Politics

Politics

Dunleavy may have edge in three-way governor’s race

There is now a complex three-way race for governor in the Alaska November general election and the street talk is that Republican Mike Dunleavy, who defeated challenger Mead Treadwell in the August 21 primary, could well emerge the winner. That’s if the Democrat, former U.S. Senator Mark Begich, and Bill Walker, the incumbent running for reelection as an independent, split the Democratic and independent vote, which is expected. Dunleavy racked up 42,223 votes to Treadwell’s 22,078 in the primary. Begich, essentially unopposed, netted 32,069. Walker was not on the primary ballot as an independent, so his strength was not tested. Some Democrats are urging Begich to exit the race, but he has declined.

The outcome will be very uncertain because essentially a minority of Alaskans will elect the next governor. Because Alaska leans conservative, that seems to favor Dunleavy. Most Alaskans vote independent, however, so the Republican primary numbers (it is a closed primary) must be taken with a grain of salt. Some of Treadwell’s voters will go to Dunleavy, the conservative, and some to Walker, a political moderate. Walker is handicapped by resentment among some voters for his trimming the Permanent Fund Dividend. And if voters are in a sour mood because of the regional recession and state budget cuts, that rubs off on the incumbent – Walker.

Walker picks up endorsements from labor and teachers

Walker did pick up two key endorsements. One was from the National Education Association’s 13,000-member Alaska affiliate group of teachers; a second was AFL-CIO, an umbrella group for most unions in the state. It is the state’s most influential organized labor group, and its endorsement of Walker is a blow to Begich, the Democrat. Meanwhile, the Alaska human rights LGBTQ group Alaskans Together for Equality endorsed Begich. The group is unhappy over Walker’s lack of forceful opposition to anti-equality positions taken by Republicans in Congress and President Donald Trump. Womens’ groups are unhappy with Walker’s lack of strong support on womens’ issues, and environmental voters cite Walker’s ambivalence on climate issues.

There were some upsets in legislative races, where rising crime was a strong undercurrent of voter dissatisfaction. One high-profile political casualty was Republican House Minority Leader Charisse Millet, beaten by a political unknown. Two other veteran Republicans, Senate Majority Leader Peter Micciche of Kenai and House Rules Chair Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux of Anchorage barely survived, both challenged by unknowns. LeDoux came under fire from Republicans for joining a coalition in organizing the state House for the past Legislature. LeDoux’s margin was narrow and it was discovered that 26 absentee ballots were cast by fraud, by people who did not cast them or who were dead. State attorneys are investigating, but this was not enough to change the outcome.  Republican Party chairman Tuckerman Babcock said the party was exploring a write-in campaign to defeat LeDoux in the general election.

The outlook for House and Senate organization has a bit more clarity. Based on the primary results the House Democrat-Republican split will be very narrow, 21-19 either way or even 20-20. Some type of coalition is likely – a few Republicans joining Democrats as happened in the last Legislature or a handful of Democrats, likely rural, joining Republicans, which has also happened. The Senate will remain under Republican leadership, but leadership positions will change. If Dunleavy is elected, expect a poor relationship with the Legislature no matter which party controls the House and Senate. While in the Senate Dunleavy did not get on well with his colleagues.

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