Alaska won’t know the final outcome of Tuesday’s primary until later this month thanks to the state’s schedule for counting a deluge of by-mail ballots but even with thousands of outstanding ballots to be counted, several incumbent Republicans are facing deep, near-impossible gaps to make up.
Senate President Cathy Giessel as well as Reps. Chuck Kopp, Jennifer Johnston and Gabrielle LeDoux all lag their party-endorsed challengers by huge margins coming off last night’s results and would need nearly all remaining absentee ballots to go in their favor when votes are counted next week.
The Alaska Republican Party, with the help of national groups, sought to oust several Republican incumbents who had worked with Democrats or opposed parts of Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s agenda over the last two years. The efforts focused largely on these four candidates though several other Republicans are also down—but by smaller, realistically recoverable margins—as of last night.
In absentee voter statistics released by the state earlier this week, Republican voters lagged both Democrats and independent voters (registered undeclared and nonpartisan voters) in every legislative race. These Republican primaries, though, take place on a closed ballot open only to Republicans and independents.
Giessel trails Roger Holland with 1,010 votes to his 2,586 votes. According to the state’s absentee ballot report, there were 6,089 absentee ballot requests in that district and 3,454 have been returned so far. However, it should be noted that not all absentee voters are eligible to vote in this race due to the closed primary. According to absentee voting statistics released earlier this week, a maximum of 4,351 absentee voters would be eligible to vote in that race.
Giessel would need to receive more than two-thirds of all eligible absentee ballots to recover or about 84 percent of the currently returned ballots (assuming they’re all Republican primary ballots) to make up the gap.
It’s a similarly tough picture for Kopp, Johnston and LeDoux.
Kopp has just 601 votes to Tom McKay’s 1,202. With the smallest gap of any of the candidates, he’d need about 77% of the currently returned absentee ballots (1,492) or about two-thirds of all eligible absentee ballots (1,980) to make up the gap.
Johnston lags James Kaufman with 600 votes to his 1,625. She’d need 74% of the currently returned ballots (2,145) to go her way to make up the gap or about 70% of all eligible absentee ballots (2,783).
LeDoux, who’s long been a thorn in the Republican party’s side, faces the largest gap of all candidates with also the lowest number of votes and outstanding absentee ballots. She has 106 votes to challenger David Nelson’s 407. That nearly 60-point gap would require her to secure 81% of the returned absentee ballots (493) or 64% of all eligible absentee ballots (1,109).
There are several other incumbent Republicans who are lagging after last night’s results but they are within more realistically recoverable margins as long as absentee voters tend to be more moderate.
In North Pole, Sen. John Coghill trails Robert Myers by 126 votes (out of 2,768 cast) and there are 1,878 eligible absentee ballots out there. Anchorage Sen. Natasha von Imhof trails conspiracy theorist Stephen Duplantis by 85 votes with as many as 2,938 eligible absentee ballots. Even Kodiak Sen. Gary Stevens lags challenger John “Bear” Cox by 69 votes with as many as 2,544 eligible absentee ballots in play.
Also, in the House, Reps. Mark Neuman and Sharon Jackson also lag behind their opponents despite largely holding the party line during their time in office. Neuman has not been actively campaigning and lags challenger Kevin McCabe by 26 points. Jackson, who was appointed to the office shortly after the 2018 elections, trails challenger Ken McCarty by nearly 20 points.
Far-right Republican Rep. David Eastman is leading challenger Jesse Sumner 1,129 to 1,050 votes. Eastman has long refused to play nice with other Republicans, causing plenty of political headaches with frequently racist and conspiratorial theatrics, and was a major target this election cycle drawing Outside spending. Several Anchorage-area Republicans door-knocked in favor of Sumner, who poured more than $60,000 of his own money into the race, in the run up to the primary.
That race has a total of 1,165 eligible absentee ballots out there. There have been 736 total absentee ballots returned so far (out of 1,420 total).
Incumbent Democrats Adam Wool and Neal Foster are both leading their primary challengers.
Absentee ballots are set to be counted next Tuesday, and Aug. 30 is the target date for the election to be certified.