Pivotal House race headed to recount after request from Democratic candidate Denny Wells

(Photo by Matt Buxton/TMS)

Seven votes were the difference between a 21-member bipartisan coalition in the House and the 20-20 split where it currently stands, but a recount could change that. 

Anchorage Democratic candidate Denny Wells announced Monday he’s requested a recount from the Division of Elections in the race for House District 15. Wells led the race heading into the ranked-choice voting tabulation, but ultimately lost to incumbent Republican Rep. Tom McKay by seven votes once the third-place Republican was eliminated. 

The final margin between the two was 0.1%, well within the margin for a state-funded recount. 

The Wells campaign released a statement about the request on Monday night, outlining the thin margin and the need to have every vote counted.

“Thankfully, Alaska’s election procedures incorporate the right to a recount in situations like that in House District 15, ensuring votes are tallied accurately and preserving public confidence in our election system,” said the statement. “These thresholds are established because even though our election processes are mindful of accuracy and security, machines have error rates and humans are imperfect. In this race, even if our ballot counting process is 99.9% accurate, this vote count margin is still within the margin of error.” 

An audit conducted of the 2022 vote on the Ballot Measure 2 initiative found that it was even more accurate than 99.9%, resulting in a hand-count total that was fewer than 200 votes off the nearly 350,000 counted by machines.

Even if the odds are slim, the outcome will be pivotal for how the House organizes. 

As it currently stands, the House is split between 20 legislators—a combination of Democrats, independents and Republican Rep. Louise Stutes—who have either caucused or would be likely to caucus with a bipartisan majority and 20 party-line Republicans. A victory for Wells would put the bipartisan coalition at 21. 

A divided House isn’t new for the Legislature, which has seen the House take several weeks or more into the legislative session to organize in recent cycles. During that time, the House is largely unable to conduct any meaningful business and is unable to file bills, hold hearings or even make substantive changes to their offices. 

The recount in House District 15 is the second of the cycle. Anchorage Democratic candidate Roselynn Cacy announced on Monday that she had also requested a recount after she came up 14 votes behind Republican Sen. Roger Holland for the second-place spot in the Senate District E. Holland ultimately lost to Republican Cathy Giessel once the later-rankings from Cacy’s voters were tabulated.

The recounts are expected to get underway on Wednesday.  

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