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Alaska Legislature

New candidates emerge in campaigns for Alaska Legislature

  • Author: James Brooks
  • Updated: September 12
  • Published August 31

A "vote here" sign is seen on Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020 next to a cart full of rubber gloves. The state of Alaska began counting absentee ballots on Tuesday, one week after the statewide primary election. (James Brooks / ADN)

Anchorage Assembly member Suzanne LaFrance is running for a seat in the Alaska Legislature after a last-minute candidate switch.

LaFrance was among a handful of late entries and withdrawals on Monday, the last day to make changes to the general-election ballot before Election Day on Nov. 3. Anchorage School Board member Andy Holleman, a Senate candidate in another district, benefitted from those changes: His Democratic opponent dropped out.

The results of the Aug. 18 statewide primary were certified on Monday, and two losing Republican candidates, one in North Pole and the other in Anchorage, have asked for recounts in their districts. Those could take place as early as Wednesday in Juneau.

LaFrance replaced Democratic candidate Adam Lees in House District 28, an Anchorage seat held by Republican Rep. Jennifer Johnston. Johnston, a member of the House’s coalition majority, lost to James Kaufman in the Republican primary, and LaFrance said she was motivated to run after seeing the result.

State law allows a candidate to be replaced up to 64 days before the general election with the assent of the candidate and local or statewide party officials. LaFrance is a registered nonpartisan, but Lees said she fits the district “like a glove,” and conflicting obligations made him a poor candidate.

He had been looking for a replacement since July, when he stopped most fundraising, and LaFrance arrived after the primary.

In Senate District M, currently held by Republican Sen. Josh Revak, Democratic primary winner Anita Thorne withdrew from the race on Monday without naming a replacement. That leaves independent candidate and School Board member Holleman to face Revak one-on-one. Holleman launched his campaign over the summer.

Both Lees and Thorne previously denied that they would withdraw from their races.

Three other changes were made official on Monday after being announced previously:

• In Senate District F, which covers Chugiak and Palmer, former Palmer Mayor Jim Cooper replaced Stephany Jeffers. Cooper is not registered to either party and will face Republican incumbent Sen. Shelley Hughes as well as Libertarian Gavin Christiansen.

• In Anchorage’s Senate District L, independent candidate Jeff Landfield withdrew from the race, leaving Democratic candidate Roselynn Cacy to face Republican incumbent Sen. Natasha von Imhof in the general election. Republican primary loser Stephen Duplantis said in social media posts that he intends to register as a write-in candidate.

• In Eagle River, House District 14 Democratic primary winner Bruce Batten withdrew from the race, leaving independent Mike Risinger to face Republican incumbent Rep. Kelly Merrick.

Two Republican candidates ask for a recount

The results of the state’s Aug. 18 primary election were certified on Monday, and two Republicans have asked for a recount after losing narrowly.

Sen. John Coghill, R-North Pole, lost by 14 votes to challenger Robb Myers, and Connie Dougherty lost by four votes to Kathy Henslee in the Republican primary for House District 23, currently represented by Rep. Chris Tuck, D-Anchorage.

Coghill filed his recount request on Monday, and Dougherty said Monday afternoon that she will request a recount as well.

“After some consideration, I will be taking advantage of that,” she said.

Both recounts will take place in Juneau when scheduled by the Alaska Division of Elections.

The final count in Coghill’s race was slightly different from an unofficial result posted Friday, and the senator said he thinks a recount could tilt things in his favor.

According to statistics kept by the Alaska Division of Elections, recounts have broken a tie or changed an election winner only six times in Alaska since 1958, and no one has overcome a margin of more than four votes.

Coghill previously said that a recount was unlikely to change the result, but in his written request, he said he believes some absentee ballots were postmarked after election day despite being mailed on the day of the election. (Absentee ballots must be postmarked on or before election day to be counted.)

Problems with new voting equipment also could have affected the result, he said.

A spokesman for the US Postal Service did not respond Monday to questions about the postmarking process in Fairbanks.

There are no automatic recounts in Alaska, but any defeated candidate — or 10 qualified voters — can request one. If the race is within 0.5%, the state will pay for the recount. Otherwise, the requestor pays.

A recount request must be filed within five days of certification.

No recount in Fairbanks Democratic primary

In Fairbanks, the Democratic primary for House District 1 was decided by eight votes. Christopher Quist defeated Bennie Colbert, 702-694.

In a written statement, he said he was not planning to request a recount despite the close finish.

“This morning, Bennie called me to congratulate me and let me know he wasn’t going to be pursuing any recount effort,” Quist said.

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