They’re back. With all precincts reporting, Rep. Paul Seaton, R-Homer, and Sen. Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak, will be the southern Kenai Peninsula’s voices when the Legislature convenes in January.
The big races in Alaska — for U.S. Senate and governor — were still too close to call, however. Those candidates were waiting to make statements until all votes are counted. The state Division of Elections said counting of remaining early votes and absentee ballots would occur between Nov. 14-19, with a target date of Nov. 28 for election certification.
Running unopposed, Seaton claimed 4,772 votes or 97.19 percent of House District 31, with 138 votes going to write-ins.
“It’s looking pretty good for me,” said Seaton, who was at the Egan Center in Anchorage on Tuesday night, awaiting election results with a crowd of others. Noting the closeness in some of the races, particularly the one for governor, Seaton said the mood was one of “just waiting.”
Seaton was first elected to the House in 2002. He currently serves as chair of the Special Committee on Fisheries; is a member of the Standing Committee on Education, the Health, and Social Services Committee and the Resources Committee; and is on the Senate Finance subcommittees for Environmental Conservation, Fish and Game and Transportation and Public Facilities. He already has his staff for the upcoming legislative session. It will include Jenny Martin, Poppy Benson and Taneeka Hansen.
Stevens represented the southern peninsula until 2012. With redistricting and the 7,095 votes or 72.67 percent he received Tuesday from the 23 precincts in Senate District P, the area Stevens will represent when the Legislature convenes includes House Districts 31 and 32. The combined districts encompass the southern peninsula, Kodiak to the southwest and as far as Cordova to the southeast. Stevens was opposed by Robert “Mo” Henrichs, a Democrat from Cordova. Henrichs received 2,628 votes or 26.92 percent.
“I am really pleased at the turnout and at the support I received throughout the district, but particularly from the Homer area,” Stevens told the Homer News. “Having represented Homer in the past and then been away the last two years, it’s really rewarding to have the support from the community. It’s humbling. I’m looking forward to a good session coming up and working with folks in the community.”
Stevens was first elected to the House of Representatives in 2001 and to the Senate in 2003. He served as Senate President from 2009-2012, and is currently on the Legislative Council Joint Committee.
In the hotly contested and reportedly costliest race between U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, a Democrat, and Dan Sullivan, a Republican, Sullivan leads with 110,203 votes or 48.74 percent and Begich follows with 102,054 votes or 45.13 percent. Libertarian candidate Mark S. Fish is third in the race with 8,358 votes or 3.70 percent, while Ted Gianoutsos, with no political party affiliation, is fourth with 4,491 votes or 1.99 percent.
Results for House District 31 followed those of the state, with Sullivan receiving 3,004 votes; Begich at 2,381; Fish at 307; and Gianoutsos with 94. Within the district, however, Begich led Sullivan in the Diamond Ridge, Homer 1 and Kachemak/Fritz Creek precincts.
In July, Homer resident Eileen Becker organized a debate between the three contenders for the Republican’s bid for the U.S. Senate, Sullivan, Joe Miller and Mead Treadwell. She made her intent.
“As a staunch Republican, my main objective is to get rid of (U.S. Senator Mark) Begich. I’m up front about that,” said Becker, who was not available for comment following Tuesday’s election.
Having campaigned for Begich, Tim O’Leary said he was “in a state of shock and recovery” following Tuesday’s election. He criticized Democrats for “not knowing how to communicate” and viewed results of the three ballot measures (see related story, page 1) as “the fascinating part. … Within those resolutions is where the Democrats’ voice came out.”
Sullivan’s resume includes serving as commissioner of the Alaska Department of Natural Resources and the state’s attorney general. He chaired the Governor’s Rural Subcabinet, was the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State and director of the White House National Security Council staff.
In a press release issued Tuesday, Susanne Fleek-Green, Begich’s campaign manager, said, “From Southeast Alaska to the North Slope, every Alaskan deserves to have their vote counted. Sen. Begich is proud to have run the most extensive campaign in rural Alaska’s history and to have stood for the rights of Alaska Natives and rural Alaska. Begich will make a statement on the race after counts arrive from the 70 outstanding villages and when the number of outstanding absentee and questioned ballots is clear.”
Republican Don Young will return for his 22nd term in the U.S. House with 115,848 votes or 51.69 percent, while first-time challenger Forrest Dunbar, a Democrat, has 90,534 votes or 40.39 percent. Libertarian Jim C. McDermott has 16,791 votes or 7.49 percent. In House District 31, Young also led the race, except in the Diamond Ridge and Kachemak-Fritz Creek precincts, where Dunbar led Young.
“To have re-elected him is to the state’s great disgrace,” said O’Leary. “It just blows me away.”
He viewed Dunbar’s campaign as “not really backed by the Democratic party. I’m so disappointed with the performance of the Democratic party overall. They’re a people in search of their shadow. … All you can do is be an optimist and hope for a better result in 2016.”
In what appears to be the closest of all state races, the independent team of Bill Walker and Byron Mallott hold the lead for governor and lieutenant governor with 107,395 votes or 47.83 percent, followed closely by the Republican duo of Gov. Sean Parnell and Dan Sullivan with 104,230 votes or 46.42 percent. The Libertarian team of Carolyn F. “Care” Clift and Andrew C. Lee are a distant third with 6,745 votes or 3 percent of the vote, followed by Alaska Constitution candidates J. R. Myers and Maria P. Rensel with 5,535 votes or 2.47 percent.
“It’s interesting that Walker had kind of a homegrown campaign,” said Larry Smith of Homer, who spent the last couple of weeks in Anchorage helping with the Walker-Mallott campaign. “He worked out of his office with a basic crew of people from Valdez that he worked with for years. It’s touching, really, that people like him so much from down there.”
Voters in House District 31 also gave the lead to Walker and Mallott with 2,748 votes to Parnell and Sullivan’s 2,696. Clift and Lee trailed with 175; Myers and Rensel had 130. Parnell and Sullivan held the lead in the Anchor Point, Funny River No. 2 and Kasilof precincts, with Walker and Mallott in second.
McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.