Veterans Day may have been a holiday for some, but not for state Elections workers, who continued to count early and absentee ballots cast in the Nov. 4 general election.
By day’s end, the independent team of Bill Walker and Byron Mallott still lead Gov. Sean Parnell and his running mate, Dan Sullivan, 117,130 or 47.94 percent of the vote to 113,126 or 46.30 percent. In the U.S. Senate race, Republican candidate Dan Sullivan remained the front-runner, leading Sen. Mark Begich 119,579 or 48.58 percent of the vote to 111,668 or 45.37 percent.
Congressman Don Young also continued his lead over Democrat opponent Forrest Dunbar, 125,410 or 51.42 percent to 99,069 or 40.62 percent.
The counting isn’t over, however. On Wednesday morning, Gail Fenumiai, director of the Division of Elections, estimated there are still 30,000 ballots to be counted.
“Our last day to count is the 19th with a target for certification of Nov. 28,” said Fenumiai.
Since the election, members of the Alaska Senate and House of Representatives have begun organizing for the upcoming state’s 26th legislative session, which begins in Juneau on Jan. 20.
“We’ve got the organization pretty much together,” said Sen. Gary Stevens. “We haven’t appointed all the committees yet. That will happen in December. Right now we have the chairs.”
Kevin Meyer, R-Anchorage, will replace Charlie Huggins, R-Wasilla, as Senate President. John Coghill, R-Anchorage, will remain the majority leader and Huggins has been named chairman of the Rules Committee. Anna Fairclough, R-Eagle River, and Pete Kelly, R-Fairbanks, will co-chair the Finance Committee.
“I’ll be chairing Legislative Council, which is a really great job for me,” said Stevens, who has served on the committee since 2003. “It’s a joint committee, made up of House and Senate members. It’s nonpartisan and is responsible for all of the attorneys, finance people and researchers that work for the Legislature. Our job is to make sure that we support all 60 legislators for the things they need, offices, staff, payroll. I really wanted that job.”
First on the Legislative Council Joint Committee to-do list is the assignment of space within Anchorage’s new Legislative Information Office.
“That’s the first thing that will happen right after we get started. The other thing is the Capitol Building in Juneau. We’re doing major repairs to it to make it able to withstand earthquakes,” said Stevens. “It’s an old building, built in the 1930s, so it’s a long-term project.”
Teri Robl of Homer, who worked for Stevens when he previously represented the Homer area, will once again be working for the senator.
“I’m happy about that. She keeps me informed about what’s happening in Homer,” said Stevens.
Prior to the session, Robl will continue in her current role as staff for Sen. Peter Micciche, Homer’s senator until the next legislative session begins.
Stevens plans to be back on the southern peninsula prior to going to Juneau.
“I’ve never represented the northern part of this district so I’m eager to get up there,” he said.
In terms of election results, Stevens said he is still anxious to see the final outcome of the gubernatorial and U.S. Senate race.
“The major issues all passed,” Stevens said of the three ballot measures. Regarding Ballot Measure 2, an act to tax and regulate the production, sale and use of marijuana, Stevens said he had been asked if his own views would lead him to work against the ballot measure from the Senate.
“I personally voted against it and people knew I was opposed to it, but someone asked, ‘Does that mean you’ll try to kill it when it gets to the Senate?’ Absolutely not. The public voted for it,” said Stevens. “I have no intention of trying to kill it behind the scenes.”
In the House of Representatives, Rep. Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, will continue as House Speaker; Charisse Millette, R-Anchorage, will be the House Majority Leader; Craig Johnson, R-Anchorage, will chair the Rules Committee; and Steve Thompson, R-Fairbanks, and Mark Neuman, R-Big Lake, will co-chair the Finance Committee. Bob Herron, D-Bethel, will be the majority whip. Herron also will serve as the vice chair on the Legislative Council Joint Committee.
“We’ve had four Democrats in the majority for several years and this one’s in the leadership,” said Rep. Paul Seaton, R-Homer, of Herron’s assignment.
Seaton will serve as chairman of the Health and Social Services Committee, “which is exactly where I wanted to be,” he said. “I’ve been working on trying to improve the health of folks in Alaska for a long time, so we’ve got a really good committee and will be looking at going toward a prevention of disease model for health care instead of just spending money treating diseases.”
McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.