This was a much more interesting race when there were four combatants in the Republican primary. Then two, Larry Wood and Nancy Campbell, dropped out. That leaves Palmer Mayor DeLena Johnson running against Palmer City Councilman Richard Best.
Technically there is a non-Republican in the race, Bert Verrall, a Non-Partisan. His only financial support is from IBEW. That won’t be anywhere close to enough in this staunchly Republican area.
Among Best and Johnson, both have real reasons to believe they are on the path to victory.
For Best, he clearly has the support of most of the conservative establishment in the Palmer area including Sen. Bill Stoltze, Senator Charlie Huggins, the local contingent of Americans For Prosperity, and the Alaska Republican Assembly. He has also been endorsed by the Alaska Republican Party’s district 11 leadership. That is a good deal of base support for a Republican primary candidate.
Johnson has her own impressive set of backers. She has touted endorsements from Republican Anchorage Mayors Rick Mystrom, Dan Sullivan, and Tom Fink. Interestingly, though, Johnson is playing for voters across the political spectrum as is evidenced by this ad where she mentions support from Kenai Borough Mayor Mike Navarre, a Democrat. The sound of the ad feels subliminally coded to appeal to unions, without ever saying anything to indicate it.
In terms of money, Johnson has a lot more campaign cash, $53K, than Best does, $12K. Most of that came from Johnson herself, so it isn’t as much a measure of her support in the community as her commitment to winning. It does mean, however, that Johnson will have way more radio, TV, and online ads to get her message out.
Because of Johnson’s wider support base and financial advantage we are going to rate this race leaning towards her.
We’d caution against too much celebration by Johnson or her supporters. This race feels close and Best is putting in the effort and commands a base of support that could tip things his way in a hurry.
Check back on election day. This is a race we could easily move based on the last week or even last 72-hours of campaign activity.
Republican Primary Rating: Lean Johnson
General Election Rating: Likely Republican
***Note: Race ratings are given on a patent-pending scale of Toss-up, Lean, Likely, Solid.***