With the first wave of by-mail absentee ballots tallied on Tuesday, Republican incumbents made up ground on their party-backed challengers following deep deficits set with in-person voting and two moderate Republican senators took leads.
According to updates posted late Tuesday night, Anchorage Sen. Natasha von Imhof now has a 197-vote lead over racist conspiracy theorist Stephen Duplantis and Kodiak Sen. Gary Stevens has a 69-vote lead over John “Bear” Cox. North Pole Sen. John Coghill has reduced the gap behind against challenger Robert Myers to eight votes.
Tuesday’s count processed more than 21,000 absentee ballots, leaving another 32,607 left to be processed in following days. By-mail absentee ballots postmarked on election day (Aug. 18) can be received as late as Friday and still be counted. The state’s targeting Aug. 30 to finalize the primary results.
This year’s Republican primary was a reckoning for legislators who refused to rubberstamp Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s agenda during his first two years in office. Party officials and Dunleavy’s former chief of staff Tuckerman Babcock mounted concerted efforts to boot anyone who had stepped out of the party line to oppose the worst of his platform or work with Democrats. While von Imhof, Stevens and Coghill were included in that effort, most of the vitriol was reserved for Senate President Cathy Giessel and Reps. Chuck Kopp, Jennifer Johnston and Gabrielle LeDoux.
All had faced extremely deep deficits on election day, some nearing 60-points. They all recovered some in absentee counts but still lag by such a large amount that taking the lead—especially with a dwindling number of votes to count—is increasingly unlikely.
Giessel trails Roger Holland by 30 points, Kopp trails Tom McKay by 22 points, Johnston trails James Kaufman by 35 points and LeDoux trails David Nelson by 38 points.
While the effort to construct a Legislature that’s more compliant with Dunleavy’s agenda included replacing moderate Republicans with inexperienced party loyalists, it also called for the expulsion of right-wing Wasilla Rep. David Eastman. Eastman, who’s frequently caused headaches for fellow Republicans with an adversarial stance against his own party on issues like abortion, faced a challenge from Jesse Sumner. Sumner poured more than $60,000 of his own money into the campaign and several Anchorage-area Republicans made the trek out to Mat-Su in order to campaign for him.
Eastman extended his election-day lead on Sumner to 125 votes with absentee voting.