Alaskans spoke Tuesday night, and they said they wanted Republican Mike Dunleavy for their next governor.
Voters in Alaska House District 31 also chose political newcomer Sarah Vance over incumbent Rep. Paul Seaton to be their new representative to Juneau.
Below is a summary of that race and several state votes.
Alaska House District 31
Paul Seaton, Democratic Party: 2,999 or 40.36 percent
Sarah L. Vance, Republican Party, 4,348 to 58.52. percent
Vance has unseated Seaton and taken the Alaska House of Representatives District 31 seat, according to preliminary results.
In his eighth shot at the Alaska House of Representatives since being elected in 2002, Seaton, the incumbent, ran to retain his District 31 seat against Vance. Despite his incumbency, a substantial campaign treasury and enthusiastic sign wavers on election day, Vance easily beat Seaton.
“It’s pretty exciting. It’s humbling,” Vance said late Tuesday night at a Republican Party victory party at Land’s End Resort.
Reached late on Tuesday, Seaton said, “It is what it is. Voters have a choice. They made a choice. Alaska is going through some difficult times. When you propose solutions to difficulties, there’s always elements people don’t like. That’s the way it is.”
Vance, who has not held public office before and was spokesperson of a divisive effort to recall three Homer City Council members last year, ran on a platform of protecting the Alaska Permanent Fund and repealing Senate Bill 91, a criminal reform bill that she criticized as being soft on crime. She said she thought those issues resonated with voters.
“That’s been some of the two issues that have affected every Alaskan, regardless of party, regardless of financial status, regardless of age, demographics — they hit hard for everyone,” she said. “They wanted a change. They wanted someone who would represent them in their needs.”
In his last election victory in 2016, when Seaton beat challengers John Cox and Beth Wythe in the Republican Party primary, Seaton did not apologize for advocating a progressive income tax to supplement state oil revenues. In this election, Seaton said he continued on that theme.
“That was a campaign I wanted to run, a campaign about solutions, not negative about anyone else,” he said. “…People didn’t like you to propose some way for revenues. … Some people don’t like that idea. Enough elements stack up, and I think that’s what I attribute to it (losing).”
Seaton first won election in 2002 by defeating incumbent Rep. Drew Scalzi in the Republican Party primary, but in this race Vance won the GOP nod and Seaton ran as a nonpartisan on the Democratic Party ticket.
Facing opposition from Republicans who felt betrayed that Seaton had joined a bipartisan and independent House majority, Seaton stayed out of the primary and chose to face the winner in the general election. Scalzi was a one-term incumbent, but Seaton has defeated both Republican and Democratic Party challengers alike and won eight consecutive terms.
With strong support from both District 31 and state party leadership, Vance sought to return the District 31 seat to the Republican Party. Vance also got support from a Washington, D.C., funded political group, Families of the Last Frontier, that spent $17,000 in advertising for her and at least $140,000 in Alaska races.
Vance won six out of nine precincts in District 31, losing to Seaton in Diamond Ridge, Homer No. 1 and Fritz Creek. She was down one vote in Homer No. 1 in preliminary results. Vance also won absentee and early voting ballots. About 850 absentee ballots remain to be counted. Vance won by large margins in Anchor Point, Funny River No. 2, Kasilof and Ninilchik. Anchor Point was her stronghold, with a victory of 631 votes to Seaton’s 210.
Seaton said he will help Vance anyway he can in the transition.
“I wish Sarah the best of luck and best wishes for being able to serve the constituents down here,” he said. “We’ll be happy to get her oriented or anything else she needs to start her service to the community.”
Vance said she and her husband, Jeff, and their family are considering plans about living in Juneau for the session.
“We’re looking to see what our options are and what to do, but we definitely want to stay together,” she said. “…It’s pretty exciting. It’s humbling. I think listening to the people is the best place to start. That’s where I intend to stay.”
Seaton thanked his supporterss.
“I appreciate the support they’ve given me in the past. I appreciate the effort and contributions people on the peninsula have made,” he said.
Seaton, 73, said he will keep working at his commercial fishing job running a fish tender and helping his son, Rand, and his family build a house nearby.
Republican Mike Dunleavy will beAlaska’s next governor. Dunleavy carried 53 percent of the vote Tueday night.
Democrat and former U.S. Senator Mark Begich stood second with more than 43 percent of the vote.
The race for governor in Alaska was never dull. First, it appeared incumbent Gov. Bill Walker and Begich would split the moderate vote, while Dunleavy scooped up the conservative vote.
