The remaining absentee ballots in two tight Fairbanks legislative races went in opposite directions today, sealing a win for Democrat Scott Kawasaki in Senate District A and giving a 5-vote lead to Republican Bart LeBon in the race for House District 1.
Kawasaki now holds an insurmountable
186-vote 172-vote 161-vote 173-vote lead over conservative Republican Senate President Pete Kelly, extending a 152-vote lead he held after questioned and early votes were counted on Tuesday. Democrat Kathryn Dodge lost ground against LeBon, going from a 10-vote lead on Tuesday to a 5-vote deficit.
A full vote tally should be available later today.
There’s no word on remaining ballots in the hands of the Division of Elections, but according to the division’s count of ballots House District 1 has a maximum of 68 by-mail ballots that were requested, but not yet returned. House District 2 has 29 such ballots.
Today is the deadline for the state to receive absentee ballots mailed from U.S. addresses. The final deadline for overseas ballots to arrive is Nov. 21, which is when the division expects a final count of the race.
If 100 percent of those ballots arrive and 100 percent of them go to Kelly, Kawasaki would still hold an 89-vote lead over the Republican.
Kawasaki’s victory marks the only Alaska race that Democrats successfully flipped from Republican in the 2018 elections. His win is a bittersweet one for Democrats, who saw several stinging defeats on every level of the ballot on election night.
It brings the total number of Democrats in the Senate to seven (though Democratic Sen. Lyman Hoffman has regularly caucused with Republicans and is expected to do so again). Though it’s not likely to shift the power of the Senate into bipartisan hands, Kelly’s loss will likely undercut efforts of conservative Republicans to consolidate power.
Democrats and Republicans alike will continue to have to wait for an outcome in the race for House District 1, which was held by Kawasaki for six two-year terms. Republicans have claimed a 21-member majority in the 40-member House, but are relying on LeBon’s victory for that number.
Regardless of the final count next Wednesday, the House District 1 race is almost certainly headed to a recount on the state’s dime. State law covers the cost of a recount if a race is within 20 votes or a 0.5 percent margin (which would be about 26 votes in this case). Candidates would otherwise have to make a $2,000 deposit for each district (refundable if the recount changes the winner).
Recounts must be requested by Nov. 28.