State races tighten, flip after 70K more votes counted

  • Absentee ballots are seen being scanned for tabulation at the Division of Elections Region II office in Anchorage on Nov. 10. Leads for Sen. Dan Sullivan and Rep. Don Young held steady after 70,000 votes were counted, while several state races either tightened or flipped. (Photo/Bill Roth/Anchorage Daily News)

New election results released by the state just before midnight Nov. 10 showed Alaska’s Republican congressional incumbents holding on to commanding leads, despite their challengers hoping mail-in and early voters would boost their low turnout from Election Day.

But the latest batch did provide positive news for Democrats in some legislative races.

Entering the day, Alaska had about 156,000 uncounted votes, or 45 percent of all ballots cast in this year’s election. More than 70,000 were counted by the end of Nov. 10, and additional counts are expected later this week.

U.S. Rep. Don Young leads Democratic-endorsed independent challenger Alyse Galvin by 16 points, down from 26 on Election Day. U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan led Democratic-endorsed independent Al Gross by 30 points on Election Day and now leads by 20 — 57 percent to 37 percent.

At the top of the ticket, President Donald Trump leads Democratic candidate Joe Biden by almost 18 points, or 57 percent to 39 percent, down from 29 points on Election Day.

Entering Nov. 10, Gross, Galvin and Biden needed to win about 70 percent of all remaining votes in order to overcome Republican leads on Election Day. Instead, they won between 53 percent and 57 percent.

That means they must win a much greater percentage of the remaining 80,000 to 90,000 uncounted ballots to win. Any absentee ballots that arrive before the end of the day Nov. 13 will be counted as long as they were postmarked by Election Day.

Following the first batch of results on Nov. 10, the Gross campaign sent out a statement saying the race remains too close to call. When asked if he is confident that future batches will more heavily favor Democrats, Gross campaign manager David Keith said “absolutely.”

Gross would have to win more than three-fourths of the remaining ballots to win the election.

Matt Shuckerow, Sullivan’s campaign manager, said the numbers reflect what the campaign anticipated, and Sullivan continues to hold a strong lead. He said he doesn’t want to be critical of the Gross campaign’s optimism, but eventually the numbers are undeniable.

“I think ultimately our opponent is going to begin being far more realistic at what is happening,” Shuckerow said.

The Galvin campaign declined to immediately comment on the new batch of results.

All judges on the ballot are leading and on pace to be retained by voters.

Ballot Measure 1, the proposed oil tax increase, continues to trail by a wide margin. Down by over 29 percentage points on Election Day, it still trails by a 22-point margin.

The story is different for Ballot Measure 2, the three-part election-reform measure. Behind by 13 percentage points on Election Day, it now trails by about 5 points. If the state’s remaining uncounted ballots follow the same pattern as the Nov. 10 results, the measure will win.

Few state legislative races have definitive results, but Democratic-backed independent Calvin Schrage is now leading Anchorage Republican Mel Gillis by 280 votes (about 4½ percentage points) with fewer than 700 remaining to be counted.

In the race to replace Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux, R-Anchorage, Republican candidate David Nelson’s Election Day lead over Democratic candidate Lyn Franks is only 116 votes, or about 2.5 percent. About 770 ballots are believed to remain in that race.

Elsewhere in Anchorage, several Democratic incumbents who trailed on Election Day now lead by significant margins. Rep. Ivy Spohnholz trailed Republican Paul Bauer on Election Day, but she now leads by 12 percentage points. About 730 votes are uncounted in that race, but the remaining votes are expected to lean Democratic.

Democratic Sen. Bill Wielechowski, whose Anchorage district covers Spohnholz’s House district, trailed on Election Day but now leads Republican opponent Madeline Gaiser by 15 percentage points and appears on track for the largest victory in his political career. Almost 12,000 votes have been tallied, and about 1,500 remain.

Rep. Chris Tuck leads Republican Kathy Henslee by about 4 percentage points with 6,816 votes tallied. About 600 votes remain to be counted. Tuck trailed Henslee by 13 percentage points on Election Day.

Two Democratic incumbents in Fairbanks — Rep. Adam Wool and Rep. Grier Hopkins — also lead after trailing on Election Day.

Two years after winning by a single vote, Fairbanks Republican Rep. Bart LeBon has a 731-vote lead over Democratic challenger Christopher Quist. Estimates indicate fewer than 400 votes remain to be counted there, making it one of a few definitive results from Nov. 10.

The others were in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, where Republicans swept statehouse offices as expected.

Few votes were counted in the Anchorage House race between Republican incumbent Rep. Lance Pruitt and Democratic challenger Liz Snyder, or in the race between Anchorage Assemblywoman Suzanne LaFrance and Republican James Kaufman. The winner of the latter election will decide who replaces Rep. Jennifer Johnston.

No additional votes were counted in southern Southeast Alaska, where incumbent Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, D-Sitka, has trailed since Election Day, or in rural northern, western and southwestern Alaska.

Statewide turnout is on pace to break the all-time record, with about 350,000 votes expected. The old record, set in 2008, saw 327,341 votes cast.

Updated: 
11/11/2020 - 9:05am