4 takeaways from Alaska’s election night results

A sign outside the Alaska Zoo polling place on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022. (Katie Anastas/Alaska Public Media)

Election Day is over in Alaska, and enough dust has settled to call some high-interest contests, and to know what to watch for in unresolved races as more ballots are counted.

This is Alaska’s first ranked choice general election. With the caveats that the results so far are unofficial, incomplete and just include first place votes, here are four takeaways from Alaska’s election night results. 

1. Murkowski and Peltola are in a good position to win reelection

Alaska’s incumbent U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola is leading in her bid for reelection, and incumbent U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski closely trails her more conservative Republican challenger Kelly Tshibaka.

However, in the Senate race, Tshibaka’s lead isn’t decisive. The winner will likely come out of the ranked choice tabulation scheduled for Nov. 23. 

Tshibaka has just over 44% of the vote. The famously moderate incumbent Republican Murkowski has just under 43%. 

That means the second picks of voters who backed Democrat Pat Chesbro first will probably be decisive. Chesbro has almost 10% of the vote. Her voters’ second-choice picks will be counted later this month and added to Murkowski and Tshibaka’s totals. Chesbro voters are expected to strongly favor Murkowski over Tshibaka – by as much as 80%, according to political consultant Jim Lottsfeldt, who ran independent expenditure groups supporting Murkowski. 

In the race for Alaska’s lone U.S. House seat, Democrat Mary Peltola has 47% of the vote, a bit short of the 50% plus one vote needed to win outright. Republicans Sarah Palin and Nick Begich III follow with about 27% and 24%. Technically, Palin could still win, but only if the vast majority of Begich voters took the “rank the red” message to heart and chose the former governor as their second choice. In the special election in August, only about half of Begich voters marked Palin as their second. Nearly 29% of Begich voters made Peltola their second choice.

RELATED: Peltola leads in Alaska’s U.S. House race, while U.S. Senate race tightens

2. Gov. Dunleavy is very likely to win reelection outright

Incumbent Republican Mike Dunleavy is leading in Alaska’s race for governor, capturing about 52% of first place votes tallied so far.

Democrat Les Gara has about 23% and independent Bill Walker has about 20%. Republican Charlie Pierce is trailing with less than 5% of the vote. 

If Dunleavy’s share of the vote remains over 50% as more ballots are counted, he will win a second term as governor outright, with no need for ranked choice vote tabulations.

Lottsfeldt, the political consultant, said that appears to have happened – or that he’s close enough. 

“So it’s possible Dunleavy drops under 50%, but at this point, it doesn’t matter. … When we go to rank choice voting, he will pick up the handful of votes he needs,” Lottsfeldt said. “There’s no question in my mind that Dunleavy’s getting another term.”

Dunleavy would be the first Republican governor in Alaska to win two consecutive terms since Gov. Jay Hammond in 1978.

RELATED: Dunleavy poised to win Alaska governor’s race

3. Alaska House leaning Republican, moderates gain in Senate 

Because of redistricting, all but one of the seats in the Alaska Legislature were on the ballot this year. That’s 40 members of the state House and 19 senators. Several key races are too close to call, but Republicans are likely to continue to have mathematical majorities in both chambers. 

But divisions between hardline Republicans and more pragmatic ones have made it difficult for the leadership in both chambers to run functional partisan majorities in recent years.  

In the House, Republicans lead in 21 of the 40 races. That makes it more likely for a partisan Republican majority to form, replacing the multipartisan coalition that has controlled it since 2017, according to the Alaska Beacon. 

In the Senate, moderate Republicans and Democrats appear likely to win several seats from more conservative Republican incumbents and challengers. Political poller Ivan Moore told the Beacon the results suggest a multiparty coalition is “very likely.”

“I think it’s a win for balance. I think it’s a win for moderates,” he said.

4. Alaska won’t hold a constitutional convention

The early results on the ballot measure asking voters whether or not to hold a constitutional convention show a decisive answer: no.

Only about 30% of votes counted so far are in favor. 

The question is on the ballot every 10 years. In a constitutional convention, elected delegates could draft changes or a wholesale rewrite of the state constitution. 

Proponents wanted to add a guarantee for a Permanent Fund dividend, expand school choice, limit abortion rights and give elected politicians a greater say in selecting state judges. 

Opponents said opening up the entire constitution to changes would be risky, and lead to a long, expensive process that could hurt business and opportunity in the state.

The wide margin opposing the convention fits with historic trends.

RELATED: Alaskans say no to constitutional convention

Jeremy Hsieh covers Anchorage with an emphasis on housing, homelessness, infrastructure and development. Reach him at jhsieh@alaskapublic.org or 907-550-8428. Read more about Jeremy here.

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