Election Shakes up Anchorage with Tight Races Yet to be Determined

A crowd gathers to watch election results as they come into election central in Anchorage. Photo by Kristin Spack, KSKA – Anchorage

The Election shook up the Anchorage political scene. The final results are still out on Senate District J, but it appears Democrat Hollis French narrowly retained his seat, beating out Republican Bob Bell. There is a new Republican Senator in District M, Anna Fairclough, who ousted long-time Democratic Senator Bettye Davis.

Democrat Hollis French received just 249 votes more than Republican Bob Bell in Senate District J, which represents West Anchorage. But the race has not yet been called. There are still more than 1,500 absentee ballots to be counted in what was the most expensive race in the election. Bell says it was a wild ride Tuesday night. He isn’t optimistic about his chances to win the race, but he isn’t conceding yet.

“If there’s 2,000 absentee ballots, in order to overcome a 250-vote deficit, I would have to get about 62-63 percent of the absentee ballots and that’s a pretty high bar on an election that was 50/50. It’s a long shot but we’ll have to wait and see what happens,” Bell said.

Because of reapportionment, the district expanded into the Sand Lake and Jewell Lake neighborhoods, which French appears to have carried.

Senate District G, in East Anchorage, was also impacted by redistricting. But Democrat Bill Wielechowski handily beat Republican Bob Roses there, with the votes split 59 to 41 percent.

In the new Senate District M, Republican Anna Fairclough, ousted longtime Democratic Senator Bettye Davis, the only African American in Senator in the state, from her seat. Fairclough came in with 60 percent of the votes. Davis blamed redistricting for her loss of the U-MED area, which she considered a stronghold, and she says the addition of Eagle River tipped the election in Fairclough’s favor. Fairclough agrees and says the constituents of Eagle River sent a clear message that they want different representation.

“I certainly had a significant advantage coming in from the Eagle River area, being paired with another district. I’ve been elected there for 14 years.  I served, actually a larger number of people when I was on the Anchorage Assembly for 7 years, so, the people in Eagle River, all of them knew who I was,” Fairclough said.

Fairclough says her focus in the Senate will be on fiscal policy. In the House, Democrat Geran Tarr won Sharon Cissna’s former territory in East Anchorage District 17. Tarr garnered about 60 percent of the votes while Cean Stevens brought in close to 40 percent. Tarr says face-to-face visits with residents were the key to her win.

“All the ground work of getting out and doing the door knocking, going out and talking to folks and seeing what was important to them. And letting them know that what was important to them is what’s important to me was what this was all about,” Tarr said.

Democrat Pete Petersen and Republican Lance Pruitt, both incumbents cast into a redrawn district 25, ran one of the tightest and more expensive races in the House. The race is yet-to-be called, with less than 200 votes separating the two and absentee ballots still coming in. Pruitt, who is leading, says the close race was no surprise.

“We suspected that from the beginning, that it was going to be a very close one. You’ve got two incumbents, you know a lot of people when we’d knock on doors they’d say you know we like both of you. So we, we knew it was going to be a tight race and we just have to persevere and get our message out there, the positive message that we had,” Pruitt said.

Pruitt says his message to voters was that, if they elected him he would fight for jobs, control spending and make public safety a priority.

Relative newcomer, Democrat Andrew Josephson beat out Republican political veteran and Anchorage Assembly member Dick Traini in House District 15. The votes were split Josephson 58 percent, Traini 42 percent.

House District 16 is now represented by Democrat Harriet Drummond who beat out Republican Jimmy Crawford, a 24-year-old real estate dealer, and self-described conservative, by nearly a thousand votes. Drummond says she owes her win to being well-known for years of serving constituents

“I know so many people in my district. Over all these years of being, getting elected, people still think I’m on the school board, some people still think I’m on the school board, which is kind of cool. But there are other people who are — they’re a little mad at me for leaving because they like the representation. But you’ve got to step up when it’s time to step up. So, I’m really grateful to have this opportunity,” Drummond said.

Officials with the State Division of Elections say the first absentee and question ballot count will be Tuesday, Nov. 13. That’s when the winners of the closest races will likely be revealed. The election results are scheduled to be certified in December. One surprise in the election is that turnout was much lower than officials with the Division of Elections anticipated it would be. They say that normally voter turnout has been more than 60 percent in an election year. This year it was around 45 percent.

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Daysha Eaton is a contributor with the Alaska Public Radio Network.

Daysha Eaton holds a B.A. from Evergreen State College, and a M.A. from the University of Southern California. Daysha got her start in radio at Seattle public radio stations, KPLU and KUOW. Before coming to KBBI, she was the News Director at KYUK in Bethel. She has also worked as the Southcentral Reporter for KSKA in Anchorage.

Daysha's work has appeared on NPR's "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered", PRI's "The World" and "National Native News". She's happy to take assignments, and to get news tips, which are best sent via email.

Daysha became a journalist because she believes in the power of storytelling. Stories connect us and they help us make sense of our world. They shed light on injustice and they comfort us in troubled times. She got into public broadcasting because it seems to fulfill the intention of the 4th Estate and to most effectively apply the freedom of the press granted to us through the Constitution. She feels that public radio has a special way of moving people emotionally through sound, taking them to remote places, introducing them to people they would not otherwise meet and compelling them to think about issues they might ordinarily overlook.

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