Incumbents Murkowski and Dunleavy leading in Alaska primaries

Gov. Mike Dunleavy answers the phone while waiting for election results at his main headquarters on Fairbanks Street in Anchorage on Aug. 16, 2022. (Mizelle Mayo/Alaska Public Media)

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski is narrowly leading in the primary race to keep her seat and Gov. Mike Dunleavy has a commanding lead in his race, according to the latest vote tally.

By late Wednesday afternoon, nearly all precincts had reported their results.

Murkowski’s lead over her Republican challenger Kelly Tshibaka grew from about one percentage point on election night, to about four points as more votes were counted Wednesday. Murkowski has 44.2% of ballots cast. Tshibaka has 39.8%.

Both Murkowski and Tshibaka will move forward to the general election on Nov. 8. In this pick-one primary, the top four vote-getters in each race advance to the general. 

Democrat Pat Chesbro is third in the U.S. Senate primary, with 6.2% of the vote. Republican Buzz Kelley is in fourth with 2.2%.

Murkowski, a moderate Republican, is eyeing her fourth term in the U.S. Senate while Tshibaka,  a former commissioner of the Alaska Department of Administration, is running for her first. Tshibaka has the endorsement of former president Donald Trump, who has publicly directed ire at Murkowski for being one of a handful of Republican lawmakers to vote for his impeachment in 2021.

On Wednesday, Murkowski’s campaign said results showed “clear and strong momentum” for Alaska’s senior senator.

Murkowski has far out-fundraised Tshibaka, with $7.5 million in campaign contributions as of last month, compared to Tshibaka’s $3.3 million.

In a statement Tuesday night, Tshibaka sounded encouraged by the close race. 

“Voters have clearly indicated that it’s time for a change in our representation in the Senate,” she said. 

In the race for governor, early results have incumbent Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy leading the primary at 41.8% of ballots cast.

Dunleavy and his Lt. Gov. pick, Nancy Dahlstrom, are followed by independent former Gov. Bill Walker and his running mate Heidi Drygas at 22.1% of the vote. Close behind at 21.9% is Democratic former state Rep. Les Gara, who is running with Jessica Cook.

Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce and his running mate Edie Grunwald are in fourth place at 6.8% of ballots cast.

Reached by phone late Tuesday night, Dunleavy said he’s looking ahead to campaigning for the November general election.

“We’re pretty happy with the results,” he said. “But this is just the primary. The real race really starts here tomorrow, so we’re not going to take anything for granted.”

In a statement late Tuesday night, Walker said he believes he and Drygas are still on track to amass enough general election votes to defeat Dunleavy.

Gara said he expected to be neck-and-neck with Walker. He thinks Democratic voters will turn out in greater numbers in November and emphasized that he’s the only pro-choice candidate in the race.

“I think in ranked-choice voting, with our first place votes, and then the second place votes that come from the Walker voters. I think that’s how we get over 50%,” Gara said Tuesday night.

A man in a black coat receives a voting ballot from a woman in a green shirt.
Former Gov. Bill Walker is running in this year’s governor’s race. He voted early Tuesday in Anchorage. (Matt Faubion/Alaska Public Media)

Dunleavy, Walker and Gara were expected to land in the top three for the gubernatorial race. Pierce and Wasilla Rep. Christopher Kurka meanwhile vied for fourth place. Both Pierce and Kurka have said they are running to the right of Dunleavy. 

All but one of the 59 state legislative races included four or fewer candidates. That means in nearly every state House and Senate race, all candidates will advance to the general election. The exception is the election in Fairbanks House District 35. Early results for the district show Democrat Ashley Carrick, Republican Kevin McKinley, Republican Ruben McNeill Jr. and nonpartisan Tim Parker will advance to the general, while Alaska Constitution Party Kieran Brown will not.

Absentee ballots have another 10 days to arrive and be counted. The state expects to certify final results on Sept. 2.

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Kavitha George is the host of Alaska Morning News at Alaska Public Media. She also reports on business, labor and the economy. Reach her at kgeorge@alaskapublic.org.