State of the Race: Legislative Races, Day 3 (House Districts 21-30)

Slapped-together illustration by Matt Buxton.

Sorry for the delay everyone, today’s roundup of races includes quite a few rematches so I spent the day running down the rabbit hole of looking up voter statistics from the 2016 general election to see how they’ve changed to today. Surprise, it turned out to be a super big rabbit hole that will, at the very least, translate to a pretty interesting statewide breakdown I’ll have in the next few days.

The takeaway is that as of today Republicans and Democrats make up a smaller percentage of overall voters in every single House District compared to the 2016 general election, according to Division of Election voter registration statistics.

There are some areas where there are more registered Republicans or Democrats, but everywhere those gains are erased by sizeable growth in the number of undeclared voters in Alaska.

Today, we’ll work the rest of our way through the Anchorage House races where there are four races that are set up to be straight-up repeats of the 2016 legislative races. Some could change while others might be more of the same.

Anchorage

Illustration by Matt Buxton.

House District 21: A rematch

Incumbent Rep. Matt Claman is looking forward to the first of three 2016 rematches in today’s roundup. The Democrat will be going up against Republican Marilyn Stewart-Richardson, who he beat by a 4.75 percentage point margin in 2016. House District 21 is on the lower side of Democratic lost ground (the overall registration fell by .37 percent) while it’s on the higher side of Republican lost ground at (1.3 percent).

Claman could potentially be vulnerable when it comes to crime because he was one of the more supportive members of the House when it came to Senate Bill 91, but he also spent much of the last term successfully fixing it through this year’s mini omnibus crime bill that undid the automatic pretrial release and reworked other parts of justice reform.

Hot take: Lean Democrat

House District 22: Another potential rematch

Independent incumbent Rep. Jason Grenn could be headed to a rematch of the 2016 election that saw him beat out sitting Republican Rep. Liz Vazquez in a three-way race. Vazquez is in a Republican primary with Sara Rasmussen, who’ll probably put up more of a challenge than Vazquez’s 2016 primary challenger David Nees.

The race won’t be void of side show-style candidate as Dustin Dardenwho once said the biggest challenge confronting Anchorage is “chilling out”–has filed to run in the Alaska Democratic Party’s primary. Darden finished third in 2016.

If Vazquez wins, it’ll set up a rematch of the 2016 three-way race. Grenn won that race with 46.3 percent of the vote to Vazquez’s 43.9 percent. Darden tallied 9.5 percent of the vote, putting him into potential spoiler territory if the moderate Grenn had come in third.

The party registration for the Sand Lake district has similarly shifted away from the registered parties, but the loss in Republican and Democratic voters is much closer with Republicans at 1.05 percent of lost ground and Democrats having lost .79 percent of their ground. The growth in the undeclared category of voters is pretty middle-of-the-road for the state at 2.5 percent.

Voters likely took a gamble of sorts with Grenn in 2016, and it’s largely paid off with Grenn winning a valuable seat on the House Finance Committee in his first term as well as a sweeping overhaul to the Legislature’s ethics laws to his name.

Hot take: Lean independent

House District 23: Democrat turned Republican

Incumbent Rep. Chris Tuck is back in the race for another term in office. This year he held the position of Majority Leader in the Alaska House Majority Coalition leadership. Outside the Legislature, last year he unsuccessfully ran to be the business manager of the IBEW Local 1547, a job that many said would be impossible to do while also serving in the Legislature.

There’s a two-way primary on the Republican side of the ticket featuring Forrest McDonald and business owner Connie Dougherty.

McDonald ran as a Democrat in the 2016 elections, coming up well short in a challenge to Natasha von Imhof for an open Senate seat. Since then, McDonald has ditched the Democrats and gone on the offensive against many underpinnings of today’s party, leading many Democrats–including Mark Begich–to say they regretted endorsing him in 2016.

Now, McDonald will be going up against business Dougherty in the Republican primary.

