Key state legislative contests highly volatile as races go down to the wire

Outcomes of key state House and Senate races are highly uncertain in the final days of Alaska’s general election, and Democrats are raising and spending more money in the heated final weeks leading up to Nov. 6.

In Southeast Alaska, a closely-watched state House race is in House District 34, which includes Sitka and Haines. Republican Rep. Bill Thomas, an influential Alaska Native legislator, has a thin lead over his Democratic challenger Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, according to a poll by Hellenthal & Assoc that was released to the Journal.

In most parts of the state the reorganization of legislative districts by a Republican-appointed state board revamped district boundaries to favor Republicans, Democrats charge, but in Thomas’ case the board included Sitka in his district, which leans Democratic.

The survey shows Thomas with 47.9 percent of the vote in the new district compared with 45 percent for Kreiss-Tomkins. In the old district, small and heavily Alaska Native communities that did not include Sitka, Thomas traditionally won by larger percentages.

Sitka is Kreiss-Tomkins’ hometown.

The state House is virtually certain to be Republican-led and possibly by a wider margin than in the current Legislature, but the outcome of Thomas’ race is being watched because Native legislators may be fewer in the new Legislature due to redistricting. Another race being watched is the Southeast Senate race between Sen. Al Kookesh, D-Angoon, and Sen. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, where two incumbents in formerly separate districts face each other due to redistricting.

Stedman is leading in that race by a comfortable margin, however.

The key Senate races in Anchorage and Fairbanks are a real toss-up. Polls by different sides and survey firms are showing conflicting results. Races to watch include that between Democrat Hollis French and Republican Bob Bell, and between Republican Bob Roses and Democrat Bill Wielechowski, both in downtown Anchorage.

In Fairbanks, the toss-up races are between Democrat Joe Paskvan and Republican Pete Kelly in one Senate district, and between Republican John Coghill and Democrat Joe Thomas in another senate district.

In other Senate races being watched, Republican Anna Fairclough appears to be leading in her bid for the senate against Democrat Bettye Davis, who is the incumbent senator in a district that was changed to include Fairclough’s Eagle River House district, which leans heavily Republican.

Campaign spending reports from the Alaska Public Offices Commission show heavier spending in the contested state Senate races by Democrats compared with Republicans.

11/11/2016 - 5:38pm