Politics

Campaign roundup: What’s happening in Alaska’s elections for Senate, House, governor and legislature

Early Voting

With primary voting in the rear-view mirror, candidates in Alaska are campaigning in full swing for the November election. Some highlights:

• Democrat Mary Peltola, leading in first-place votes counted so far in the special U.S. House race, returned from a brief trip to visit family in Oregon in time to make a quick trip to Fairbanks and speak at the AFL-CIO conference in Anchorage this week, in an effort to lock in the labor vote. She then traveled to Bethel, her hometown, where she is expected to shoot a campaign ad aboard a commercial fishing boat.

• Republican Sarah Palin continued her streak of no publicly announced statewide events. She posted photos from an event at Sheep Creek Lodge in Willow hosted by Operation Rock the Troops and Battle Dawgs Warrior Retreat for veterans. She hasn’t been available for interviews since Election Day but wrote on Instagram on Aug. 19 that she is “so happy so far” and “optimistic! but not cocky.”

• With results still days away, pundits and pollsters are taking to Twitter to do the math on whether Peltola or Palin will come out on top in Alaska’s first ranked choice election. Conclusion: “genuinely suspenseful.”

[ADN Politics podcast: The past, present and future of Anchorage homelessness]

• Republican Nick Begich, who is trailing in votes counted so far in the U.S. House race, is still on the campaign trail. He made several appearances since election day at the Alaska State Fair and attended the Valley Republican Women of Alaska chili cook-off in Palmer. Kim and Jim Minnery of the anti-abortion Alaska Family Action group on Thursday hosted a pig roast for Begich in Anchorage (event promoted with the line: “let’s eat pork in Anchorage to help Nick cut pork in D.C.!”).

• The final winner in the U.S. House race will likely be announced Wednesday, the same day all three candidates are expected to appear onstage together at a forum in Anchorage. Will the winner be announced before, during or after the event? The Alaska Division of Elections hasn’t said when it will run the tabulation that will reveal the winner.

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[Peltola again grows her lead, but final outcome in Alaska’s U.S. House race is days away]

• U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski leads Trump-backed challenger Kelly Tshibaka in votes counted so far. She celebrated the weekend after election day camping in Eagle River with her husband, Verne, according to social media posts. The two marked their 35th wedding anniversary this year. With the Senate on its August recess, Murkowski is staying busy in-state. She pitched in behind the counter at a Fairbanks restaurant and helped with clean-up at the Kodiak airport.

• Murkowski’s campaign also took its first official swipe at Tshibaka before the paint was dry on primary election results. Attorneys for the campaign sent a letter to TV station KTUU saying that Tshibaka failed to adhere to Federal Communications Commission rules for negative advertising in a recent campaign video. Murkowski’s campaign demanded that Tshibaka’s campaign be denied the lowest advertising rate that is guaranteed to candidates in the 60 days before a general election. KTUU has yet to respond to the demand.

[Chris Bye will likely advance in Alaska’s U.S. House election. But he’s not canceling his fishing trips.]

• Tshibaka is expected next week to share dinner with state Sen. Lora Reinbold of Eagle River and 12 guests, who each must pay $500 for the event. She’ll also make several trips to the state fair during the weekend, where she may run into other Alaska candidates. She was endorsed this week by Dustin Darden — a perennial political candidate in Anchorage who has frequently disrupted local meetings, sometimes by singing religious hymns and wearing a T-shirt from the conspiracy website InfoWars that says “God Bless Kyle Rittenhouse” — who also ran in the Senate primary and landed less than 0.4% of votes.

• Murkowski announced Friday she would participate in six candidate forums across the state before the general election, including ones in Anchorage, Ketchikan and Kodiak. Tshibaka responded by asking Murkowski to participate in five debates, in addition to the forums. Tshibaka herself has committed to participating in two forums so far.

• In his bid for a second four-year term, Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy was well ahead of his two nearest challengers, Democratic former state legislator Les Gara and independent former Gov. Bill Walker. Dunleavy and Nancy Dahlstrom, former commissioner of the state Department of Corrections, headed to Wasilla Airport on Thursday afternoon for a fundraiser hosted by some local Republican luminaries and attended by GOP state legislators such as Rep. Cathy Tilton and Sen. David Wilson.

• Gara is gearing up for a busy travel schedule ahead of the general election with running mate Jessica Cook. They had planned to attend a fundraiser focusing on abortion rights and LGBTQ+ rights on Friday hosted by attorney Caitlin Shortell, but it is being rescheduled. Shortell is the attorney representing the woman who accused former Alaska Attorney General Ed Sniffen of an illegal relationship when she was underage.

• Walker traveled to Fairbanks earlier in the week to attend the Alaska Minerals Summit with Murkowski and Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan, as featured speakers. Walker was back on Anchorage’s Hillside on Tuesday afternoon for the campaign’s first “post-primary” fundraiser. It was said to be a “good crowd” enjoying a great view.

• Announcing that he is going to focus full-time on his gubernatorial campaign, Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce said on Friday that he would resign from office at the end of September after serving in that position for the past five years. He and running mate Edie Grunwald are in fourth place.

• Later in the afternoon Thursday, the Alaska Republican Party is helping to host an event at the Petroleum Club of Anchorage to “take back the state House.” The Alaska House of Representatives has had a bipartisan majority coalition for the past five years, and House Republicans are campaigning hard to form a majority in their own right. Dunleavy is listed as “a special guest” and there is a minimum donation of $100 suggested for the event.

• Fifty-nine of 60 legislative seats are on the ballot due to redistricting. Incumbents and challengers are back on the campaign trail with several hosting events. East Anchorage Democrats held a meet and greet on Wednesday with former Democratic state legislator Harry Crawford serving his “legendary creole cooking.”

• Still confused about ranked-choice voting? The governor’s office put out “a request for information” earlier in the week for media agencies to conduct a $1.5 million media education campaign to inform Alaskans about the new system, “especially in rural areas, to ensure voters can vote confidently and instill trust in the tabulation/results process.” Written responses are due next Friday.

This is the ADN’s first campaign roundup. We will publish these regularly ahead of the November election.

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Iris Samuels

Iris Samuels is a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News focusing on state politics. She previously covered Montana for The Associated Press and wrote for the Kodiak Daily Mirror. Contact her at isamuels@adn.com.

Sean Maguire

Sean Maguire is a politics and general assignment reporter for the Anchorage Daily News based in Juneau. He previously reported from Juneau for Alaska's News Source. Contact him at smaguire@adn.com.

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