Tegan Hanlon

Dunleavy takes decisive win against Begich for gov

Republican Mike Dunleavy is set to become the next governor of Alaska after building a wide lead over Democrat Mark Begich with most precincts reporting. The former state senator from Wasilla had about 52.4 percent of the vote with 98 percent of precincts reporting early Nov. 7. Begich, a former U.S. senator, had about 43.6 percent of the vote. Gov. Bill Walker, who suspended his re-election campaign and threw his support to Begich, had 2 percent of the vote. Dunleavy’s win would mean the Alaska Republican Party taking back the governorship after four years of Walker, an independent, in office. At a Republican watch party at the Anchorage Alehouse on Election Day, Dunleavy thanked the packed crowd around 11 p.m. He had walked into the restaurant earlier that night to cheers and people chanting his name. “I’m feeling good about where we’re at and I’m feeling really good about where we’re going to go with the state of Alaska, so I want to thank everybody for all of your support, being here tonight and throughout this campaign,” he told the crowd. “We’ll keep watching the numbers but it looks good right now.” In an interview, Dunleavy described his campaign as one of the greatest experiences of his life. The Dunleavy campaign released a statement around midnight on Election Day saying the candidate had won, referring to him as “governor-elect.” Begich and his campaign manager didn’t return calls just before 1 a.m. Begich’s campaign had not issued a statement about the race through its his campaign website or social media pages early on the morning of Nov. 7. Dunleavy, 57, and Begich, 56, have been locked in a two-way fight since Walker suspended his campaign for re-election Oct. 19. Just days before that, his former Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott unexpectedly resigned after making unspecified “inappropriate comments” to a woman. Walker dropping out turned a crowded three-way race into a clearer Republican-versus-Democrat battle for the state’s top elected office. But because Walker didn’t formally withdraw from the race by the Sept. 4 deadline, his name and Mallott’s remained on the ballot. Walker is the only independent governor in the country, meaning Republicans nationally would count a Dunleavy victory as a win to flip a governorship red in the midterm elections. Dunleavy said in an interview that the election results show his message resonated with voters. “I think it’s the message that we can develop our resources, that we don’t have to default to taxes or Permanent Fund until we get our fiscal house in order. That we need to create jobs,” he said. “I’m not going to celebrate, for example, the expansion of welfare programs,” he said. “I’m going to celebrate the expansion of job creation in the state of Alaska, developing our resources in the state of Alaska. I think that’s what Alaskans want. “We’re going to try to have a night where we’re able to fall asleep and not answer the phone for a couple hours.” State Sen. Kevin Meyer was elected lieutenant governor alongside Dunleavy. Begich walked into Flattop Pizza + Pool in downtown Anchorage on Election Night with his family and Call. A crowd of supporters there cheered and chanted, “Mark.” In an interview around 9:45 p.m., Begich said that he anticipated a close race. “I’ve been looking forward to this day. This is the day you wait for,” he said. “You wait for these numbers and then you — one of two things will happen: You win or you lose. And at the end of the day, we put a great agenda forward.” This year’s governor’s race came at the tail end of a deep economic recession in Alaska, driven by a crash in oil prices. Lawmakers drained billions of dollars from the state’s savings account to fill the resulting budget gaps. Walker also reduced Alaskans’ Permanent Fund dividend checks in 2016 in response to the state’s fiscal crisis. Lawmakers capped the oil-wealth payouts the following two years. Both Dunleavy and Begich attempted to tap into the resentment some Alaskans felt after three years of reduced dividend checks. The PFD and the economy, as well as crime, arose as key campaign topics for both candidates. Dunleavy and Begich both campaigned on reducing crime in Alaska, but diverged sharply on their plans for the budget and the PFD. Dunleavy promised full PFDs under the formula in law. He wants to cut the state budget and limit spending. Begich has said Alaska needs revenues, and he’d support certain new taxes. He wants to calculate dividends using a different formula, and use a portion of the money drawn from the Permanent Fund each year to pay for public education. Libertarian candidate Billy Toien was also on the ballot in the governor’s race. He had less than 2 percent of the vote with 98 percent of precincts reporting. Around 8 p.m. Tuesday, as people trickled into Election Central at the Egan Center in downtown Anchorage, Toien sat at a table with several people holding signs bearing his name. “It’s been long and kind of grueling and this is the grand finale,” he said, “and I’m just going to sit back and enjoy the show and watch for the outcome.” Of Alaska’s 573,798 registered voters, about 57 percent are nonpartisan or undeclared, about 25 percent are Republicans and about 13 percent are Democrats. Before Walker, the last three governors in Alaska were Republican. Walker, too, had been a Republican, but switched to independent for his gubernatorial bid in 2014. Dunleavy was first elected to the state Senate in 2012. He resigned from the senate in January to focus on his campaign for governor. Dunleavy also worked as a school teacher, principal and superintendent in Alaska. He served on the school board of the Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District. Born in Pennsylvania, Dunleavy moved to Alaska in 1983. This year’s governor’s race was also marked by big spending by independent expenditure groups. The groups dumped more money into the race in the final weeks leading up to Election Day, trying to win voters over by pushing out a flurry of advertisements and signs. Those groups aren’t allowed to coordinate with campaigns, but they are able to raise unlimited money from individuals and organizations. The Nov. 6 ballot count includes early votes cast through Nov. 5 and absentee ballots logged and reviewed up until Friday. An elections division spokeswoman said Nov. 6 she didn’t have a number of how many ballots will be outstanding, including the number of questioned ballots. Absentee by-mail ballots had to be postmarked by Election Day.

