The interesting race in House District 31 is the Republican primary. It comes down to a basic mathematical question: Are two challengers one too many for either to get enough votes to take out the incumbent.
Incumbent Rep. Paul Seaton is on the Republican establishment’s hit list. Party insider groups including the Republican State Leadership Committee, Alaska Family Action, and the Alaska Republican Assembly have all weighed in on trying to get rid of the moderate and not particularly oil industry-friendly Seaton.
The problem is Republicans may have overdone their recruitment efforts to find someone to replace Seaton. They were able to talk Homer Mayor Mary Wythe into running. She is a good challenger. The field got a little crowded when former Republican congressional candidate John Cox also heard the call and filed.
That is a problem for the Republican establishment. When people vote in a contest with an incumbent they generally start by instinctively asking if that person should stay or be sent packing. Then the group of those wanting the incumbent gone decide who to support. The more challengers in the race the more they split that segment and the greater the likelihood is of the incumbent winning.
All indications are that Wythe is the candidate of the Republican establishment. She is the one for whom they are pumping money into an independent expenditure group (Wythe Is Right! Seaton Must Be Beaten). So she is the one who needs to get more votes than Seaton to win.
John Cox is a thorn in her side and here’s why. Two years ago there were 3,784 votes cast in the Republican primary in this district. Cox, who is an Anchor Point guy, took 973 votes in this district in his primary run against Rep. Don Young.
Since this is Cox’s home district there is reason to believe those votes came largely from folks who know Cox, rather than those wanting to toss out Young. That means he could retain a lot of those votes in this state house race.
If roughly the same number of people vote in this Republican primary election that did two years ago and Cox only retains about 75% of his congressional votes in the district he would finish with 20% of the primary results. That is a big chunk of people not wanting to vote for the incumbent that Wythe could have. It makes her path to victory pretty steep.
It also means Seaton only needs the support of 40.1% of Republicans in the district to win. That is a pretty low bar for an incumbent that seems well-liked in the district.
For that reason, we are rating this race as leaning towards Seaton.
We will address the general election rating for this district in a different rating.
Republican Primary Rating: Lean Seaton
***Note: Race ratings are given on a patent-pending scale of Toss-up, Lean, Likely, Solid.***