Snyder wins by 16 votes, sending ‘House Speaker’ Rep. Pruitt packing

Liz Snyder.

Dr. Liz Snyder can now start calling herself Rep.-elect Dr. Liz Snyder.

With the remaining outstanding ballots counted today, Snyder has won the seat with a 16-vote lead over Republican Rep. Lance Pruitt. The race stands at 4,574 votes to 4,558 votes and is within the margin necessary for a recount, if one is requested, to be funded by the state.

Pruitt, the current minority leader, won a large margin with conservative-leaning election-day voting and Snyder had steadily been making a comeback as the state counted thousands of additional mail-in absentee ballots that across the state trended to more progressive. Snyder trailed Pruitt on election night by 22.5 percentage points. Her margin of victory stands at 0.17 percentage points.

It’s not just the closest legislative race of the year but the most expensive. According to our tally, the race drew about $750,000 in combined candidate and independent expenditure spending. Snyder was a fundraising juggernaut this election, raising more than $172,000 and much of the independent expenditure spending was done in her support.

The race was a key one for Democrats hoping to deny Republicans an expanded majority in the House and was considered winnable after Snyder’s narrow loss to Pruitt in 2018, where she lost by 181 votes.

In both 2018 and 2020, Democratic candidates prevailed in the East Anchorage district by relatively large margins. The district also has slightly more Democrats and slightly fewer Republicans than it did in 2018.

Pruitt, for his part, waited until the final day of the filing period to enter the race after much speculation that he would not run for reelection, perhaps seeking a different office.

His campaign drew derision for complaining that Snyder, who has a Doctor of Philosophy in Soil and Water Science from the University of Florida, campaigned as Dr. Liz Snyder. Snyder called it “tiresome” and just “one instance in a long line of women’s qualifications being questioned.”

Pruitt wasn’t above unearned titles, however, and after the election, the right-wing blog Must Read Alaska referred to Pruitt as “House Speaker Pruitt” as the state began counting ballots.

More races

While Democrats are on pace to send two incumbent Republicans—Pruitt and Rep. Mel Gillis—packing, they fell just short in two other races. With all outstanding ballots counted in House Districts 15 and 28, Republicans David Nelson and James Kaufman (who both defeated incumbents in the Republican primaries) have won those races.

A fourth race, the House District 40 race between Democrat Elizabeth Ferguson and conservative-leaning independent Josiah Patkotak, is still pending.

The election reform initiative, Ballot Measure 2, has a near-mathematically safe margin of passage, causing the Associated Press to call the race and its supporters to declare victory. The measure would implement ranked choice voting in general elections, open primaries and measures aimed at increasing oversight on independent expenditure spending on candidate races.

It’s an effort that backers say will wrench control of elections away from political parties and give more independents a shot at winning.

“This is a victory for all Alaskans regardless of their political leaning,” said Shea Siegert, campaign manager of Yes on 2 for Better Elections, in a prepared statement. “We now have an electoral system that lives up to Alaska’s independent streak by saying ‘to hell with politics let’s do what is right for Alaska.’”

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