Primary night leaves Republican incumbent lawmakers behind in several races

COVID-19 safety protocol signs posted outside a polling station at Inlet View Elementary School on Tuesday. (Photo by Kavitha George/AKPM)

Several incumbent Republican state legislators were trailing their challengers in the primary election. 

Tens of thousands of absentee ballots won’t be counted until next week. But some of the incumbents are trailing by large margins and will have a difficult time catching up. Several of the Republican incumbents who are losing had caucused or worked closely with Democrats. 

RELATED: Here’s what primary voting in Anchorage looked like

As of 10:50 p.m. on Tuesday, Senate President Cathy Giessel was behind challenger Roger Holland by more than 1,000 votes, a margin equal to more than 40 percent of the votes cast. 

Holland says Giessel and other incumbents didn’t listen to voters. 

“It just seemed like the voters were not being heard, the voters were being told. And I think that is just repeated in district, by district, by district. And I think the powers in Juneau are paying the bill tonight,” Holland said.

RELATED: Here are the races to watch in the primary election

Two other senators — Natasha von Imhof of Anchorage and John Coghill of North Pole — also are trailing, but by smaller margins. Von Imhof is losing to pastor Stephen DuPlantis, while Coghill is losing to Robert Myers, a truck driver. 

Two South Anchorage representatives who were crucial to forming the current multiparty House majority — Chuck Kopp and Jennifer Johnston — were losing by large margins. Kopp is facing petroleum engineer Tom McKay and Johnston is facing retired oil industry worker James Kaufman. 

A common thread running through these races is that the incumbents had voted to fund permanent fund dividends at less than the amounts under the formula in a 1982 state law. The last time the state paid the full dividend was five years ago. 

But some incumbents who advocated for higher dividends also lost. 

Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux had roughly one-quarter as many votes as her challenger, military contractor David Nelson. LeDoux is facing a trial for alleged voter misconduct in previous elections. A court hearing that had been scheduled for Thursday has been rescheduled for October. 

Other Republicans incumbents losing their races include Eagle River Rep. Sharon Jackson, who was challenged by family therapist Ken McCarty, and Big Lake Rep. Mark Neuman, who was losing to cargo pilot Kevin McCabe. 

The primary also set the candidates for the elections for the U.S. Senate and House. U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan didn’t have a challenger. Independent Al Gross won the Democratic primary to face Sullivan over Edgar Blatchford and Chris Cumings. 

Rep. Don Young defeated two challengers for the Republican nomination. He will face independent Alyse Galvinin a rematch. Galvin won the Democratic nomination.

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

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