Welcome to an early edition of Friday in the Sun, our weekly column that’s usually an attempt at making sense of this week’s news in Alaska politics.
With the results from this week’s election still playing out with plenty of uncertainty and, honestly, with just how exhausted we are, this is going to be a short one this week mostly to give you guys the latest look at the numbers for the key races and how things might play out.
We’ll be taking Friday off to spend it doing just about anything other than fretting about politics and we would suggest you do, too.
Take care, be well, be kind and go make something.
Where things stand
We expected election day turnout to be conservative and it was, giving Republicans wide margins up and down the ballot with a surprisingly steady across-the-board performance for the statewide Republican races. Trump, Sullivan and Young’s vote totals are all within 1,400 votes.
Can progressives make up those races with the 132,000 absentees and early votes that are set to be counted next week? When it comes to the congressional races, we don’t think so.
It’d take absentees to break between 69% and 72% in their favor to turn things around (which would require them to get ALL the Democratic and about 98% of the independent votes). Absentees in other states are breaking very hard for the Democrats, but as we are often reminded: This is Alaska.
Things are a little better looking for the several incumbent Democrats who found themselves down on election-night returns. Rep. Matt Claman in HD 21 is at the low end of things, needing just 51% of absentees to overcome a 77-vote deficit, while Rep. Chris Tuck in HD 23 is on the other end. He needs 59.17% of the vote to make up the 549-vote deficit against Kathy Henslee.
With strong democratic turnout in all of these districts, though, we’d give most of these candidates—with the exception of maybe Tuck—a pretty good shot of keeping their seats once the absentee votes are counted next week.
The critical question is just how much of the absentee vote will go to progressive. We know that absentee voting is generally more progressive but by the numbers, Democrats fell behind Republicans in the final days of voting and account for 30,244 votes to 34,316 (though Democrats still account for an outsized share of the vote compared to their registration). About 62,000 votes are from nonpartisan and undeclared voters.
If you get to 60%, then you’ll see the incumbents hold onto their seats, Democrat Lyn Franks win in House District 15 over Republican David Nelson (she needs 58%) and Ballot Measure 2 pass (which needs 59% by our count).
Push it a few points beyond that, which we think is likely pushing it, and you’ll see Calvin Schrage over Republican Rep. Mel Gillis (Schrage needs 60.9%) in HD 25, Liz Snyder over Lance Pruitt (she needs 63.3%) in HD 27 and Suzanne LaFrance over James Kaufman (she needs 64.2%) in HD 28.
If you’re anywhere below about 55%, then we expect to see a wave of defeats for incumbent Democrats. Only Sen. Bill Wielechowski (needs 51%) in Senate H and Reps. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins (needs 51.5%) in HD 35 and Claman (needs 50.9%) would survive in this scenario.
Just how likely is any of this? When we look at the partisan breakdown of the votes left to count, to reach the 60% mark in the statewide vote you’d need something like 100% of the Democrats, 70% of the independents and 17% of the Republicans.
So…. maybe temper expectations a bit.
Of course, this varies a TON from district to district as that same partisan breakdown from above would handily each give Schrage, Snyder and Franks a seat. We’ll have the by-district partisan breakdown at the bottom but, really, we’ll all just have to hold tight.
And what does it all mean?
What this all means is that the Senate is assuredly in the hands of Republicans while things are still pending for the House. Republicans likely have a pickup in the conservative Josiah Patkotak (Democrat Elizabeth Ferguson needs 85.6% of the uncounted ballots to win) in HD 40 while Democrats have four potential pickups that are in varying terms of play.
Generally speaking, Republican—and more accurately far-right Libertarian-flavored Republican—control of the Legislature is equal parts troubling and “Hey, get the popcorn!”
Yes, they’re likely to fall into step with whatever draconian cuts the Dunleavy administration and Donna Arduin’s specter can think of, which is particularly bad news for rural Alaska, the power cost equalization program, the North Slope Arctic Borough’s oil property taxes, the Alaska Marine Highway, the University of Alaska, education and health care. And that’s not to mention whatever kind of legislation they get into.
And call us pessimists, but we don’t see them delivering on the mega PFD anytime soon as there are still quite a few Republicans who’ll prioritize cuts to services and the PFD over any form of taxes.
On the other hand, we’re interested to see how a cadre of inexperienced legislators who’ve almost entirely been in the minority (or at the very least acted like it) and harped against binding caucuses plan on wrangling things together to actually pass a budget—especially when they are by and large covid deniers. Governing is tough!
Where the late Rep. Gary Knopp saw that a 21-member majority that relied on the likes of Rep. David Eastman was destined to fail, we now have the very real possibility of majorities that rely on the cooperation of several Eastmen.
That opens up the door to some politicking to build competent coalitions if the dwindling number of moderate Republicans are ultimately turned off by the far right but that’s yet to be seen. We have yet to see any organizational announcements, which usually come quick after the election if things are locked up.
It seems like much of that conversation is still underway and cards are being kept very close to the chest, but I wouldn’t be overly optimistic about anything. It’s 2020 and the safest course of action is to expect to be disappointed.
Anyways, have a nice weekend y’all!
What remains to be counted (as of Nov. 5)
The margins for the close races
|Race||R/No||D/I/Yes||Down by||Uncounted||% Needed|
|BM1 Oil Taxes||120,999||65,813||55,186||132,108||70.89%|
|BM2 Election Reform||105,161||81,048||24,113||132,108||59.13%|
|House 1 LeBon*/Quist||2,545||1,614||931||2,451||68.99%|
|House 4 Kurber/Hopkins*||3,415||2,958||457||1,874||56.31%|
|House 5 McKinley/Wool*||2,824||2,353||471||2,176||58.12%|
|House 6 Cronk/Hnilicka||3,220||1,383||1,837||3,621||81.90%|
|House 15 Nelson/Franks||1,411||1,022||389||2,390||58.14%|
|House 16 Bauer/Spohnholz*||1,721||1,319||402||3,448||55.83%|
|House 21 Largent/Claman*||1,946||1,869||77||4,078||50.94%|
|House 22 Rasmussen*/Trimble||3,158||1,144||2,014||3,896||75.85%|
|House 23 Henslee/Tuck*||2,136||1,587||549||2,992||59.17%|
|House 25 Gillis*/Schrage||2,794||1,963||831||3,808||60.91%|
|House 27 Pruitt*/Snyder||2,926||1,834||1,092||4,099||63.32%|
|House 28 Kaufman/LaFrance*||3,837||2,209||1,628||5,738||64.19%|
|House 35 Skaflestad/JKT*||2,063||1,912||151||4,914||51.54%|
|House 36 Becker/Ortiz*||2,214||2,805||-591||3,173||40.69%|
|House 40 Patkotak/Ferguson||1,816||1,416||400||654||80.58%|
|Senate H Gaiser/Wielechowski*||3,268||3,147||121||5,838||51.04%|
|Senate B Myer/Sanford||7,730||3,572||4,158||5,797||85.86%|