Ahead of withdrawal deadline, some Alaska legislative candidates call it quits

a polling place
A voter joins a line of voters waiting to cast their ballots on Aug. 15, 2022, at the state Division of Elections office in Anchorage. (Photo by Yereth Rosen/Alaska Beacon)

Saturday is the last day for registered candidates to quit Alaska’s legislative and U.S. House elections, and ahead of the deadline, some potential pols say they’ve decided against running for office after finding common ground with other candidates.

Jason Avery, the lone Democratic candidate in the race to replace Sen. Click Bishop, R-Fairbanks, is withdrawing and throwing his support behind candidate Savannah Fletcher, whose affiliation is undeclared.

“I realized that our platform is very similar. We both have the same priorities, and it’s just an opportunity for me to step aside and help her with her campaign,” he said.

Bishop said earlier this year that he would not seek reelection. Avery’s decision means the primary will not narrow the number of candidates for Bishop’s old seat.

Under Alaska law, the top four finishers in the Aug. 20 primary will advance to the general election, and Avery’s withdrawal reduces the number of candidates for the seat from five to four.

If Fletcher wins the election, Avery expects to join her in Juneau as a member of her staff, he said.

Fletcher and Avery have similar ideas about the need to increase public school funding and provide better benefits for public employees, Avery said.

He also believes Fletcher will work on better mental health treatment, something that’s a personal priority for him.

He’s been a year sober and is getting treatment.

“I want to see more people have the success I’ve had,” he said.

In Anchorage, undeclared candidate Greg Magee is dropping out of the House District 10 race against incumbent Republican Rep. Craig Johnson.

That leaves former Rep. Chuck Kopp, also a Republican, as Johnson’s lone opponent.

Magee said he spoke with Kopp this past week, and that meeting was a factor in his decision.

Magee registered as a candidate because he thought Johnson would be unopposed. 

Magee disagrees with Johnson’s decision to uphold Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s veto of a bipartisan public education bill this year. The Legislature failed to override that veto by a single vote.

He said he also disagrees with Johnson’s opposition to a public-pension bill.

Magee said he and Kopp are aligned on those issues.

Magee’s withdrawal creates a head-to-head race between Kopp and Johnson in both the Aug. 20 primary and the Nov. 5 general election.

How Alaska votes

In Alaska’s election system, all candidates for an office, regardless of political party, are placed in the same primary election. Voters pick one candidate, and the four candidates with the most votes advance to the general election.

In the general election, voters are asked to rank the candidates in order of preference, one through four, with a fifth option for a write-in, if wanted.

If a candidate receives more than half of the first-preference votes, they win.

If no one receives more than half of the first-preference votes, the lowest finisher is eliminated, and voters who picked that candidate have their votes go for their second preference.

The elimination process continues until one candidate has more than half of the remaining votes.

Presidential elections do not have a top-four primary. Voters in November may be asked to rank more than four candidates for president.

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: info@alaskabeacon.com. Follow Alaska Beacon on Facebook and X.

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