New Poll Shows Democratic Contenders For Alaska Governor in 2018

The legislative session shows no sign of ending anytime soon and those interested in running for Governor in 2018 can’t start raising money for another month, but that isn’t stopping speculation about whether the current occupant of the office, Governor Bill Walker, will run again and who might run against him.

Heck, it isn’t even stopping one State Senator from informally declaring he’s already in the race via dramatic budget voting theatrics. We’re all looking at you, Dunleavy.

Lucky for you, our loyal readers, The Midnight Sun doesn’t just engage in idle speculation — we go out and get the hard data to justify that speculation.

With that in mind, we’ll be publishing new polling of where likely contenders in the Democratic and Republican primaries stand as of today. We’ll publish the Democratic numbers today and the Republican side tomorrow.

Before we get to the results, however, let’s get the preliminaries out of the way. The poll was conducted by Harstad Strategic Research, Inc. between March 22 – April 2.  You can see the sample breakdowns here:

Now we can get to how some of the top Democrats performed. The polling model included as potential candidates former U.S. Senator Mark Begich, State Senator Bill Wielechowski, Rep. Chris Tuck, and Rep. Les Gara.

Sure, there are plenty of other Democratic possibilities, such as Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz or former Lt. Gov. Fran Ulmer, but we don’t think they are likely to run and don’t have a problem with them not being in the model.

Our biggest initial reaction to candidate list was to say, “Les Gara, really?” But after some thought, while we don’t see Gara as a real possibility, he does function as a good stand-in for a generic “other Democrat” in the model. That is how we will take his results.

Here is how voters likely to choose the Democratic primary said they would vote in such a contest:

As you can see, if Mark Begich decides to run, no other Democrat stands a chance. Among the rest, it’s a bit surprising Gara does better than Wielechowski, but not terribly. Gara is often the standard-bearer for progressives on the House floor, while Wielechowski can sometimes take positions that irk his Democratic colleagues and the party faithful.

This dynamic can be seen when we look deeper into the numbers:

Once again, if Begich chooses to run, he will be the Dem nominee, period. The data shows that if Begich doesn’t run and Wielechowski does, Bill W. could face a tough road to the nomination if Gara, Hollis French, or someone else from the progressive wing of the Democratic Party decides to jump in against him.

That’s it for the Dems. Tomorrow we’ll share the GOP primary numbers, including how Gov. Walker would fare if he ran on that ticket.