The phones are almost done ringing, you won’t need a forklift to carry your mail from the mailbox to your house. Soon the political attack ads on radio and TV will be gone. It’s time to vote.
After months and months, which at times seemed like decades if not centuries, of following the campaigns, here’s my predictions–not what I wish would happen, but what I think will happen– for what they’re worth:
U.S. Senate – Alaska has never seen a race like this, and it’ll likely be a long time, if ever, until we see a repeat. More than $60 million has been spent, not a small amount of which has been paid to try to figure out who is going to win. And, still, nobody can say for sure. But I see the momentum and wind behind Dan Sullivan’s back. Prediction: Dan Sullivan will win.
U.S. House of Representatives – It seems that incumbent Rep. Don Young has tried to do as
much as possible to make this race close. His gaffes, insensitive remarks and behavior would doom any other politician almost anywhere. But there was a bigger mistake made: The Democratic Party and the DCCC didn’t invest in Democratic challenger Forrest Dunbar’s candidacy. Had they done so, this would be a very close race. Prediction: Don Young will win, but he won’t and shouldn’t enjoy the margins of past victories.
Governor – This is the toughest one of the race, so I’m going to hedge. Polls have consistently said that Bill Walker is up, but there’s something about those numbers that feel wrong to me. I just can’t see all those committed Republicans, and business-minded independents flocking to him in the numbers he’ll need. The crowd he has around him is excited enough, but I’m wondering how deep that stretches and whether that excitement has peaked. And Parnell seems to be gaining momentum in the final days of the campaign. Is it too little too late? Prediction: I’m an outlier here, but I think Parnell will squeak out a slight win.
Fairbanks Area House and Senate Races
Senate District A – This Fairbanks Senate race has pitted Republican incumbent Sen. Pete Kelly against challenger Tamara Roselius. There’s never been much doubt in this race. Prediction: Sen. Pete Kelly is reelected easily.
House District 1 – Longtime Democrat incumbent Rep. Scott Kawasaki is being challenged by Republican Greg Bringhurst. Bringhurst’s surrogates, namely an Independent Expenditure group, is mounting a strong challenge to Kawasaki. They even made “tongue-gate” an issue with a website and pop-up internet ads. Campaign finance reports show that Kawasaki has raised $78,154 to Bringhurst’s $43,783. While there is a lot of positive chatter around Bringhurst, Fairbanks’ Republicans always say that about Kawasaki challengers. Kawasaki however, works tireless for 9 months for his constituents, which in some ways is just as important, if not more, than what you do for three months in Juneau. Prediction: Kawasaki wins.
House District 2 – Republican incumbent Rep. Steve Thompson is being challenged by Democrat Larry Murakami. Prediction: Steve Thompson will win a clear and decisive victory.
Senate District B – Not up this year. The seat is held by Sen. John Cogghill.
House District 3 – Democrat challenger Shannon Hunter is the party’s sacrificial lamb in this conservative district seat that is currently held by Republican Rep. Tammie Wilson. This race was all primary between two incumbents that were put in the same district by reapportionment and now it’s easy sailing. Prediction: Rep. Tammie Wilson will easily coast to victory.
House District 4 – Democrat incumbent Rep. David Guttenberg is being challenged by Republican Joe Blanchard. The incumbent was first elected in 2002 and is my bet again this time. Prediction: Rep. David Guttenberg wins again.
Senate District C – The Republican incumbent Sen. Click Bishop has worked hard, traveling the district in his race against Democrat Dorothy Shockley. The Democratic challenger, a school teacher, is Bishop’s wife’s cousin. The two Senate candidates have run a very friendly campaign. Despite the fine quality of both candidates, this race is all Click Bishop’s, who I’ve heard is becoming quite the beloved politician in Fairbanks. Prediction: Sen. Click Bishop wins.
House District 5 – This may well be one of the most exciting House races in the state. Republican incumbent Rep. Pete Higgins got caught off guard when his Democratic primary winner dropped out of the race and the Democratic Party named Adam Wool as their standard bearer. Wool, a local businessman and entrepreneur, has run an aggressive campaign. Both candidates have raised roughly the same amount of money, but the momentum seems to be with Wool. Prediction: It’ll be close, but I predict Adam Wool will take this.
Mat-Su Valley, Valdez, and Whittier House and Senate Races
Senate District D – Not up this year. The seat is currently held by Sen. Charlie Huggins.
