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Primary Night at Election Central

Election Central is one of those weird Alaska traditions that make this state and it’s political life all the more interesting. It’s a spot where candidates can come talk to the local media, and where regular folks and politics wonks and candidates and staff can watch the returns pour in on all the races. And where there’s booze. Frankly, every state should have one, and much praise to The Anchorage Daily News and the Alaska Landmine for making it happen. This year, the festivities occurred at the Dena’ina Center in downtown Anchorage.

There was some very strict totally-volunteer security happening at the entrance. Luckily I passed so I didn’t have to frisk myself, which might have been awkward.

Generally speaking, when an individual campaign is doing well, the candidate and his/her revelers and supporters will march to Election Central with signs and balloons and do a victory lap. Which is exactly what made last night so strange as you’ll see.

The hottest races in Alaska this year will be the three-way race for Governor, and another attempt to unseat Don Young in Congress.

GOVERNOR:

Bill Walker, the Independent incumbent (who had the backing of the Democratic Party last year) earned the right to be on the primary ballot after a lawsuit to allow Independent candidates to appear alongside Democrats. So there he was, ready to go. And then an actual Democrat got in the race – former Assemblyman, Mayor of Anchorage, and US Senator Mark Begich – a powerhouse of an opponent. The winner, Walker or Begich stood to face Mike Dunleavy, a staunch conservative Republican, in November.

Then (stick with me) Walker, whose popularity is NOT what it used to be, was pretty sure he’d lose to Begich in a fair fight on the Democrtic ballot so instead of sticking it out, he decided to jump ship. He’d relinquish that hard-fought spot and simply appear on the November ballot without benefit of a primary contest at all. This has created havoc and bad feelings among Democrats. A few still like Walker and have asked the most hyper-qualified Democrat in the state to “step down” from the actual Democratic ballot because he, the Democrat, is being a “spoiler” running AS A DEMOCRAT. Alaska politics. What can I say?

So, some time around 9:00pm, we hear whooping and hollering in the hallway of the Dena’ina Center. This means only one thing – a candidate approaches! And this time the candidate was none other than Governor Walker, and Lt. Governor Mallott who entered the room flanked by dozens of supporters all waving signs.

Mood of the room:

For someone who dropped his primary contest and the entire concept OF the primary like a bag of dirt, there was the Walker campaign waving signs, and carrying banners, and sucking the oxygen and media attention in a room of people who were there for… the primaries.

I won’t go so far as to use the “skunk at a garden party” analogy, but let’s just say it was a little awkward.

It looks like we’re seeing you… NOW.

The amusing moment came when someone called out, “Hey, are you guys winning your primary?” Civilized political heckling. >clinks glass<

The majority of the posse stayed only long enough for the Governor to do interviews with the local TV station, and the panel. Then off they went.

CONGRESS:

In the race for US Congress, Alyse Galvin won the day. She is also an Independent, but decided to keep her name on the primary and have a fair fight for the hearts and minds of the non-Republican voters to see who would go on to tackle fossilized Congressman Don Young in the general election. What a concept – allowing the process to work. And it paid off.

She beat Democratic candidate Dimitri Shein handily. Galvin has a proven track record of activism and has spent years developing positive relationships in Juneau. She headed up the group Great Alaska Schools and somehow kept emerging from the Juneau tank o’ sharks with a smile and renewed energy to keep going. It served her well. And I’m not saying the current year in this state is a bad year to be a Russian immigrant running on “far-left” issues, but … I might be saying that. Dimitri Shein seems to be well-liked among progressives, and it might pay for him to start running for local seats and prove his mettle.

Whatever the reason in the mind of the voters, both candidates ran a fair race, and the vibe of the Democrats is to unite behind the chosen candidate and go full-bore against Don Young who has been firmly planted in his chair since the Nixon administration, embarrassing his home state whenever given the opportunity. Will this year be the magic charm? The polling organization 538 says Galvin has a 25% chance of unseating Young. That may be the biggest threat he’s faced in decades.

