“I Voted” stickers wait on a table in the Kachemak Community Center for voters to pick them up Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020 in Kachemak City, Alaska. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)

“I Voted” stickers wait on a table in the Kachemak Community Center for voters to pick them up Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020 in Kachemak City, Alaska. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)

Rep. Vance, Sen. Stevens elected to another term

Both incumbents won in local Alaska House, Senate races

Rep. Sarah Vance (R-Homer) has won reelection to the District 31 seat in the Alaska House of Representatives, while Sen. Gary Stevens has been elected to another term in the Alaska Senate in District P.

The race is final now that the Alaska Division of Elections finished counting absentee, early and questioned ballots from House District 31 on Saturday afternoon. Vance’s challenger, former Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly President Kelly Cooper, conceded on Saturday with a statement published on her official campaign Facebook page.

There are no outstanding received ballots left to count. However, a small number of additional absentee ballots may continue to trickle in for those districts, as the deadline for them to be received by mail from outside the state is Nov. 18.

Vance earned 6,468 votes, or 54.2%, compared to Cooper’s 5,434 votes, or 45.6%. There were 23 write-in votes in the District 31 race.

District 31 had 6,625 absentee ballots that were accepted in full, and another 116 that were partially accepted. Those ballots included those turned in by mail, by fax, and online, as well as special needs ballots. District 31 also had 53 early ballots and 146 questioned ballots that were accepted in full. There were 160 partially accepted questioned ballots.

According to division results, Cooper earned 3,808 of District 31’s absentee votes, while Vance received 2,624.

Reached by phone Saturday, Vance said she was very pleased she was able to maintain the lead she gained early on after Election Night. When in-person Election Day ballots were counted, Vance led Cooper by about 70% to 30%. Cooper closed that gap to a 54%-45% margin when absentee ballots were counted. In District 31, turnout was 69.10% of registered voters.

“I’m obviously thrilled with the incredible turnout,” Vance said.

Vance said she was happy her campaign was successful considering that she was outspent by Cooper. According to filings with the Alaska Public Office’s Commission, Vance’s campaign raised about $68,200 and spent about $51,000 through Oct. 24. According to APOC, Cooper’s campaign raised more than $113,900 and spent about $95,100 through the same time period.

Now, Vance said she’s looking forward to the next session and getting back to work on issues facing the state — namely, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and balancing the budget. Vance also said she’s still committed to restoring the Permanent Fund Dividend according to the 1986 formula.

“I look forward to continuing to represent this district,” she said.

Vance thanked Cooper for running and for her service to the community. She also thanked the community for being so engaged in the election process this year, despite the challenges that COVID-19 posed to campaigning.

Cooper, reached by phone last Saturday, said the pandemic affected how she could campaign. She does better when she can engage face to face, but she she wasn’t willing to sacrifice people’s safety during the pandemic for that.

“We knew that our district is pretty conservative to begin with, based on its makeup and all its communities,” Cooper said.

She said she feels her campaign went out and gave it a good shot.

Cooper said she’s been overwhelmed by the amount of support she received from volunteers both young and old, and that she’ll be looking forward for ways to serve the community down the road.

“I’m sure there’ll be something that’ll open up that I can help with,” she said.

Both Cooper and Vance called for a return to civility, cooperation and working together within the community.

“There can be all kinds of political drama, but when it comes down to it, we are going to help each other out,” Vance said.

In the Senate race, incumbent Stevens took more than 64% of the votes, with 12,507 cast in his favor. His challenger, Kenai Peninsula Borough School Board member Greg Madden, collected 6,753 votes, or 34.9%. The District P race had 75 write-in votes cast.

District P is made up of House Districts 31 and 32. Stevens carried all nine precincts in District 31, and received 3,948 absentee ballots in that district compared to the 2,263 absentee ballots cast for Madden.

In District 32, Stevens received 5,257 absentee votes to Madden’s 2,478 and carried 10 out of the district’s 14 voting precincts. The precincts where Madden received more votes were Kodiak No. 2, Tatitlek, Tyonek and Yakutat.

Senate District P ended up with a total of 10,594 absentee ballots received by the state and accepted in full, according to the division’s combined ballot count report from Nov. 16. That’s the absentee ballots of House Districts 31 and 32 combined.

For full state election results, visit the division of elections at elections.alaska.gov/doc/info/ElectionResults.php. The election is scheduled to be certified by the state on Nov. 25, after which the division will publish an official ballot summary.

Reach Megan Pacer at mpacer@homernews.com.

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