Winner of U.S. House election will be announced Wednesday

Whether Alaskans and the other 434 members of the U.S. House will be addressing Rep. Sarah Palin or Rep. Mary Peltola likely will be announced late Wednesday.

State elections officials plan to announce that day the final vote tally and election winner under Alaska’s new ranked-choice voting system — it’s the deadline for any absentee ballots from overseas to arrive and be added to the count.

In-person voting for the election was held Aug. 16.

With a near-final ballot count released last Friday evening, more than 190,000 votes had been cast and turnout exceeded 32% — the highest August election turnout in Alaska since 2014, when turnout was 39%.

In the special U.S. House race, which marked the state’s first election under the new voting system, Bethel Democrat Peltola increased her lead and had 74,496, 39.6%, of the first-choice votes counted as of last Friday. Republican Palin had 58,149, 30.9%, of first-choice votes. Republican Nick Begich III trailed at 52,320, 27.8%.

Under ranked-choice voting, the third-place finisher will be eliminated from the race, and those votes will be redistributed to whoever is ranked second on those ballots. The winner will likely be determined by the number of Begich supporters who ranked Palin second. If Palin receives enough second-choice votes from Begich supporters, she could overtake Peltola to become Alaska’s new U.S. House member.

The special U.S. House election, prompted by the death of longtime Rep. Don Young in March, will determine who will serve out the last four months of Young’s term. Peltola, Palin and Begich are also in the running for the regular November election that will determine who will hold that seat for the full two-year term that begins in January.

The order of finishers in the Aug. 16 primary election for the full term was the same as the special election: Peltola, Palin and Begich.

Under Alaska’s new election laws, the top four vote-getters in the open primary will advance to the November election. The fourth-place primary finisher was Republican Tara Sweeney, at 3.7%, but she announced last week she would drop out of the race, citing no “path to victory” and fundraising challenges.

That means the fifth-place finisher will be on the November ballot: Libertarian Chris Bye, with 0.6% of votes.

In last Friday’s count for the U.S. Senate primary, incumbent Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski increased her lead over Republican challenger Kelly Tshibaka, who has the backing of former President Donald Trump. Murkowski had 45% of votes to 38.6% for Tshibaka. Rounding out the November ballot will be Democrat Pat Chesbro, who had 6.8% of votes, and Republican Buzz Kelley, who was in fourth with 2.1%.

In the race for governor, Republican incumbent Mike Dunleavy is comfortably ahead of challengers with 40.4% of votes. Democratic former Anchorage legislator Les Gara is in second with 23%. Independent former Gov. Bill Walker is a close third with 22.8%. In fourth is Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce with 6.6%.

More than half the voters in Wrangell and Southern Southeast Alaska cast their ballots for Dunleavy over his two main challengers. Wrangell voted 256 for Dunleavy, 126 for Walker and 63 for Gara. State House District 1, which includes Wrangell, Ketchikan, Metlakatla and Prince of Wales Island, was more favorable to Walker, with 1,976 for Dunleavy, 1,229 for Walker and 630 for Gara.

Whereas District 1 went for Murkowski over Tshibaka 1,990 to 1,597, Wrangell favored Tshibaka 230-206.

In the special election for U.S. House, voters in District 1 were closely divided for the top three candidates: Begich, 1,448; Peltola, 1,431; and Palin, 1,409. In Wrangell, Palin was the clear winner with 246 votes, to 137 for Begich and 118 for Peltola.

In the primary election for state House District 1, incumbent Rep. Dan Ortiz, running as a nonpartisan, outpolled first-time challenger Republican Jeremy Bynum, 2,174 to 1,812. Ortiz carried Wrangell, though by a slimmer margin, 235-212. Both candidates live in Ketchikan.

In the state Senate race that includes House District 1, plus District 2 comprised of Sitka and the rest of Southeast south of Juneau, incumbent Republican Sen. Bert Stedman, of Sitka, collected twice as many votes as his Republican challenger, Mike Sheldon, of Petersburg, 5,537-2,505.

 

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