Then, shortly after Lt. Governor Byron Mallott abruptly resigned last month over “inappropriate comments,” Walker announced he was ending his campaign for re-election. He and Mallott still appeared on the midterm ballot.
Walker then threw his support to Begich over Dunleavy. Walker feared that, if elected, Dunleavy would take funding from the proposed trans-Alaska natural gas pipeline and eliminate Alaska’s expanded Medicaid program, the Juneau Empire reported.
(D) Begich/Call: 102,654, or 43.57 percent
(R) Dunleavy/Meyer: 123,447, or 52.39 percent
(L) Toien/Clift: 4,327, or 1.84 percent
(NA) Walker/Mallott: 4,700, or 1.99 percent
Write-in Votes: 483, or 0.20 percent
Don Young will see yet another year in the U.S. House of Representatives as Alaska’s delegate.
He defeated his challenger running in the Democratic Party, Alyse Galvin, with nearly 54 percent of the vote according to preliminary results Tuesday night. Galvin took over 45 percent of the vote.
Having been in office since 1973, Young is the longest currently serving U.S. House member. He became Dean of the House of Representatives last year after Michigan’s John Conyers resigned.
Dean of Representatives is a symbolic role, with the official duty of swearing in the House speaker after elections, and otherwise being responsible for keeping civility in the House.
Young came under scrutiny last year when he called a fellow lawmaker “young lady” and said she didn’t know what she was talking about. The Juneau Empire reported that, during a September debate in Anchorage, Young referred to Galvin as a “nasty woman.” Galvin promptly shared a video of the exchange in fundraising emails.
Galvin, 53, has a degree from the University of California San Diego and is the mother of four. Galvin helped found and currently leads Great Alaska Schools, a statewide group that advocates for education funding. Education was a top priority of her campaign platform.
(D) Galvin, Alyse S.: 107,165, or 45.64 percent
(R) Young, Don: 126,655, or 53.94 percent
Write-in Votes: 981, or 0.42 percent
Ballot Measure 1
Yes: 83,479, or 36.38 percent
No: 145,997, or 63.62 percent
Ballot Measure 1, commonly referred to as the “Stand for Salmon” initiative, asked voters to strengthen current state law regarding development near anadromous, or salmon-carrying, streams.
The measure failed in Tuesday’s election, with 64 percent of state voters casting “no” votes and only about 36 percent in favor, according to preliminary results.
“Though we didn’t win the vote, we’ve built something here that should not be overlooked: a renewed connection to each other and a drive to protect what we love,” Carly Wier, executive director of Cook Inletkeeper and a major sponsor of Ballot Measure 1, wrote in an email. “… Our work on this campaign hasn’t been just about mobilizing for critical mass, but about critical connection, to the landscapes that provide for us and the community issues we all care about for the future of our families. … The art, the outpouring of support, the real and raw emotions that this campaign brought to the surface shows us that this movement is more powerful than any one election.”
The measure proved contentious in Alaska, with money being poured into the issue by both supporters and opponents topping state campaign spending records. Stand for Alaska, the main group opposing the measure, reported $12 million in cash and in-kind contributions, the Juneau Empire reported. Two groups supporting the initiative reported a combined $2.54 million in contributions.
Stand for Salmon would have changed Alaska regulations to assume that all bodies of water in the state are supportive of salmon habitat, unless it can be specifically proven otherwise. The measure also would have required the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to increase the standards to which large development projects in salmon habitat areas are held.
Locally, voters had opinions across the board when it came to candidates and issues like Stand for Salmon. Homer resident Charles Anderson said that while he is against development projects like the Pebble Mine, he voted “no” on Ballot Measure 1 because he felt it is too broad in its reach.
“I don’t think it stood for salmon,” he said. “I’m against Pebble Mine. … I was talking to somebody the other day, and they said … what a lot of these companies want to do … they want to privatize the profits, and socialize the risk. They want to keep all the profit, yet the rest of us are standing around, we’re the ones paying for it after it all goes south. So I’m not for Pebble Mine, I’m not for those sort of things.”
Anderson said he asked his friends on both ends of the political spectrum what they thought of Ballot Measure 1, and found not many of them had read it, so he read it himself.
“In their desire to address the Pebble Mine type things, they broadened it so wide that I can even dig a ditch on my own property,” he said. “… I’m all for salmon and conservation, but that bill did not do it at all.”
Steven Rich, on the other hand, said he voted in favor of Stand for Salmon to protect the industry that brings in billions of dollars. He and several friends of his all fish in Kachemak Bay.
“I love salmon, for one, and also I would say, it’s a billion dollar industry yearly, returning,” he said. “… I also just think that there’s too many outside interests. You know, the money.”
