Wrangell Sentinel -

By Dan Rudy 

Political changes to follow as votes tallied


Submitted Photo

Unity ticket candidates Byron Mallott and Bill Walker share a celebratory gesture. Standing as an Independent candidate in the Nov. 4 general election, Walker is considered the next governor-elect after narrowly beating Gov. Sean Parnell by about 6,000 votes. Mallott had been the Democratic candidate for governor, but the two campaigns joined forces after polling indicated Walker had the better chance of winning in a two-way election.

The definitions of Alaska's political landscape are soon to be settled following the 2014 midterm elections on Nov. 4. As the last votes are counted, concessions have begun coming in.

Since Election Day, Alaska's Division of Elections officials in 441 precincts across the state have been tallying around 48,000 absentee, early and questioned votes in the hope of determining the winners of the Nov. 4 general election.

In Southeast, it was a particularly close race for the State House seat for District 36 – encompassing Wrangell, Ketchikan, Hydaburg, Metlakatla, Saxman and the North Tongass – where Independent candidate Dan Ortiz and Republican Chere Klein were competing to replace outgoing Rep. Peggy Wilson.

At the initial count on Election Day, Ortiz had held a narrow lead over Klein by 19 votes. Once the absentee and early ballots were accounted for, by Friday Ortiz held a larger lead of 102 votes. Klein has since conceded the election, though the results have yet to be made official.

There was a more than 55 percent voter turnout for District 36 with 7,234 of 13,064 registered voters casting a ballot. In Wrangell, 46 percent, or 760 of its 1,652 registered voters, turned out on Election Day to vote. An additional 1,380 absentee and 495 questioned ballots have since been taken into account.

With three measures on the ballot, the governorship and a senator's seat in contest, turnout in Alaska was better than the national average, at about 56 percent. Of the state's 509,011 registered voters, 284,925 voted, showing the third-highest turnout of any state. According to the New York Times, nationally the turnout was the worst in 76 years, with only 36.3 percent of eligible voters participating.

Alaska Governor Sean Parnell conceded to Independent candidate Bill Walker on Saturday. Walker had run on a unity ticket with Democratic gubernatorial candidate Byron Mallott, narrowly beating the two-term Republican governor by only 6,225 votes.

Sen. Mark Begich also conceded to challenger Dan Sullivan Monday, after the ballot tally had the Republican candidate ahead by 7,700 votes. It brings to an end, per-capita, the most expensive Senate race in United States history, with $60.7 million spent by four campaigns.

In its post-election analysis, the Brookings Institution estimates $120 was spent on each Alaska voter by candidates and outside groups. As a contrast, the average expenditure for the past three cycles across the country is $7.30 per voter. Much of the spending came from Super PAC groups like Put Alaska First and American Crossroads, and political PACs like the National Republican and Democratic senatorial committees.

A trio of ballot measures also passed. The measure regulating the sale and use of marijuana earned 53 percent of the vote, one tying big mining projects proposed near Bristol Bay to legislative approval took 66 percent, and a measure to substantially raise the state minimum wage saw an overwhelming 69 percent support at the polls.

Detailed, updated results are available on the state's election site, http://www.elections.alaska.gov.


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