Alaska Legislature

Snyder, Pruitt are separated by 56 votes as vote-counting continues in tossup races for Alaska Legislature

Two years after defeating Democratic challenger Liz Snyder by 181 votes, Rep. Lance Pruitt, R-Anchorage, is in an even closer race against Snyder this year.

As the Alaska Division of Elections counted absentee ballots Wednesday night, Pruitt led Snyder by 56 votes with 792 votes uncounted.

By phone, Pruitt joked about being referred to as “landslide Lance” but remained confident that he will win in the final count. Snyder, eating dinner with her family, said she was watching the results online like everyone else.

“Still plenty more to go,” she said by text message.

About 355,000 Alaskans voted in this year’s election, and 289,185 ballots had been counted by Wednesday night. Counting will continue through Nov. 18, the deadline in state law. Additional absentee ballots may arrive as late as that date and still be counted under certain circumstances.

As of Wednesday night, Republicans had solid leads in 19 of the 40 seats in the Alaska House of Representatives. Democrats are ahead in 14. Independents are leading in four, and three races — including the Pruitt-Snyder contest — are too close to call.

Eleven of the Alaska Senate’s 20 seats are up for election this year, and few races are close. In South Anchorage’s Senate District N, Republican Roger Holland leads Democrat Carl Johnson 54% to 41% in the race to replace Senate President Cathy Giessel. The two men are separated by 2,002 votes, with over 6,500 to be counted.

That Senate district includes House District 28, where Republican James Kaufman leads independent candidate (and Anchorage Assemblywoman) Suzanne LaFrance, 60% to 35%. Despite that lead, it remains undecided because only 6,770 votes have been counted in that district, and there are nearly 5,900 uncounted ballots.

On the other side of Anchorage, House District 15 is the third tossup House seat. There, Republican David Nelson leads Democrat Lyn Franks by 116 votes, with 495 to be counted. That race will determine who replaces Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux, R-Anchorage.

Several incumbent Democratic state lawmakers trailed on Election Day, but as absentee, questioned and early votes have been tallied, all appear on track for reelection.

In Anchorage’s House District 25, independent Calvin Schrage is almost certain to defeat Republican incumbent Rep. Mel Gillis. This is the only seat so far where political control is likely to change.

Schrage leads Gillis by 369 votes, with 558 to be counted. Gillis would have to win so many of the remaining ballots to defeat Schrage that a victory is not likely, given that other late-counted ballots have favored Schrage.

“We feel like we’ve won this, but we’re going to wait for a formal declaration,” Schrage said on Wednesday.

Gillis, hunting in Idaho, wasn’t available to talk on Tuesday or Wednesday, his campaign manager said, but would concede if he still trails when all votes are counted.

Though an independent, Schrage said he is “pretty well committed” to caucusing with Democrats in the House.

Wednesday’s results revealed an error in a prior count for Fairbanks House District 4. On Tuesday, elections officials incorrectly reported 10,810 votes for the district. The actual count was 10,080 votes. The error did not change the result.

“We found this anomaly during our review of the unofficial results from yesterday and it was corrected with today’s reporting,” the division said by email when asked about the discrepancy.

Asked how the error occurred and how it was detected, the division said it was investigating.