PFD promise key to Dunleavy’s win in Hoonah

Downtown Hoonah. Photo by Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau.

There are 132 precincts with an Alaska Native majority, according to 2010 census data. Gov. Mike Dunleavy won in just six of those precincts.

One of those is Noorvik, the hometown of incoming first lady Rose Dunleavy and the original site of Monday’s swearing in ceremony.

Another Alaska Native-majority precinct where Dunleavy won the most votes was Hoonah, a Southeast community with more registered Democrats than Republicans.

So what was Republican Mike Dunleavy’s appeal there?

“A lot of of people’s big concern was on the PFDs,” Hoonah Mayor Gerald Byers said in a phone interview. “You know so many people count on that to supplement their winter fuel supply, their food supply. Because so much in rural Southeast, we don’t have that many year-round jobs so a lot of our people aren’t working come wintertime.”

The city has around 700 residents. Alaska Natives make up the largest demographic.

Dunleavy has promised to restore the Permanent Fund dividend to its pre-2017 level. Gov. Bill Walker slashed the dividend check in half to balance the state’s budget amid declining oil revenues.

This year’s check was $1,600 — Dunleavy says he’d write bigger checks under the old formula. It’s unclear how the state would afford this.

But Dunleavy has promised to aggressively cut state spending, and Byers said he personally supported Dunleavy because he’s unhappy with the status quo.

“He is open to some kind of changes. And that’s a big thing, is people weren’t seeing changes or actions to protect their interest,” Byers said.

Dunleavy didn’t win in Hoonah by much: He received 50.3 percent of the vote, winning 23 more votes than Democrat Mark Begich, who received 43 percent.

The other Alaska Native-majority precincts that went for Dunleavy were Koyuk, Kivalina, Kiana and South Kodiak Island.

The state’s interactive map showing results can be viewed here.

Jacob Resneck is CoastAlaska's regional news director in Juneau.

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