Hot take: Lean Democrat

House District 24: Yet another potential rematch

Republican incumbent Rep. Chuck Kopp hit the ground running during his freshman term in the House. He worked with Claman on that mini omnibus crime bill that further cleaned up the state’s criminal justice reform. Still, after carving out a pretty moderate position in the House–having voted for the restructure of the Alaska Permanent Fund–he could be potentially vulnerable to a highly partisan primary.

The permanent fund dividend is certainly a centerpiece of Republican primary challenger Stephen Duplantis‘ campaign (it’s a centerpiece of most campaigns). The winner of the Republican primary will face Democrat Sue Levi in the general election.

Kopp beat Levi in 2016, beating her by a 17.51-point margin. The party registration shifts are in favor of Democrats, but the overall margins are still very wide at 29 percent Republican to 13 percent Democrat.

Hot take: Solid Republican

House District 25: And yet another potential rematch

The race for House District 25 has the potential to be a repeat of the closest 2016 general election race on this list. Democrat Pat Higgins is giving it another go for the seat held by incumbent Rep. Charisse Millett, Republican. Higgins fell 93 votes short of victory that year. Party registration trends since the 2016 general election also seem to favor Democrats, who’ve lost just .65 percent of their ground, while Republicans have lost 1.85 percent of their ground–the third most of any House district in the state. The district also has one of the highest increases in voter registration at 3.5 percent since 2016 with a lot of the registration coming in undeclared voters.

Before we get that rematch, Millett will have to get past Republican challenger Josh Revak, a combat-wounded veteran, in the primary.

Hot take: Toss up

House District 26: A Republican open seat

There’s a competitive primary underway for the Republican nomination for House District 26. The seat was vacated by Rep. Chris Birch, who got the shot to run for the vacant Senate seat left behind by Sen. Kevin Meyer. The race is between Albert Fogle, Joe Riggs and Laddie Shaw.

The Democratic challenger is Hunter Dunn, but demographics seem to heavily favor the Republicans on this one.

Hot take: Solid Republican

House District 27: Another shot

Incumbent Rep. Lance Pruitt is another one of the Anchorage seats Democrats hope they might be able to pick up this year. The race was close in 2016 with Pruitt beating Harry Crawford by less than a two-point margin of victory. This time around, Pruitt will have a primary challenger in Republican Donald Jones (Pruitt won his last primary by a nearly 50-point margin).

Like House District 25, the seat has shifted somewhat in favor of Democrats. They’ve lost about 1 percent of their ground in the district while Republicans have lost 1.45 percent of their ground. Registration in the district is up nearly 2 percent since 2016.

The Democrats are fielding Liz Snyder, an associate professor at UAA.

Hot take: Toss up

House District 28: Oh, wait, there’s another rematch

Incumbent Rep. Jennifer Johnston cruised to election in 2016, passing primary opponent Ross Bieling in the Republican primary after a bit of a row over Bieling’s residence. Bieling was initially rejected for the seat for not meeting the residency requirement, but filed for a second time to go on to lose to Johnston by nearly 15 points. He’s filed to run again, setting up our fifth and final rematch of today’s rundown.

The winner will face marketing consultant and write Amber Lee, who’s the lone entrant into the Democratic primary. Though Lee is a former columnist for The Midnight Sun, we have to admit that the party registration of the district and its voting history will make it a tough race.

Hot take: Safe Republican

Kenai

Here’s another illustration by Matt Buxton.

House District 29: Another open Republican seat, for now

Incumbent Rep. Mike Chenault took his name out of the run for governor before the filing deadline last week. There’s still plenty of speculation of whether or not he would re-enter the race for his seat. Without filing for office, he would need the cooperation of whoever wins the Republican primary as well as the support of the party.

The primary is currently between Ben Carpenter and Wayne Ogle. The winner of that race will face nonpartisan candidate Shawn Butler, who’s running in the Alaska Democratic Party’s primary. The seat’s deeply red and we don’t expect it to be in play.

Hot take: Solid Republican

House District 30: Another term for Knopp

Rep. Gary Knopp doesn’t have a challenger for his seat.

Hot take: Solid Republican

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