Based on how these three primary races are unfolding and the Alaska Public Offices Commission (APOC) 30-day financial reports from campaigns, TMS is calling all three as likely or solid to go to one of the candidates.
House District 6: Eielson/ Denali / Upper Yukon / Nenana
On paper, Rep. Dave Talerico (R-Healy) has a primary challenger and two general election opponents. APOC reports say otherwise. His primary challenger, Ryan Smith didn’t raise a penny, the Democrat Jason Land took in just $271, and the Independent Justin Pratt doesn’t appear to have even filed a report.
Talerico himself isn’t killing it with fundraising, having only raised a total of just over $9,600. That is enough, however, to show he is seriously running and given how little any of his opponents have done, it isn’t like he is feeling any pressure to ratchet things up a notch.
Because of the lack of activity from any of Talerico’s challengers we are calling both the primary and general election races as “likely” for the incumbent.
Republican Primary Rating: Likely Talerico
General Election Rating: Likely Republican
House District 27: East Anchorage
The race here, such as it is, is in the Republican primary between incumbent Rep. Lance Pruitt and challenger John Zebutis. Pruitt is a young, but well-established incumbent in this district who is networked into the Republican Party establishment and liked enough among his House Majority colleagues to avoid any election problems.
Zebutis would have a steep uphill battle to challenge Pruitt under the best of circumstances, but throw in his pledge to not take any campaign contributions, borne out by his $400 APOC report — entirely his own money, and it means he will not have the resources to challenge Pruitt in any substantial manner.
After winning the primary, Pruitt will face former Rep. Harry Crawford in the general election. That race has its own dynamics worthy of lengthy analysis, as such, we will address that contest in another post after the primary election.
Republican Primary Rating: Likely Pruitt
Senate Seat D: Wasilla / Big Lake / Port Mackenzie
There are no Democrats or Independents in this western Mat-Su race, only Republicans. Wasilla City Councilman David Wilson is pitted against Wasilla State House Rep. Lynn Gattis.
Gattis is the de-facto incumbent in the race, having moved up to the Senate race at the filing deadline after the last minute, but clearly long-planned, retirement of Sen. Charlie Huggins. The manner in which Huggins stepped aside showed he is supporting Gattis. Her APOC reports and campaign activity shows the rest of the Mat-Su Republican establishment, such as former Sen. Lyda Green, is clearly behind her as well. Gattis’ fundraising in 2016 hasn’t set the world on fire, but that is easily explained by the constraints on fundraising by sitting legislators during this year’s legislative sessions that wouldn’t end .
Wilson, on the other hand, has only raised $850 since February from people not named David Wilson or related to David Wilson. That is a very bad sign. Wilson did put in $10,000 of his own money, is an active campaigner, and an articulate young candidate, so he isn’t totally without a chance.
The real deciding factor here is going to end up being name recognition, establishment support, and messaging. As the stand-in incumbent Gattis clearly has a massive edge in name recognition and establishment support. From watching debates between the two, Gattis also understands and articulates the libertarian-conservative tone of the Mat-Su Republican voter in a way Wilson simply doesn’t. She has navigated the state budget issues with a consistent opposition to the governor’s various pushes for new revenue and a consistent refrain — we need to see more cuts before any revenues are even considered — that perfectly reflects her Republican base. Wilson, on the other hand, appears comparatively uninformed on the budget and has no strong or coherent message to push.
Add it all up and Gattis wins by a wide margin.
Look for Wilson to learn from this race and be back as a real contender sometime soon, but this just isn’t his year.
Republican Primary Rating: Likely Gattis
General Election Rating: Solid Republican
***Note: Race ratings are given on a patent-pending scale of Toss-up, Lean, Likely, Solid.***