Bipartisan coalition on cusp of majority in the House after latest results

The Alaska Capitol Building. (Photo by Alaska Senate Majority/Flickr)

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What had largely been a foregone conclusion among politicos going into election day—that Republicans would win control of the House after three cycles of bipartisan majorities—no longer looks so certain.

Following the latest round of election results released Friday night, there are now 20 bipartisan-friendly legislators—legislators who were either members of the last coalition or likely to join a new one—who are projected to win their races. Another two will be heading into the ranked-choice voting tabulation on Wednesday with a lead, giving them an edge in what is admittedly a hard-to-predict process.

Here’s the notable changes in the legislative results from the latest count:

  • Democratic Nome Rep. Neal Foster looks to have avoided a surprise upset against Alaskan Independence Party Tyler Ivanoff. Foster’s lead in the race has dwindled into the single digits through the vote counting, but the latest round—which leaves very few ballots left to count—has put Foster up by 108 votes.
  • It looks like Republican Stanley Wright has staved off a late comeback from Democrat Ted Eischeid in the race for the northern East Anchorage House seat. While Democrat Donna Mears overtook the Republican candidate for the southern East Anchorage House Seat in the later counts, it looks like there aren’t enough votes for Eischeid to do the same. With just 67 votes separating the two, nearly all of the 79 uncounted ballots would have to go Eischeid’s way.
  • Democrat Denny Wells is in a strong spot to pull off the upset over Republican Rep. Tom McKay in the traditionally conservative South Anchorage. Wells has 46.61% of the vote to the 38.82% of McKay and the 14.08% held by Republican Dave Eibeck. While adding the raw vote totals of McKay and Eibeck together would give McKay the majority on RCV tabulation day, we know that it’s not likely to be nearly that tidy. Just how much they align, though, is an open question.
  • The same goes for nonpartisan candidate Walter Featherly, who leads in a three-way race for another South Anchorage House seat. Featherly has 45.45% of the vote to the 38.67% held by Republican Julie Coulombe and the 15.36% held by Republican Ross Bieling. The same goes for this race, but the smaller gap between Featherly and Coulombe puts it closer to a toss-up.
  • On the flip side of the last two races is the race for House District 18 where Republican Rep. David Nelson currently holds 44% of the vote with Democrats Cliff Groh and Lyn Franks accounting for a combined 55.6% of the vote. While Republican coordination has proven to be spotty—especially between moderate and far-right Republicans—Groh (35.32%) and Franks (20.26%) went into the race with a fair bit of messaging around the importance of ranking each other. While the gap between Groh and Nelson is larger than any of the above races, Nelson’s distance to 50% and the Democratic coordination makes Groh the odds-on favorite to win once the tabulation takes place.

Why it matters: With an increasingly conservative and disruptive cadre of Republican legislators in the House, moderate Republicans in recent years have turned to an allegiance with Democrats and independents to keep the levers of power out of the hands of legislators like Wasilla Republican Rep. David Eastman. Those moderate Republicans, however, have almost universally paid the price with defeats in the semi-closed partisan primaries of the past while others have either retired or sought different office.

It’s those departures that were a large reason of why Republican control of the House was predicted for this year’s elections, but Democrats and independents in legislative races saw a better-than-expected performance in this year’s election. Instead of predicted losses, they flipped a handful of seats not considered by many as competitive and held onto others that were expected to be won by Republicans.

The apparent victories of Foster and Mears put the coalition-friendly legislators on the cusp of taking an outright majority in the House, assuming one of the close races that’ll be decided by ranked-choice voting—the three-way race between Republican Rep. David Nelson (44%) and Democrats Cliff Groh (35.32%) and Lyn Franks (20.26%)—goes as expected to Groh.

A victory from Wells or Featherly (or a long-shot victory by Eischeid) would give them 21.

With the Senate already likely to organize around a moderate bipartisan coalition, it probably goes a long way to explain Dunleavy’s moderate overtures in recent days.

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