In Anchorage House race, losing Republican candidate sues Democratic winner, challenging her residency

A Republican who lost her race for the state House in west Anchorage is suing the Democratic victor, claiming the winner failed to live in Alaska long enough before registering for office.

Liz Vazquez and four supporters sued Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer and Gail Fenumiai, head of the Alaska Division of Elections, last Wednesday in Anchorage Superior Court.

The suit says state elections officials improperly certified Democratic Rep.-elect Jennifer “Jennie” Armstrong as the winner of the election and asks in part “that the judge pronounce judgment declaring that the second-place finisher, Liz Vazquez, won the election for House District 16.”

If plaintiffs succeed at trial, the case would affect control of the Alaska House, where registered Republicans hold 21 of 40 seats, a bare minimum in the chamber. Republicans have held 21 seats since the 2020 election, but internal divides have prevented them from consolidating control.

A lawsuit that expands their majority to 22 would increase the chance that Republicans will take control of the House from the multipartisan coalition that has held it since 2016.

According to certified results released Wednesday by the Alaska Division of Elections, Armstrong defeated Vazquez by 805 votes, or more than 10% of the vote, in a district that includes Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport.

This week’s lawsuit restarts a case previously dismissed by a judge who said it needed to be refiled after the election was certified.

Vazquez and her co-plaintiffs, citing social media posts and fishing licenses obtained by Armstrong, claim the Democrat didn’t become an Alaska resident until after June 1, 2019.

Alaska’s constitution says a resident must live in the state for three years before filing for office, and Armstrong registered as a candidate on June 1, 2022.

“It is well-documented that I moved to Alaska in May of 2019,” Armstrong said by text message. “I look forward to sharing my evidence to reconfirm that I meet the residency requirements. I’m honored that my neighbors have chosen me to be their representative, and I am eager to get to work on their behalf in Juneau.”

Armstrong said she will be declining further comment on the case until it is resolved by the court.

This article originally appeared online at Alaska Beacon, an affiliate of States Newsroom, is an independent, nonpartisan news organization focused on connecting Alaskans to their state government.

James Brooks is a longtime Alaska reporter, having previously worked at the Anchorage Daily News, Juneau Empire, Kodiak Mirror and Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.