Homer resident Douglas Tuttle echoed those sentiments.
“I believe in protecting the environment and the salmon runs over one entity making money,” Tuttle said of why he voted “yes” on Stand for Salmon. “I think the whole state benefits from the salmon, and I just don’t think it’s right for one business to capitalize on that.”
Homer resident Jesse Bolt said he voted in favor of Stand for Salmon because, while it might cause issues in its implementation at first, he said he believes it’s in the state’s best interest.
“It’s going to be one of those things where it’s going to seem like a terrible idea for the first couple of years, and then maybe things might improve after that,” Bolt said.
When it came to the governor, Anderson voted for Dunleavy because he doesn’t align with the Democratic Party.
“I don’t like the directions that the Democrats want to take it,” he said. “Their consideration is, you know, yeah we got money problems, but instead of seeing what we can cut and really trimming the belt — and we all know they can piss away our money quicker than we can, so I’d rather have my own and piss it away on my own instead of having them do it.”
Allen Degraffenried said he voted Republican on all issues because it “takes the guesswork out of it.”
Tuttle, on the other hand, voted for Begich.
“I think it’s time for a change,” he said.
So did Rich.
“Truly, the lesser of two evils,” he said. “Nobody better. I don’t like SB91, but I don’t like the fiscal plan of anyone on the Republican side.”
More locally, voters also seemed split between Vance and Seaton. Anderson said he went with Vance because it’s time for Seaton to be done.
“Paul Seaton, that bird’s been in there way too long,” he said. “And in my view, he’s just for bigger government, and I’m not.”
Tuttle, on the other hand, voted to keep Seaton where he is.
“I think he does a good job for Homer and for his district,” he said.
Rich identified with aspects of both District 31 candidates.
“I honestly don’t think Sarah Vance has a leg to stand on in the sense that, the Republican party is doing all the talking, she hasn’t said s***,” Rich said. “I like her stance on SB91 personally, because I think that’s a terrible law that’s not taking it out on the state fiscally but on a social level, where people are losing all their stuff.”
Seaton’s experience on the House Finance Committee swayed Rich’s vote.
“He’s got his thumb on the pulse of where it (the state) should be going financially,” he said. “And Sarah Vance, she got driven into the ground like a tent spike the last time she ran for city council, so why am I going to elect her … if she can’t help out civically locally, then why would she go to the state to express my voice?”
By many accounts, voter turnout on the lower Kenai Peninsula was strong.
“This is the first time I’ve ever had to stand in line,” said Dana Stabenow Tuesday morning at the Diamond Ridge precinct at the Homer Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center.
Turnout also was strong at Homer City Hall.
“It was really busy this morning,” said Homer City Clerk Melissa Jacobsen. “It was really really busy during absentee voting. It was crazy busy. … It’s been a really good turnout overall.”
Jacobsen said in early voting, more than 1,500 people voted in 15 days. On the first day 170 voted, with an average of about 100 a day, she said. On Monday almost 300 voted.
Early voting at city hall had a minor glitch on Monday morning when a state poll worker mistakenly gave seven voters from District 31 ballots ballots for District 30, said Samantha Miller, communications manager for the Alaska Division of Elections. To accomodate people visiting from outside the district who want to vote, Kenai Peninsula Borough early voting locations have ballots for all the peninsula districts.
Shannon McBride, one of the people voting then, said she noticed the error when a man in the room said he couldn’t find his candidate on the ballot. The poll worker quickly replaced the wrong ballots and marked them as spoiled.
“It was corrected even before I got the ballot,” McBride said. “It was clearly not intentional. … It was just a mistake.”
Poll workers and Jacobsen tracked down the people who had voted incorrect ballots, and they all came back and voted District 31 ballots.
By about 1:50 p.m., 610 voters had cast their ballots at Homer City Hall, where residents living within city limits voted. Council member Heath Smith was there, along his daughter, who also voted, and his son. When asked why he felt it important to bring his children along to the polls, Smith said it’s “because this is what it’s all about.”
“The more active they are, the more of a difference they can ultimately make,” he said of his children.
Tuesday also marked a first for many new voters, including Brenna McCarron, 18, who voted for the first time at the Diamond Ridge Precinct accompanied by her father, Jim McCarron. When her dad announced it was her first time voting, the people standing in line with her applauded. Brenna’s twin sister, Ali, also voted for the first time.
As of Election Day, the Division of Elections received 1,711 absentee ballots for District 31, of which 1,053 were counted, Miller said. There were 523 early votes cast and 333 were counted. That leaves a potential 848 absentee and early votes to be counted.