APOC expedites hearing on complaint against Dunleavy backers

Alaska campaign regulators decided Oct. 2 to fast-track their review of two complaints filed by the re-election campaign for Gov. Bill Walker and Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott against groups supporting the election of Mike Dunleavy, the Republican candidate for governor. That means the commissioners with the Alaska Public Offices Commission will have a public hearing on the merits of the complaints Oct. 4, instead of weeks from now, to decide whether the groups violated campaign finance laws. The commissioners could have also decided to dismiss the complaints, according to Tom Lucas, APOC campaign disclosure coordinator. APOC is the state agency that regulates campaign finance. It can levy financial penalties for violations. At a three-and-a-half-hour meeting in Anchorage on Oct. 2, Walker-Mallott campaign staff argued for the expedited review of the two complaints with the November general election just over a month away. An Anchorage lawyer for the two groups named in the complaints — the Republican Governors Association and Families for Alaska’s Future — Dunleavy — argued against speeding up the process. The Republican Governors Association, or the RGA, is a Washington, D.C.-based organization that backs Republican candidates for governor. Families for Alaska’s Future — Dunleavy is an independent expenditure group formed this year that has gotten nearly all of its funding from the RGA, according to APOC reports. The Walker-Mallott campaign is accusing the RGA of setting up Families for Alaska’s Future — Dunleavy as a “front group” so it appears the ads it’s funding originate in Alaska, not Outside, and so it can shield its donors from public disclosure. Also, the campaign says, the RGA reserved $1.5 million worth of ad time in Alaska for the purpose of influencing the state’s election, but the organization hasn’t registered with APOC as an independent expenditure group and hasn’t reported the expenditures, which the campaign says it should have. “These are some of the largest expenditures in Alaska state election history,” Walker-Mallott campaign manager John-Henry Heckendorn told APOC commissioners. “I think that would be a pretty terrible precedent to set — that organizations that come up here and spend money for the purposes of influencing Alaska’s elections don’t have to play by Alaska’s laws.” Independent expenditure groups can raise unlimited funds from individuals and organizations, but can’t coordinate with the campaigns of the candidates they’re supporting. The groups must register with APOC and file reports about their finances, including where their money is coming from and how they’re spending it. In a statement last week, RGA attorney Michael Adams said the facts alleged in the APOC complaint are false. The Walker-Mallott campaign is also accusing Families for Alaska’s Future-Dunleavy of failing to properly register and file reports with APOC. The campaign says the RGA transferred hundreds of thousands of dollars of ad time to the independent expenditure group, but the group hasn’t reported any in-kind contributions from the RGA. Stacey Stone, the Anchorage attorney representing Families for Alaska’s Future-Dunleavy and the RGA on Oct. 2, said the Walker-Mallott campaign hadn’t provided substantial evidence to support expediting the complaints, as required by state law. The alleged violation involving the RGA also happened nearly six months ago, she said in a filing with APOC, and the campaign has “sat on its rights.” “The reason not to rush this is, again as I said, while Walker-Mallott may want to take away the due process of those who are against it because they feel like they’re running from behind, there’s a substantial and fundamental fairness that’s required for due process — it’s the notice and the opportunity to be heard,” Stone told commissioners. APOC chairwoman Anne Helzer announced Oct. 2 after a closed-door executive session that the commissioners would expedite their review of the two complaints. She did not go into details about why. According to state law, when the commission is deciding whether to expedite a complaint, it will consider factors such as whether the alleged violation could affect the outcome of an election “if not immediately restrained,” whether the alleged violation could cause “irreparable harm” and whether there was reasonable cause to believe a violation had occurred. The hearing was set for 1:15 p.m. Oct. 4 at APOC’s Anchorage office. The Walker-Mallott campaign filed another complaint last week against the RGA, but didn’t request expedited review. The complaint stemmed from activities during the 2014 campaign season.

