GOP holds House, tallies not yet settled in some races
A mix of old and new faces will be headed to Juneau in January — but in some House races, candidates are waiting for absentee ballots to be counted before they pack their bags.
Lance Pruitt, R-Anchorage, faced one of the close House races. He was pitted against another incumbent, Pete Petersen, D-Anchorage.
By Nov. 7, with all precincts reporting but absentee ballots not yet added to the totals, Pruitt was up by 97 votes, or about 1.4 percent.
Pruitt said he expected to retain his lead. He attributed that to a hard-fought, but upbeat, campaign.
“We tried to stick to the positive message, I don’t think there’s any secret my opponent did not,” Pruitt said. “…Whatever happens, I’ll sleep well.”
In Southeast Alaska, Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, D-Sitka, is poised to upset incumbent Bill Thomas, R-Haines.
With all precincts in, Kreiss-Tomkins had 44 votes, or about 0.7 percent, more than Thomas. That race saw the most spending in all of Southeast Alaska. Combined, the candidates raised more than $130,000, with Thomas accounting for the majority of that.
Pruitt and Petersen weren’t the only incumbents who faced off.
In Ketchikan, a three-way race included incumbents Peggy Wilson, a Republican, and Kyle Johansen, a Republican-turned-independent, and Democrat Matt Olsen. Wilson won that race with 2,971 votes, compared to Olsen’s 1,696 and Johnasen’s 437.
Interior Alaska also had two double incumbent races. Tammy Wilson, R-North Pole, beat Bob Miller, D-Fairbanks by 288 votes. And in another three-way race, incumbent David Guttenberg, D-Fairbanks, beat incumbent Alan Dick, R-Nenana and newcomer independent Dorothy Shockely.
Other close Anchorage races were decided by about 700 votes. Incumbent Lindsey Holmes, D-Anchorage, beat challenger Anand Dubey, a Republican, and incumbent Republican Charisse Millet beat Patti Higgins, a Democrat.
Some future representatives are preparing for the next session.
Others, like Kreiss-Tomkins, are just waiting anxiously for absentees to be counted.
He has some regrouping work, and waiting to do. If things go well, he’d like to see his constituents again.
“I also want to make it back to the communities in my district as soon as I can,” Kreiss-Tomkins said.
Pruitt said he has an idea of what he’ll do if he wins the Anchorage seat.
Pruitt said he’ll spend time looking at possible legislation. Public safety and sex trafficking issues are among his concerns, he said. But resource issues are pressing.
“Gasline and oil taxes are what we need to focus on as a legislature,” he said. “We need to settle this discussion.”
Several other representatives said they were ready for a break.
Gabrielle LeDoux, an Anchorage Republican and a former representative from Kodiak, won her seat with about 65 percent of the vote. She wore out a couple pairs of shoes in the process, making four trips through her district on foot.
Now that the election’s over, she’d like to travel and spend time with family, she said. And maybe wear out a few more pairs of sneakers.
“I want to start training for a marathon,” LeDoux said.
Once the session starts, she’ll retain the focus she had on her district while campaigning.
“My priorities are representing my district, representing it well,” LeDoux said.
Among the newcomers are two Anchorage representatives who ran in districts without incumbents.
Democrats Harriet Drummond, a member of the Anchorage Assembly, and Andy Josephson won with about 56 and 58 percent of the vote in their districts.
Before Drummond’s attention shifts to the legislature, she needs to finish up Anchorage’s budget, and reapportionment work in the municipality.
Her time on the assembly has provided some lessons.
“Pay attention, do your homework, ‘cause if you’re not paying attention there’s all kinds of things that can slip by you,” Drummond said.
Despite her public service experience, the legislature will be a new beast.
“I’ve been on nonpartisan bodies my whole career so far,” Drummond said. “…But now I’m a Democrat tried and true, with a ‘D’ after my name.”
Drummond said she’d like to work across party lines in the House. Roads and neighborhoods will be priorities.
With the Senate open to the possibility of new leadership, it’s likely that the House will be asked to consider oil tax reform again.
Drummond said she wants to see development in Alaska, but doesn’t want to give up state revenue without a definite return.
Josephson said his preparations will include enjoying some time away from the campaign and seeing whether he’s eligible to pre-file some legislation. Among his concerns are natural resources-related legislation.
As Democrat, Josephson said he’ll also be working to make himself relevant as a participant in decision-making and not be marginalized.
Democrat Les Gara, who has served in the legislature since 2003, said he hoped the two parties could work together to serve Alaskans.
“I think great imbalance between party numbers in the legislature is the stuff partisanship feeds off of,” Gara said.