Race Preview: House District 26 (Anchorage, Huffman, Lower Hillside)
Seven-term incumbent Rep. Bob Lynn faces his most serious competition for re-election in quite some time. That challenge comes in the form of primary opponent and former Anchorage Assemblyman Chris Birch.
It won’t be easy, though. Lynn hasn’t received less than 60% of the vote, in either a primary or general election, in his last three bids for re-election and he has plenty of support from labor groups this time around.
The interesting part of this primary battle is that the question everyone appears to be asking is not who wants it more? But is either guy working for it at all?
Checking-in with several political insiders on this race, it was surprising how many of them made the same observation we’ve made, Mr. Birch appears to be spending a lot of his evenings not knocking on doors, but rather at campaign events… for other candidates. In fact, if you’ve attended just about anything going on in Anchorage for Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s re-election campaign you’ve probably run into Birch and his former assembly colleague Jennifer Johnston. That isn’t a great sign for candidates in competitive races.
An ad paid for by labor groups gets nastier, saying Birch “developed a reputation among assembly members for not working very hard.” Ouch.
Bob Lynn Ad Attacking Chris Birch
If one questions Birch’s focus or productivity, they’d have to wonder if Lynn is running at all. Check out Lynn’s campaign website and Facebook page. Pretty nice, right? The problem is those aren’t actually Bob Lynn’s pages. They are pages created to support him by labor-funded group Alaskans for Bob Lynn.
There doesn’t appear to be a Bob Lynn campaign Facebook page and it took some digging, but we found Lynn’s actual campaign website here. It appears the site hasn’t been updated in years.There is no mention of the state’s budget crisis, the Governor’s veto of PFD, or anything else from the last two years.
And then there is the fact that of all the candidates we’ve contacted to talk about their races, only Bob Lynn didn’t bother responding at all.
That, taken with Lynn’s APOC reports showing he has raised $25K, almost exclusively from labor PACs, and the at least $27K labor groups have spent in independent expenditures to support Lynn, we have to wonder if Bob Lynn is running for re-election or if unions are running for him.
All that said, both candidates do show reasons to believe they can win.
Lynn has been re-elected six times by large margins and seems to still be popular in his district. He is a staunch social conservative and continues to have a great reputation for providing constituent services. That is enough to make us wonder exactly how vulnerable Lynn is to a primary challenge.
Birch sports very good name recognition from his years representing the area on the Anchorage Assembly. He has raised a healthy $46K, with a donor roll that shows strong support from industry and Alaska Republican Party establishment types.
Were Lynn not an incumbent with a track record of winning this district handily, we’d rate this race leaning heavily to the more personally active and party establishment supported Birch. Incumbency is nothing to discount, however. Those who have been elected got there for a reason. Lynn has a connection to this district so voters may not be eager to get rid of him. And unions may be doing just enough, both on the airwave and with their highly respected ground game to put Lyn over the top.
We are rating this primary race a toss-up.
Technically there is also a Democrat challenger in the general election, Bill Goodell. Goodell only received 33% of the vote two years ago. His complete lack of any fundraising this election cycle says he isn’t likely to do any better in 2016. This race is all but certain to go to whoever makes it out of the Republican primary.
Republican Primary Rating: Toss-up
General Election Rating: Likely Republican
***Note: Race ratings are given on a patent-pending scale of Toss-up, Lean, Likely, Solid.***