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Alaska Legislature

Election Live: Early results show several incumbent Republican legislators behind primary challengers

  • Author: James Brooks
  • Updated: August 19
  • Published August 18

Laura Swensen shows her "I Voted Today!" sticker after voting in the primary election on Tuesday, August 18, 2020. (Bill Roth / ADN)

This blog has concluded for the night.

12:30 a.m.

That’s a wrap for me tonight. The Division of Elections has results from 90% of precincts, and I’ll be back in the morning to update what I’ve written tonight.

If you decide to stay up and watch for incoming results, keep an eye on the remaining unreported precinct in the Eastman-Sumner House race, the remaining two precincts in the Stevens-Cox Senate race, the remaining precincts in the Rauscher-Howard House race, and the Democratic primary in House District 39, where Tyler Ivanoff is keeping things close against Neal Foster. If there’s an upset in the Democratic primary, it’ll be in that district.

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11:45 p.m.

And there it is: With 86% of the vote in statewide, former Senate President Gary Stevens is now trailing conservative pro-PFD Republican John “Bear” Cox by 77 votes with 21 of 23 precincts reporting. Stevens now joins the ranks of the incumbent Republicans hoping for a turnaround in absentee votes.

Two years ago, Sen. Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna, was the only incumbent legislator who needed to hope for a turnaround with absentee votes in the Republican primary. He got that turnaround, but now Ron Gillham, the man who nearly beat him, is on track to win the Republican primary for House District 30.

11:10 p.m.

More than three-quarters of the election-day tally is finished, with 336 of 442 precincts reporting results. All of Anchorage’s election-day results are in, as are most of the results from the Mat-Su and Fairbanks.

In addition to the possible upsets in Southcentral, longtime incumbent Republican Rep. Steve Thompson of Fairbanks has only a 13-vote lead over his challenger. That’s certainly close enough that absentee votes could make a difference.

In Kodiak, former Senate President Gary Stevens leads by 104 votes over his Republican primary challenger with 17 of 23 precincts reporting.

10:30 p.m.

Two-thirds of the election-day tally is now in, and as one Republican strategist texted me tonight, the big winner appears to be Gov. Mike Dunleavy, who would have several new supporters and several fewer Republican skeptics in the Alaska Legislature.

“That’s what I want,” said Roger Holland, who leads Senate President Cathy Giessel by a significant margin.

Holland said he was “flabbergasted” when the first results were posted earlier tonight. The only thing holding him back from full celebration is the thought of the absentee votes that will be counted next week.

As many as 4,300 ballots remain to be tallied in his race, depending on voter participation. Right now, his lead is 1,150 votes, and it would require a phenomenally different absentee trend to flip the result.

But, as Holland said, “It’s Alaska. You never know.”

10 p.m.

The big picture from early primary election returns: Eight incumbent Republican state lawmakers are behind right now, plus former Rep. Gary Knopp, who died in July and will be replaced.

Senate President Cathy Giessel is significantly behind, while Sen. John Coghill and Sen. Natasha von Imhof trail by much smaller margins.

In the House, all five incumbents are behind by significant margins:

• Rep. Chuck Kopp trails by a 1:2 margin against Tom McKay.

• Rep. Jennifer Johnston has less than 29% of the vote.

• Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux has about 21% of the vote.

• Rep. Sharon Jackson has about 41% of the vote in her race.

• Rep. Mark Neuman has a little over a third of the vote in his race.

Rep. David Eastman and Rep. George Rauscher were also challenged in the primary but are leading right now.

9:50 p.m.

The second batch of election results is in, continuing trends that we saw with the first batch: Most incumbent Republicans are losing, some of them by pretty large margins.

There are a lot of absentee ballots still to be counted, and earlier tonight, I talked to a lot of candidates who said they wouldn’t feel safe declaring victory unless election-night votes were 60-40 in their favor. There are a significant number of races beyond that. One of them was Roger Holland. Right now, Roger Holland has more than 70% of the vote in his race against Cathy Giessel.

9:20 p.m.

The first batch of results is in from the state Division of Elections, and in early returns, several incumbent Republican lawmakers have fallen behind their primary challengers. One caveat: Absentee votes — expected to account for a significant chunk of turnout — and many early votes won’t be counted until next week. We’re still combing through the first wave of results, but you can check them out here.

9:15 p.m.

Still waiting for the first results. In the meantime, here’s a spreadsheet of where each candidate’s campaign finances stood at 10 p.m. on the day before election night. Some campaigns also benefited significantly from independent groups backing one side or another.

9:05 p.m.

With the COVID-19 pandemic ongoing, most candidates seem to be forgoing the traditional election-night parties at bars and restaurants in favor of events at home. In House District 7, Lynn Gattis was working on a burn pile at her farm as her opponent, Christopher Kurka, waited for results with his family and volunteers. Both are seeking to replace Rep. Colleen Sullivan-Leonard, R-Wasilla, who is not running for re-election.

8 p.m.

Polls have closed across Alaska on the 2020 statewide primary, and the first results should be posted by the Alaska Division of Elections about 9 p.m. Refreshing that link on a regular basis will get you the most updated information, but we’ll give you the context here.

Tonight’s results won’t mean much for hotly contested races in the Alaska Legislature. Absentee voting has set a record for all elections, not just the primaries, and votes collected by mail won’t be counted until next week. That makes tonight something of an anti-climax.

Senate President Cathy Giessel, for example, is expected to have a tight race against challenger Roger Holland, but she said she’s headed to bed at 9 p.m.

“I don’t think anybody thinks we’ll get a whole lot of results tonight with all the absentee ballots,” Holland said.

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