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From driving to flying to sign waving: How Alaska's candidates spent their penultimate day of campaigning

  • Author: Nathaniel Herz
  • Updated: August 23, 2016
  • Published August 15, 2016

Democratic legislative candidate Dean Westlake of Kotzebue campaigned in the Northwest Alaska village of Buckland on Monday. This stop, at the tribal office, was one in a series of visits he made by chartered airplane to rural villages Monday. Westlake is challenging Barrow Democratic incumbent Rep. Ben Nageak. Courtesy photo by Gene Armstrong.

With 40 House seats and 10 Senate seats up for grabs across Alaska's 570,000 square miles in Tuesday's primary, candidates walked, drove and even chartered a plane to cover their territory on their penultimate day of campaigning.

Here's what a sampling of candidates were up to Monday:

Adam Crum, Republican, Senate District F in the Mat-Su

Crum, a businessman running in a three-way primary to replace retiring Chugiak GOP Sen. Bill Stoltze, woke up early to wave signs with his wife, Colleen, above the Glenn Highway.

They arrived at about 5 a.m., he said, and stayed for almost four hours, which Crum joked made for a romantic morning.

"We enjoyed the sunrise on the Birchwood overpass," he said.

Dean Westlake and Ben Nageak, Democrats, House District 40 that includes Barrow, Kotzebue and northern Alaska villages

Westlake chartered a plane and flew to four different Northwest Alaska villages: Kivalina, Noatak, Buckland and Deering. Tuesday, he'll fly to Noorvik, Selawik, Kobuk, Shungnak, Ambler and Kiana.

Then he'll get on a boat and drive to his family's fish camp in Sonaktaq, which is Inupiaq for "where old bones lie," he said.

"And these bones want to go lie down," said Westlake. "The end is in sight regardless of the outcome — I've done absolutely everything I can to convince people to vote for me."

Westlake's opponent, incumbent Ben Nageak of Barrow, said he spent Monday at a funeral. He's using robo-calls, but otherwise, he said, there's "nothing we can do now."

"We'll see what happens," Nageak said.

Jeff Landfield and Natasha von Imhof, Republicans, Senate District L in south and midtown Anchorage

Landfield, one of three Republican candidates seeking to replace retiring GOP Sen. Lesil McGuire, said he spent all day knocking on doors, with the exception of an hour-long appearance on talk radio.

Landfield was stopping at very specific doors — those of super-voters, the term candidates use to describe people who reliably turn out to the polls.

Landfield was looking for people who have voted in eight out of the last eight elections. "We're talking about super-duper voters," he said.

He's planning an Election Night party at Asia Garden restaurant. "Literally, everyone is invited," Landfield said. "Karaoke, the whole deal."

Neither Craig Johnson nor von Imhof, Landfield's two opponents, answered phone calls late Monday.

But von Imhof sent several photos of herself and supporters waving signs at the corner of Old Seward Highway and O'Malley Drive. Earlier in the day, while von Imhof was spotted sign-waving at a different spot, a moose was among the passersby.

Lynn Gattis, Republican, Senate District D in the Mat-Su

Gattis was waving signs in Wasilla on Monday evening after a busy day. She started with sign-waving, then went to the Big Lake Chamber of Commerce and attended a Mat-Su port commission meeting. In between, she found time to drive a load of tires out to Point Mackenzie, where her husband, Rick, was busy with "legal burns," said Gattis, a farmer.

"I turned him down for cutting hay — I said, 'Rick, I've got to campaign,' " Gattis said. "My husband needs a helper. He's cutting like no tomorrow, hoping that I'm able to come out as soon as the election is over."

Zach Fansler and Bob Herron, Democrats, House District 38 in the Bethel region

Fansler on Monday morning began in the Kuskokwim River village of Kalskag, flew back to Bethel, recorded a robo-call, then flew to Marshall on the Yukon River for meetings with the tribal council, city council and the village corporation. He kept knocking on doors there too, reaching maybe two-thirds of the homes.

On Election Day, Fansler plans to go by boat from Bethel to nearby Kwethluk, Napaskiak and Oscarville, then wave signs at Watson's Corner, the busiest intersection in the hub of Bethel. Fansler will have to lease a boat, since his started taking on water during a campaign trip to Akiachak.

The four-term incumbent, Bob Herron, couldn't be reached Monday. From his campaign Facebook feed, he was campaigning in Kwigillingok and had just been to Kongiganak.

"The weather was great for walking around town and meeting people," Herron posted Monday evening.

Paul Seaton and Beth Wythe, Republican, House District 31 on the Kenai Peninsula

Seaton, the incumbent, appeared on a radio program Monday morning, then spent time visiting people outside of Kenai in the northern part of his district. On the drive home to Homer, he said he spent a couple of hours waiting in a two-mile line of traffic while contractors repaired a downed power line.

"I door-knocked on some car doors — everybody was stuck," he said.

Seaton said he also spent time "answering phones and talking with folks."

Asked how she spent Monday, one of Seaton's GOP primary opponents, Beth Wythe, responded: "Working."

Wythe works full-time as a manager at Homer Electric Association. She said she was spending Monday night preparing for Tuesday and plans to hold an after-party at her campaign office.

— Dispatch News reporter Lisa Demer contributed from Bethel.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of the headline on this story said that a candidate was burning tires in advance of the primary election, but it was an incorrect characterization — there was no reference to tire burning in the story itself.

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