Coin toss could determine control of Alaska House

Democrat Kathryn Dodge and Republican Bart LeBon are tied in the election for the Alaska House race to represent downtown Fairbanks. (Dodge photo courtesy of Kathryn Dodge and LeBon photo courtesy of Bart LeBon)

A coin toss could determine who controls the Alaska House. After the latest count, Republican Bart LeBon and Democrat Kathryn Dodge are tied in the race for the state house seat that represents downtown Fairbanks.

There are a couple of steps that have to happen before the race could come down to a coin toss.

On Friday, election workers will audit the remaining absentee ballots. If the vote count is still tied after that, then there will be a recount. And if the recount doesn’t change the results, state law mandates that the winner is determined “by lot.” That could take the form of a coin toss or another method of determining a winner by chance.

LeBon said he isn’t surprised by the tie.

“Well, if you look back on election night, at about 10:30 p.m., we were in a dead tie. Then I went up, then Kathryn Dodge went up, then I went up, and then we tied,” he said. “So it’s been back and forth for the last two weeks. I can’t say I’m shocked.”

Dodge had been trailing by five votes, so she’s happy.

“I’m obviously pleased with the results and waiting along with many others for Friday, for the results of Friday’s final hand count,” she said.

Dodge said she wishes that a tie wouldn’t end in a coin toss.

“It does seem a bit absurd,” she said. “I think probably a better response would be for Mr. LeBon and I to share the seat and have to discuss every vote we take and come to agreement – I think that would be pretty powerful.”

LeBon also noted how odd it is that after months of work and more than five thousand votes, the election could be decided by a coin toss.

“Isn’t that amazing?” he said. “I guess at some point, you have to stop recounting ballots and declare that it’s a tie. Then the only question is: What’s the appropriate tiebreaker? I’ve heard of some elections being settled with a draw from a deck of cards. Who draws the highest card? Or the toss of a coin.”

Neither LeBon nor Dodge know whether they’ll call heads or tails if given the opportunity.

Not including the unresolved race, there are 20 House members who’d like to join a Republican majority, and 19 members who’d like a coalition similar to the current majority, which is mostly Democrats but also Republicans and independents.

So a potential tie could determine who controls the House.

Current House Speaker Bryce Edgmon is a Dillingham Democrat. He’s one of the few Alaskans who knows what LeBon and Dodge are going through. He was first elected to the House in 2006, after he tied with Representative Carl Moses in the Democratic primary. Edgmon recalled what happened next:

“Then-Rep. Moses actually won the right to call. And he called heads, and the coin came up tails,” he said. “And in the split-second it took me to realize that I had actually won, my brother was up on the stage and a crowd of at least 300 or 400 people – all the media it seemed in Alaska – just, it was massive pandemonium. And I don’t think I remember too much after that.”

Edgmon has some advice for the candidates: relax, and enjoy it if you can.

Andrew Kitchenman is the state government and politics reporter for Alaska Public Media and KTOO in Juneau. Reach him at

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