Begich refuses calls to drop out of three-way gov race

Former U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, under pressure from some in his party to withdraw from the Alaska governor’s race, said Sept. 4 that he isn’t dropping out. “Let me make it very clear to the reporters and others: If you want to talk about the process, talk to someone else,” he told press and a crowd of cheering supporters at his campaign headquarters in Anchorage. “We are done with that. I’m in the race to win. It’s a three-way race, so get used to it.” The Democrat’s announcement came about 90 minutes before the state’s deadline to withdraw from the Nov. 6 general election. Begich is facing off against incumbent Gov. Bill Walker, an independent, and former state Sen. Mike Dunleavy, a Republican. Some Democrats have said they’re concerned Begich and Walker will split the vote, resulting in a Dunleavy win. Walker is a Republican-turned-independent, who is running again this year with his Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott, a Democrat. In a statement Sept. 4, Walker said no matter how many candidates are in the governor’s race, the election will come down to decisions made on the Permanent Fund and fiscal plan. He described those decisions as tough and ones that “party politicians would like to run away from.” The Dunleavy campaign also used the announcement to further its messaging, referring to Walker and Mallott as a “failed experiment” and Begich as a “career politician” in a statement. The candidates for Alaska’s governor will vie for votes in a state where about 57 percent of registered voters are nonpartisan or undeclared, according to numbers from the Alaska Division of Elections. About 25 percent of the state’s 567,403 registered voters are registered as Republicans, and about 13 percent are registered as Democrats. “I don’t think any rigid analysis of politics is going to help describe what’s going to happen in the next 60 days,” said Alaska Republican Party chairman Tuckerman Babcock. “I think, partly after this primary, it’s a little presumptuous for anyone to say, ‘this is how this is gonna come down.’ … Alaskan elections are always so unique.” Another candidate, Libertarian William “Billy” Toien, is also running for governor. A petition on MoveOn.org calling for Begich to drop out of the race had about 900 signatures by Sept. 4, on top of the original 100 it had when it was posted online last month. The original signers included Alaska Native corporation executives, current and former lawmakers, members of Walker’s administration, and others. The deadline for candidates to withdraw from the Nov. 6 general election was 5 p.m. on Sept. 4. If a candidate drops out between that deadline and the general election, their name will still appear on the ballot because it will have already been printed, but votes for them won’t be counted, said Division of Elections spokeswoman Samantha Miller. Dunleavy has a better chance of winning in a three-way race than a two-way race, but he’s not the “automatic winner,” said Ivan Moore, a longtime Alaska pollster who has done polling work for both Begich and Walker. “I think with the three of them in the race, the dynamics could swing any way,” Moore said. “I think it’s legitimately anyone’s race.”