Dishonorable mention goes to someone named Carol Hafner who got 15% of the vote. This may sound like a typical losing score for those of you playing at home, but there’s just one problem. Carol Hafner does not live in Alaska. Nor has she ever been to Alaska. Nor did she campaign. The rules state that you have to be 35 and live in the state once elected, so technically she’s eligible.

Of course, since the Democratic ballot is open, and the Republican ballot is closed, results can sometimes be a little off. But this turnout for a non-candidate was big enough that there probably needs to be some kind of examination of how exactly that happened.

Overseeing elections is the job of Lt. Governor Byron Mallott. Actually, other than polishing the state seal, it’s his ONLY job. My sound medical advice to you is not to hold your breath.

 

The “Ballot Bot” needs to hit the pavement and try to get more than an 18% voter turnout. We need a “ShameBot”

STATE LEGISLATURE:

There were some surprises, and a couple not surprising upsets for Republican incumbents.

Peter Micchiche (R-Kenai) may have fallen prey to “Save the PFD” activists who lean more Tea Party than Oil Company on the Kenai Peninsula who have been gunning for the man who currently holds the seat of Senate Majority Leader. Micchiche, who spends a good deal of effort telling people how well-liked he is, trying to be well-liked, and campaigning on being well-liked is apparently not as well-liked as he would like. His rival, Ron Gillham of Soldotna currently has a 12 vote lead, and the outcome will be determined by absentee ballots. Never let anyone tell you your vote doesn’t count, especially in Alaska. The current Speaker of the House, Bryce Edgmon, won a past tied election with a coin toss on a beaver pelt. So, there’s that.

Gabrielle LeDoux (R-Anchorage), the current House Rules Chair, is currently behind in her race which is even closer – just THREE votes. A campaign by the Republican Party which attacks her for caucusing with Democrats in the bipartisan House majority has been actively seeking her replacement. She is not Republicany enough, they say. And anyone who talks to or works with Democrats must go. Cooperation is a dirty word for the party, and “the base” tends to be the group who actually shows up to vote on primary day. If LeDoux falls, it could throw the barely-held-together bipartisan majority in the House into chaos. This one’s a big deal.

Charisse Millett (R-Anchorage) has been both the Majority Leader and the Minority Leader in the State House. She barely hung on by her fingernails last go-around, and this time she took a dive. A veteran and political newcomer, Josh Revak seems to be well liked, and more than a little overwhelmed by his crushing 10-point victory.  “I just hope I can live up to the standards my neighbors in Abbott Loop have set out for me as voters,” Revak said. So do we.

This guy was very happy about Revak.

George Rauscher (R) will hold on to his seat in District 9 which spreads from Valdez to Delta Junction. A very conservative district, this contest shaped up into a gloves-off fight about … reproductive rights. All the candidates fall where you might think, but apparently Rauscher angered the powers that be at Alaska Right to Life by not being extreme enough. The “life begins when you think about having sex” crowd withdrew their endorsement from him, and also didn’t endorse Jim Colver who had held the seat previously and got ousted by Rauscher because HE wasn’t extreme enough, which left former Constitution Party candidate Pam Goode with the endorsement.

 

But apparently, not even this weird and disturbing mailer was enough to convince the masses to ditch Rauscher and he held the seat with a majority of votes in a three-way race. An interesting development, proving that the support from Alaska Right to Life is far less influential than it used to be.

The House District 26 race in which Joe Riggs (former Mad Myrna’s bartender) sent out a hit piece on his rival Albert Fogle for being … GAY (!!!) had an interesting outcome.

Riggs lost. So did Fogle. The one who got the least attention, Laddie Shaw, walked away with the victory. As long as Riggs lost, we’re cool.

The full results of the primaries can be found HERE.

Now that the primaries are a wrap (mostly), candidates will get down to the business of campaigning for victory in the general. Buckle your seat belts because as always, in Alaska, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

The Election Central panel

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