Some sitting Republican lawmakers lose ground in primary, while others take leads

People at the Division of Elections double-check voter information on August 25, 2020 in Juneau, Alaska. (Photo by Rashah McChesney/KTOO)

The results of the Alaska primary started to become clearer on Tuesday, as more than 32,000 absentee and questioned ballots were counted.

Five incumbent Republican House members face difficult odds. It’s unlikely there are enough votes left to count for them to make up the amounts they’re trailing. They include Representatives Chuck Kopp and Jennifer Johnston, who caucused with the mostly Democratic House majority since last year. 

Kopp is trailing retired petroleum engineer Tom McKay, while Johnston is losing to 

James Kaufman, who also is a retired oil worker. 

Kaufman said he’s cautiously optimistic.

“I’ve been feeling good for quite a while, just based upon the interactions that I’ve had with the people.”

Senate President Cathy Giessel also appears to face an insurmountable margin against challenger Roger Holland.

North Pole Republican Sen. John Coghill is nearly tied with challenger Robert Myers. Coghill trails by eight votes. A few hundred ballots remain to be counted in the district. 

But some incumbent Republicans took the lead after trailing on primary election night. 

State Senators Natasha von Imhof of Anchorage and Gary Stevens of Kodiak moved into the lead against their challengers — unemployed pastor Stephen Duplantis for von Imhof and small business owner John Cox for Stevens.

The other trailing Republicans aren’t caucusing with the current House majority.

Eagle River Rep. Sharon Jackson is losing to challenger Ken McCarty, who’s a family therapist. 

Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux, who represents the area around Joint-Base Elmendorf Richardson, is losing to military contractor David Nelson. LeDoux is facing a trial on voter misconduct charges. 

And longtime Big Lake Rep. Mark Neuman is losing to home builder Kevin McCabe. 

While the current vote counts are unofficial, Giessel and the five House incumbents who are losing would need dramatic changes in the remaining votes to win.

Votes will continue to be counted through the end of the week. 

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

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