A challenger who came close to knocking off a powerful senator in a Republican primary race on the Kenai Peninsula said Friday he plans to try again, this time as a write-in candidate in the November general election.
Ronald Gillham, an oilfield worker, won 49 percent of the Aug. 21 vote against Senate Majority leader Pete Micciche, R-Soldotna, receiving 2,872 votes to Micciche's 2,944.
After the win, Micciche had a clear path to victory in the Nov. 6 general election, with no other parties fielding candidates.
But in a statement Friday, Gillham said he's been approached by hundreds of residents from Senate District O, urging him to continue his "quest" to beat Micciche.
The race was marked by anger over Micciche's decision to help close the state deficit using some earnings of the Permanent Fund Dividend, reducing dividend checks. Micciche also voted for the unpopular Senate Bill 91, a crime-reform measure many Alaskans blame for putting criminals on the street instead of jail.
Micciche said late Friday he was confused by the announcement, saying Gillham had congratulated him for winning, twice.
"I am the nominee and the party has made it perfectly clear they are behind me due to the results of the decision by Republican voters," Micciche said.
Micciche said he's not taking anything for granted, and has been reaching out to opposing voters to learn how he can better serve them.
He has also said he would not rest until he'd helped implement an improved criminal justice system that would protect the public better than ever before.
"I know many have requested that he respect the party process and I hope he'll reconsider in the coming weeks," Micciche said.
Gillham said in a statement he'll continue his fight to repeal the crime-reform measure, and reinstate dividends to their full amounts.
"Therefore at this time I want to let the people know that I have heard you and it is because you have voiced your concerns for change that I now announce that I will continue forward with a write-in candidacy," Gillham said.