Democrats Kawasaki and Dodge take leads in close legislative races, reviving chance of House coalition

Rep. Scott Kawasaki and Kathryn Dodge.

Update: This post has been updated to reflect that absentee ballots were not counted on Tuesday, and now includes the vote totals for the race.

Tuesday’s count of remaining early vote and questioned ballots brought good news to Democrats in an election that dealt the party a flurry of stinging losses, reviving hopes that Democrats can hold onto a coalition in the House.

According to reports from the press and campaign operatives, Rep. Scott Kawasaki took a 152-vote lead in his bid for Senate A and Kathryn Dodge took a 10-vote lead in her bid to fill Kawasaki’s House District 1 seat. Additional votes will be counted on Friday.

Both Kawasaki and Dodge narrowly trailed their Republican opponents on election day. Kawasaki trailed far-right Senate President Pete Kelly by just 11 votes and Dodge trailed businessman Bart LeBon by 79 votes.

There are at currently 217 absentee ballots to be reviewed in House District 1 and 123 absentee ballots to be reviewed in House District 2, according to Division of Elections spokeswoman Samantha Miller. By-mail absentee ballots postmarked on election day can arrive as late as 15 days after the election (Nov. 21) so the number could grow.

Senate District A:

Scott Kawasaki (D) – 4,329 (50.58%)

Pete Kelly (R)* – 4,177 (48.9%)

House District 1:

Kathryn Dodge (D) – 2,539 (49.93%)

Bart LeBon (R) – 2.529 (49.73 %)

Why it matters

The two races could have major impacts on the political landscape of Juneau as competing factions look to secure legislative majorities (those factions also go deeper than just party affiliation).

While the Senate Republicans have delayed an announcement over its organization while awaiting the outcome of the Kelly-Kawasaki race, House Republicans displayed no such patience and it could come to be an embarrassing misstep.

House Republicans, led by Reps. Dave Talerico, Tammie Wilson and Lance Pruitt, announced they had secured a 21-member majority in the 40-member House fewer than 24 hours after polls closed. The bold grab last Wednesday relied not only on less-than-enthused Rep. David Eastman’s cooperation but also LeBon (who appeared at the meeting in-person) securing victory.

Without LeBon, the House would stand at 20 party-line Republicans to 20 members of the formerly 22-member House bipartisan coalition (two moderate Republicans, an independent and 17 Democrats).

Kawasaki’s victory would put the Senate at 13 Republicans to seven Democrats (though Democratic Sen. Lyman Hoffman, D-Bethel, has been a consistent member of the Republican majority and is one of the organizing powers). The Senate might not shift as wildly as the House with his victory, but it could empower a more moderate faction to take the chamber’s reigns.

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