Peltola said. “I’m optimistic. I like to be optimistic and it’s just so fun being with supporters in downtown Anchorage.”

Peltola carries a sizeable lead out of Election Night with 100,538 votes, which accounts for 47.1% of all ballots cast. Republican former Gov. Sarah Palin currently sits in second place with 56,791 votes and Nick Begich is currently in third place with 51,765 votes.

Like the Senate race, the House race could likely come down to what the numbers look like if and when the second-place votes are redistributed. The question becomes can Palin make up the deficit of roughly 44,000 votes when a runoff is implemented? Or will Begich receive more votes than Palin and be the new threat to Peltola once second-place votes are counted?

“Knowing the people that I know working in Division of Elections, I have all of the faith in the world in those individuals,” Palin said. “They’re great people. They probably are labeled bureaucrats but despite that label, they’re good bureaucrats. They do want to ensure voter and election integrity.”

Libertarian Chris Bye received 3,704 votes.

“The numbers have been tightening as the results have come in,” Begich said. “We’re pretty excited about the opportunity to represent Alaska. We knew this was going to be a tight race from the very beginning and that’s exactly what we’re seeing right now.”

Ballot Measure 1

The only ballot measure before Alaskan voters this cycle is the question of whether or not to hold a constitutional convention — a proposition that appears on the ballot once every 10 years. After being dramatically out-fundraised during the campaign season, votes cast in opposition to a constitutional convention total more than twice the amount of votes cast in favor of a constitutional convention.

There are currently 145,183 “no” votes and 62,697 “yes” votes — a percentage difference of 69.8% to 30.1%.

Alaska Senate

The Alaska Senate is likely to see a number of new faces, as well as some more established names as well.

On the Kenai Peninsula, Republican Jesse Bjorkman holds a 572-vote lead on former chief of staff for Gov. Dunleavy, Republican Tuckerman Babcock. Bjorkman has 46.3% of the ballots cast in Senate District D while Babcock has 41.8%. However, the winner of Senate Seat D is almost certain to be a Republican, but each body of the Legislature may end up with a bipartisan coalition when legislators arrive in Juneau to organize.

Incumbent Republican Sen. Roger Holland is narrowly trailing former Senate President Cathy Giessel by just 42 votes — after leading earlier in the night — with all 15 precincts reporting their ballot counts. It is likely that the second-place votes for Democrat Roselynn Cacy — who has 4,431 votes — will determine who wins the Senate District E seat.

Also with the potential to change the balance of power in the Senate, Democrat Rep. Matt Claman leads incumbent Republican Sen. Mia Costello by 139 votes with all 13 precincts reporting. Claman was initially trailing in the tally earlier in the night.

In Fairbanks, Democratic Sen. Scott Kawasaki holds a 383-vote lead over Fairbanks Mayor Republican Jim Matherly with all eight precincts reporting. Republican Alex Jafre received 464 votes.

Alaska House of Representatives

In the Alaska House of Representatives, as many as 10 races are still up in the air as ballots are counted. Using Election Night totals, approximately 20 Republicans and 20 Democrats, nonpartisans, undeclared’s, and Republicans who are likely to caucus with Democrats may be elected to the House. Less than five percentage points separate candidates in House Districts 1, 7, 11, 13 and 16.

In Southeast Alaska, Incumbent nonpartisan Rep. Dan Ortiz holds a 187-vote lead on Republican Jeremy Bynum in House District 1.

In Anchorage, nonpartisan Walter Featherly leads Republican Julie Coulombe by 262 votes, after trailing Coulombe earlier in the night. However, it is likely that the 1,015 votes for third-place candidate Ross Bieling will play a factor when first-place votes for Bieling are eliminated and his second-place votes are tabulated.

Incumbent Democrat Rep. Andy Josephson currently leads Republican Kathy Henslee by just 86 votes with all five precincts reporting in House District 13.

In House District 16, Democrat Jennie Armstrong holds a 464-vote lead over former Rep. Liz Vazquez and has 53.4% of the vote. However, Armstrong’s eligibility as a candidate is being challenged in a lawsuit, as Republican Rep. David Eastman’s is as well. Whatever the result of the votes, the winner of the election in Armstrong and Eastman’s districts may be decided by the courts.

In Fairbanks, Democrat Maxine Dibert holds a sizeable lead over incumbent Rep. Bart LeBon. Dibert’s 2,021 votes account for 47.5% of the ballots with all four precincts reporting. LeBon received 1,303 votes and Kelly Nash received 907. If Dibert prevails, that would flip House District 31 from Republican to Democrat.

However, also in Fairbanks, Democrat Rep. Grier Hopkins trails Republican Frank Tomaszewski by over 500 votes, which would flip House District 34 from Democrat to Republican.