Republicans won big on Tuesday night in an election that will see the party fully take the reigns of Alaska’s government.
Republican Mike Dunleavy handily won the race for governor with 52.4 percent of the vote, Rep. Don Young notched a similar victory in his bid for a 24th term in Congress while Republicans secured key legislative seats to wrest control of the Alaska House out of the hands of a Democrat-led coalition.
“Demogedden,” one insider wrote.
The victories are also underlined by a resounding defeat of the salmon habitat initiative, which faced more than $12 million in independent expenditure opposition over the year. The measure trailed by more than 27 points at last count.
Begich conceded the race this morning, sending out a press release statement saying he had already called to congratulate Dunleavy on his victory.
Begich finished the night with 102,654 votes to Dunleavy’s 123,447, falling well short of even being competitive with the Republican at 43.5 percent of the vote to Dunleavy’s 52.4 percent of the vote (remind us never to get excited about polls again).
The message seemed to get out there that independent Gov. Bill Walker had suspended his campaign because he only pulled in 4,700 votes (1.99 percent of the vote), barely topping lovable Libertarian goofball Billy Toien’s 4,327 (1.84 percent).
Dunleavy will hold a news conference later today to announce the core of his transition team.
House coalition smashed
The Democrat-led House bipartisan coalition was dealt a fatal blow on Tuesday when two of its 22 members were defeated by conservative Republicans. Both Reps. Jason Grenn, an independent, and Paul Seaton, a former Republican turned independent to run in the Democratic primary, both lost by wide margins last night.
Seaton’s bid to buck the party and run as a nonpartisan in the Democratic party proved to be a fatal error, while Grenn’s bid at a second term was stymied by Democratic candidate Dustin Darden’s capturing of 11.35 percent of the vote. Grenn trailed by about 5 points.
The defeats bolster numbers for Republicans, bringing their total to 22 members, easily putting the House back under Republican control. Just what layout of power they take is uncertain.
The House Republicans were a fractured group during the last session as an 18-member minority. They often found themselves split between conservatives and moderates while Rep. David Eastman was out there on a far-right island of his own (which is likely getting a few new members).
Republicans are meeting today in Anchorage to organize (though a lot of that has already been done pre-election) and should have the framework of its new caucus announced before too soon.
Too close to call
Fairbanks is home to the state’s only too-close-to-call races and the second is the razor thin race right now between Democratic Rep. Scott Kawasaki and Republican Senate President Pete Kelly. Currently fewer than 15 votes separate the race.
Still, with no other changes to the layout of the Senate as far as party affiliation there’s not likely to be a significant change from the Republican control of the chamber once the dust settles. Like the House, there’s certainly going to be muscling between competing interests among the Republicans but it’s unlikely to favor Democrats (other than Bethel Democratic Sen. Lyman Hoffman).
Word is the Senate will meet on Thursday to work out its caucus arrangement.
One of the biggest surprises from Tuesday night was just how poorly the salmon habitat initiative performed. Everyone was expecting it to be defeated—there was more than $12 million spent against it, after all—but the final margin from Tuesday night was far bigger than expected.
With 98 percent of the precincts reporting, the ballot measure drew just 36.38 percent “yes” votes. It’s likely that the measure’s weak performance (again, likely due to that mountain of money opposing it) dragged down other progressives like Begich and Galvin. Would they have won? Who knows, but the measure didn’t help.