Alaska primary count is done, as near-record voting sets fields for ranked choice election

ballots go into a scanner
Laraine Derr feeds ballots through a scanner on Wednesday, June 15, 2022 at the Division 1 office of the Alaska Division of Elections in Juneau, Alaska. Derr was among elections workers counting ballots in Alaska’s special U.S. House primary election. (James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)

The top four candidates in Alaska’s primaries for governor, U.S. Senate and U.S. House were settled on Friday, as the state released the unofficial final primary results

There were 191,823 ballots cast in Alaska’s first open primary under the election system voters approved in 2020. The number of ballots was the third-highest primary total in state history. 

The top four finishers advance to the ranked choice general election under the new election system.

For governor, Republican incumbent Mike Dunleavy and his lieutenant governor running mate Nancy Dahlstrom led their race with 40.42% of the votes, followed by Democrats Les Gara and Jessica Cook at 23.07%; independents Bill Walker and Heidi Drygas at 22.77%; and Republicans Charlie Pierce and Edie Grunwald at 6.59%. Only 568 votes separate the Gara-Cook and Walker-Drygas tickets.

In the U.S. Senate, Republican incumbent Lisa Murkowski led with 45%, followed by Republican Kelly Tshibaka at 38.58%, Democrat Pat Chesbro at 6.83% and Republican Buzz Kelley at 2.13%. 

The first-preference vote count is nearly complete for the special election to fill the remaining four months of the term of Alaska’s lone member of the U.S. House of Representatives. However, overseas ballots in that race will continue to be counted through Wednesday, when the state Division of Elections will tabulate voters’ ranked choice votes to determine the winner. The vacancy was caused by the death of Congressman Don Young.

Democrat Mary Peltola has received the most first-preference votes, at 39.64%, followed by Republicans Sarah Palin, with 30.94%, and Nick Begich, with 27.84%. Since Peltola won’t receive a majority of these votes, elections officials will count the next-highest-ranked choices of those whose first preference was one of the write-in candidates or the third-place finisher, which is shaping up to be Begich. 

In the primary for the full U.S. House term starting in January, Peltola had 36.81%; Palin, 30.21% and Begich, 26.18%. Republican Tara Sweeney finished fourth at 3.75%; since she is withdrawing, her place on the ballot would be replaced by Libertarian Chris Bye, who received 0.62%.

The only candidate for the Alaska Legislature who missed out on the general election ballot as a result of the primary was Kieran Brown, the Constitution Party candidate for a Fairbanks-area House seat. All other races had four or fewer candidates, so they all advanced to the general election.

The closest state Senate primary results were in a South Anchorage district, where Republican former Sen. Cathy Giessel received 35.64% to Democrat Roselynn Cacy’s 33.67% and Republican incumbent Sen. Roger Holland’s 30.69%, and in a Fairbanks district, where Democratic incumbent Sen. Scott Kawasaki received 48.8%; Republican Jim Matherly, 44.44%; and Republican Alex Jafre, 6.76%.

In one Anchorage state House race, Democratic incumbent Rep. Andy Josephson and Republican Kathy Henslee tied at 1,781 votes, while Alaskan Independence Party candidate Timothy Huit received 244.

Candidates have until Sept. 5 to withdraw and not have their names appear on general election ballots. If a candidate withdraws in congressional and legislative races with more than four primary candidates, the candidate with the next most votes in the primary would be added to the ballot. If a candidate for governor withdraws, their lieutenant governor candidate would become the candidate for governor and choose a new running mate.

Alaska Beacon is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Alaska Beacon maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Andrew Kitchenman for questions: Follow Alaska Beacon on Facebook and Twitter.

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