Election: Nome and rural Alaska breaks with national results
The electoral victory for president-elect Donald J. Trump and the surprising defeat of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton did not reflect how bush Alaska, including Nome and the region, voted in this 2016 election.
According to unofficial election results from the Division of Elections, District 39 voters cast 2,758 votes for Clinton, compared to 1,180 votes for Trump. Clinton clearly carried all of District 39 precincts, including Nome with 418 votes, as opposed to 387 votes cast for Trump. The voting bloc on the Alaska roadsystem swayed the votes to reflect the following statewide results: Out of 255,700 votes cast in Alaska — reflecting 48.4 percent voter participation — 51.42 percent went to Donald J. Trump and 36.67 percent were cast for Hillary Clinton. Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson received 5.75 percent of the vote; Green Party candidate Dr. Jill Stein received 1.75 percent; Darrell Castle got 1.24 percent and unaffiliated candidate Roque de la Fuente received 0.38 percent of the Alaskan vote.
District 39 results concerning representation in the U.S. Congress aligned more closely to results in other parts of the state. In the race for U.S. Senate, Lisa Murkowski clearly had the upper hand and received 2,913 votes in District 39, with Joe Miller, who ran as a Libertarian candidate, receiving 1,113 votes in District 39. In the race for Alaska’s seat at the House of Representatives, incumbent Congressman Don Young (R) won over Democratic challenger Steve Lindbeck.
According to unofficial 2016 general election results posted on November 9, voter turnout in District 39 saw 4,997 voters out of 10,976 registered voters participate in the election. The highest turnout was seen in Koyukuk, with 61.64 percent voter participation. In the Bering Strait region, Shishmaref had the strongest voter turnout with 59.47 percent, that’s 201 voters out of a registered 338 voters showing up at the polls. Savoonga saw 55.87 percent of registered voters cast their ballots, in Golovin 54.81 percent of voters showed up, Elim had 54.45 percent voter participation and in Gambell 50.57 percent of voters exercised their right to vote.
Both precincts in Nome had a modest turnout. Precinct one saw 36.01 percent, or 412 out of 1,144 voters, cast a ballot, precinct two had 37.22 percent voter turnout.
The least participation was recorded in Diomede, with only 18.03 percent, or 11 out of 61 registered voters.
As for elections of state legislators, the House majority consists now of a coalition of Democrats, three Republicans and two Independents, with the Senate remaining under a Republican majority. Running with no opposition, Senator Donny Olson (D-Golovin) was reelected, as was District 39 Representative Neal Foster.
Just a day after the November 8 general election, a coalition of 17 Democrats, three Republicans and two Independents in the Alaska House of Representatives met to form a new majority organization for the 30th Alaska Legislature. According to a statement, the new House majority has pledged to put aside party labels and address Alaska’s fiscal challenges. Representative Bryce Edgmon (D-Dillingham) will serve as the Speaker of the House, thus leading the House majority caucus. “The severe drop in oil revenues, coupled with legislative inaction, has contributed to the current recession that threatens our economy, the livelihoods of thousands of Alaskans, and essential services like education and public safety,” said speaker-elect Edgmon. “The members of the new House majority are dedicated to passing a legislative agenda that addresses the fiscal crisis and the root causes of the crisis.”
In a press release, the stated goal of the new House majority is described as to work cooperatively with the minority members in the House of Representatives, the members of the Alaska Senate and the administration of Governor Bill Walker to create and pass needed legislation with the full input of the people of Alaska.
“The results of the election show a clear need for change and the members of this new majority organization understand and embrace that challenge,” said Rep. Paul Seaton. “By working together and putting aside partisanship, we can make the changes the people of Alaska demand and protect the Alaskan way of life.”
Foster elected finance committee co-chair
The biggest news for House District 39, which includes Nome, the Bering Strait and Norton Sound regions, is that State Representative Neal Foster (D-Nome) was chosen to be a co-chairman of the House Finance Committee. With this, Foster continues his father Richard’s legacy, as Richard Foster served as finance committee co-chair in the 19th Alaska Legislature in 1995 and 1996.
The House Finance Committee will have the task to come up with a fiscal plan to address Alaska’s $3 billion budget deficit. The other co-chair of the committee is Rep. Paul Seaton, Republican of Homer.
“Our fiscal plan must be comprehensive. We must use all the tools available to us because there is no single solution that will balance our budget,” said Rep. Foster. “We must act now before we use up the rest of our savings. Lawmakers must come together to create a long-term plan that looks to the future and grows the Alaska economy.”
Rep. Foster believes that rural Alaska will benefit by having a member serving as a Finance Committee co-chair who represents a region off the road system and who understands the significant challenges facing rural Alaska.
“We must come together around a budget that is fair and addresses the concerns of all Alaskans,” said Rep. Foster. “I am committed to protecting the residents of rural Alaska from any effort to balance the budget on their backs.”
The leadership of the new House majority will include Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux (R-Anchorage), Rep. Chris Tuck (D-Anchorage), Rep. Paul Seaton (R-Homer), Rep. Neal Foster (D-Nome) and Rep. Louise Stutes (R-Kodiak). Rep. LeDoux will serve as the chair of the House Rules Committee and Rep. Tuck was chosen as the new majority leader. Rep. Stutes will serve as the majority whip. Rep. Les Gara (D-Anchorage) will serve as the vice-chair of the House Finance Committee.