Dunleavy cruises to GOP pick for governor

Former Wasilla state Sen. Mike Dunleavy built a big early lead and held it over former Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell on Aug. 21, winning the Republican primary race for Alaska governor. His victory sets up a three-way race in November’s general election, with Dunleavy facing incumbent Gov. Bill Walker, who is running as an independent, and former Anchorage mayor and U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, a Democrat. With 98 percent of the precincts counted statewide by Aug. 22, Dunleavy had 62 percent of the vote compared with 32 percent for Treadwell. Dunleavy claimed victory shortly after 11 p.m. Aug. 21 at a Downtown Anchorage hotel, where the Alaska Republican Party held its watch party and where he had watched the results come in most of the night. Dunleavy thanked his supporters, his campaign staff, the other GOP candidates and his wife. He said he would work to build trust among those who didn’t vote for him. “This is a Republican state and we need to take back this governorship,” he said as the crowd cheered. “By working together, we can make it happen.” Meanwhile, state Sen. Kevin Meyer of Anchorage appeared on his way to winning the Republican primary race for lieutenant governor. In an interview, Dunleavy said he planned to celebrate his primary win by going home to Wasilla with his wife, Rose, and feeding their three dogs, Mr. Tito, Blue and Olive. On Aug. 22, he said, the next race begins. Tuckerman Babcock, chairman of the Alaska Republican Party, said Tuesday’s results signal that the party is behind Dunleavy. “This is a remarkable margin,” he said. Treadwell, in congratulating Dunleavy, also expressed disappointment in the lack of attention on the primary campaigns. “We have to bring the Republican Party together because right now the ideas that we brought forward on trying to save jobs, build jobs in this economy, having experienced people run this thing, we did not get very much attention,” he said. “The biggest issue was who was tallest.” During their campaigns, Dunleavy and Treadwell agreed on a range of issues. Both are pro-life conservatives. Both have said they want to protect Alaskans’ annual Permanent Fund dividend checks. With political experience and significant campaign funding, the two had emerged as front-runners in a Republican primary alongside five other candidates. Dunleavy got into the race much earlier than Treadwell, who filed to run at the last moment in June. Since Aug. 11, Dunleavy has raised $8,000 in donations to his campaign, bringing his fundraising total to about $320,000. Treadwell received $9,000 in donations after Aug. 11 for a total of $145,000. While Dunleavy was the top money-raiser among Republican candidates, donations to his campaign are just part of the picture. He also has benefited from $760,000 — including $16,500 in the past week — pouring into an independent expenditure group fueled largely by Dunleavy’s brother and sportfishing advocate and developer Bob Penney. Campaign season spending pales in comparison to the last governor’s race in 2014, when a three-person fight for the Republican nod for U.S. Senate and a controversial ballot measure on oil taxes fueled a flurry of advertising. That year, primary election turnout was about 39 percent. This year, that number figures to be far lower — if only because the number of registered voters has grown to include people who applied for Permanent Fund dividends but who do not normally cast ballots. Third-party groups can spend an unlimited amount in Alaska campaigns. A group formed to support Treadwell has raised about $60,000, including $7,500 in the past week. In an interview Tuesday night, Treadwell mentioned the money Dunleavy supporters raised. “I ran against essentially a self-funded candidate and our campaign finance laws basically make it very, very hard. This was checkbook deterrence,” he said. “I want to congratulate Mike on his apparent victory.” Asked if he was conceding, Treadwell did not say yes. “What does a concession mean?” he said. “I would like to congratulate whoever won this election, and if it’s Mike, congratulations.” The general election is Nov. 6.
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