Alaska Republican Party chair not amused
In response to the three Republicans LeDoux, Stutes and Seaton joining the House majority caucus, Alaska Republican Party chairman Tuckerman Babcock and vice chair Rick Whitbeck addressed a letter to the three, sarcastically congratulating them to their wins and then inviting them to leave the party. “Because of your recent actions abandoning your team and joining with the House Democrats, we invite you to drop the pretense that you are Republican and leave the Republican Party,” the letter reads. Babcock asks the return of $1,000 in campaign funds from Louise Stutes.
Babcock said he plans to recommend to the State Central Committee that the Alaska Republican Party begins to “actively recruit and support a transparent, honest member of the Republican team for the next election cycle.”
“We are disappointed that you pretended to be something you are not to your constituents as you sought their votes. We apologize to your constituents for any role we played in advancing that deception,” Babcock wrote.
Standing Committee chairs
Resources Co-Chairs: Rep. Geran Tarr (D-Anchorage), Rep. Andy Josephson (D-Anchorage); Judiciary: Rep. Matt Claman (D-Anchorage); Labor & Commerce: Rep. Sam Kito (D-Juneau); State Affairs – Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins (D-Sitka); Community & Regional Affairs Co-Chairs – Rep. Zach Fansler (D-Bethel), Rep. Justin Parish (D-Juneau); Education: Rep. Harriet Drummond (D-Anchorage); Health & Social Services – Rep. Ivy Spohnholz (D-Anchorage); Transportation Co-Chairs– Rep. Louise Stutes (R-Kodiak), Rep. Adam Wool (D-Fairbanks).
Joint Committee chairs
Legislative Budget & Audit Vice-Chair: Rep. Andy Josephson (D-Anchorage); Legislative Council: Rep. Sam Kito (D-Juneau); Select Committee on Legislative Ethics: Rep. Chris Tuck (D-Anchorage); Armed Services: House Co-Chair, Rep. Scott Kawasaki (D-Fairbanks).
Special Committee chairs
Energy: Rep. Adam Wool (D-Fairbanks); Fisheries: Rep. Louise Stutes (R-Kodiak); Military & Veterans Affairs: Rep. Jason Grenn (I-Anchorage); Economic Development, Tourism, and Arctic Policy:Rep. Dean Westlake (D-Kotzebue).
The Senate remains under control of Republican majority
A 15-member Alaska Senate Majority was formed on Wednesday “designed to represent all Alaskans in a diversity of geographic and political interests, with a fair mix of urban and rural representation from throughout the state,” according to a press release.
The leadership team is represented by Sen. Pete Kelly (R-Fairbanks) as president, Sen. Peter Micciche (R-Kenai Peninsula) as majority leader, Sen. Kevin Meyer (R-Anchorage) as Rules chair and Sen. Anna MacKinnon (R-Eagle River) and Sen. Lyman Hoffman (D-Bethel) as co-chairs of Finance.
Committee chairs are: Health and Social Services: Senator-elect David Wilson (R-Wasilla); Judiciary: Sen. John Coghill (R-Fairbanks); Resources: Sen. Cathy Giessel (R-East/South Anchorage); State Affairs: Sen. Mike Dunleavy (R-Wasilla); Community and Regional Affairs: Sen. Click Bishop (R-Fairbanks); Labor and Commerce: Sen. Mia Costello (R-Anchorage); Transportation: Sen. Bert Stedman (R-Sitka); Education – Senator-elect Shelly Hughes (R-Palmer/Chugiak) and Legislative Budget and Audit: Sen. Gary Stevens (R-Kodiak).
The finance committee under co-chairs Sen. MacKinnon and Sen. Hoffman includes Sen. Click Bishop, Sen. Peter Micciche, Sen. Mike Dunleavy, and Senator-elect Natasha Von Imhof.
The Democratic Senate minority includes Senator Berta Gardner (D-Anchorage), Senator Dennis Egan (D-Juneau), Senator Donny Olson (D-Golovin), Senator Bill Wielechowski (D-Anchorage) and Senator elect Tom Begich (D-Anchorage).
Senator Gardner will continue to serve as the Minority Leader. Committee assignments for the caucus are as follows: Senator Berta Gardner: Community & Regional Affairs, Rules, State Affairs; Senator Dennis Egan: Transportation, Labor & Commerce; Senator Donny Olson: Finance; Senator Bill Wielechowski: Judiciary, Resources; Senator Tom Begich: Health & Social Services, Education.
“The results of last night’s national election surprised everyone, and Alaska’s results were no different,” said Senate Minority Leader Berta Gardner on the day after the election. “We have seen incumbent members of the legislative majority presumed to be secure in their seats lose or nearly lose elections in the primaries, and again yesterday in the general election. The composition and character of the new legislature will be very different from the last, and I believe that’s a good thing for Alaskans. The message from voters is clear - they feel the majority is not listening to them.”
The 30th Alaska Legislature will convene in Juneau on January 17, 2017.