House District 7 – Republican incumbent Lynn Gattis is being challenged by the former mayor of Wasilla, Vern Rupright, who is running as an Independent on the ballot. Smart and lively, Rupright never shies from telling people what he thinks. As such, this was expected to be a higher profile race than it has turned out to be. Both campaigns have been going door-to-door; however, word is that Rupright’s wife, the always styling Bee, seems to be knocking on more doors than her husband. Gattis’ campaign has one of the best radio spots of the Alaska election cycle which talks about skinning rabbits with her bare teeth, and other things. Prediction: This race goes to Lynn Gattis.
House District 8 – This three-way race in a conservative district favoring the Republican incumbent Mark Neuman. The other two candidates in the race are Democrat Pam Rahn and Independent Steve Jacobson. Prediction: Mark Neuman, first elected in 2004, will win this race easily.
Senate District E – This Valley district also includes Valdez, Whittier and more. Independent candidate Warren Keogh is challenging Republican incumbent Mike Dunleavy. Keogh, with Valdez in the district and Bill Walker’s home town, seems to be trying to ride the coat-tails of the Unity ticket and enjoys the support of organized labor. But still, Dunleavy has out-raised him and a large part of the district is ruby-red, Joe Miller country. Dunleavy fits right in, when he wants to. Prediction: Dunleavy wins.
House District 9 – This three-way open House seat race is one of my personal favorites. Mat-Su Borough Assemblyman Jim Colver, a former Democrat, emerged from a three-way Republican primary as the most moderate of the Republicans. The Democratic Party nominee is Mabel Wimmer, AKA “Naked Mabel.” (A moniker she received after she posed tastefully nude for the camera, and posted them on Facebook as a way to protest female body-shame.) She’s certainly a lively candidate, and the race has been better for her being in it. The third candidate in the race is Pam Goode, who is running as a Constitution Party candidate. She was recently endorsed by Joe Miller, which has given a boost to her third-party candidacy. The race is now between Colver and Goode and it’s getting loud. Prediction: I hate to underestimate the power of Miller’s endorsement, but I’m am betting that Jim Colver emerges from this district as the winner.
House District 10 – This race is also a three-way race with Republican incumbent Wes Keller being challenged by Democrat Neal Lacey and Independent Roger Purcell from Houston. This could have been a hot race, but it’s not. Prediction: Rep. Wes Keller will be re-elected.
Senate District F – This is a newly created, open Senate seat that stretches from Chugiak to Palmer. The race is between Republican Rep. Bill Stoltze and Democrat Patricia Chesbro. For all practical purposes, this race was decided in the Republican primary when Stoltze beat Palmer Mayor DeLana Johnson with more than 70 percent of the vote. This is not just a red Senate seat, but a bright red seat. Prediction: Bill Stoltze takes it with a wide margin.
House District 11 – Republican incumbent Rep. Shelley Hughes benefits greatly from the Republican and conservative district she represents. She also benefits from the support of her likely senator-elect, Bill Stoltze. Nonetheless, Democrat challenger Pete LaFrance is a good candidate and has run a strong race. His family has lived in the Valley for years and has strong ties to the community which he has capitalized on with some success. Prediction: This is a very tough district for a Democrat. Rep. Shelley Hughes will likely be the winner.
House District 12 – This seat is currently held by Rep. Bill Stoltze who opted to run for the Senate. Republican candidate Cathy Tilton is hoping to replace Stoltze. To do so, she’ll have to beat Stoltze’s sister-in-law, Democrat school teacher Gretchen Wehmhoff, who has run as good of a race as she could have managed in this district. However, it votes red to the core and Tilton has also worked very hard. Prediction: I’m calling this for Cathy Tilton.
Anchorage Area House and Senate Races
Senate District G – This Eagle River Senate seat is currently held by Republican incumbent Sen. Anna Fairclough who is being weakly challenged by Jim Arlington. Fairclough was first elected to the legislature in 2006. Prediction: Fairclough takes it.
House District 13 – This seat is currently held by Republican Rep. Dan Saddler. He is running unopposed.
House District 14 – Republican incumbent Rep. Lora Reinbold is being challenged by Democrat Miles Pruner. Prediction: Rep. Reinbold will easily coast to re-election.
Senate District H – Democrat Sen. Bill Wielechowski represents this district. He is not up for election until 2016.
House District 15 – This race is turning out to be the most expensive House race in the state. Both candidates have raised into the six-figures. The seat is currently held by Republican incumbent Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux who is being challenged by Democrat Laurie Hummel, a retired Army colonel. This East Anchorage district includes JBER and has a relatively transient population. Both candidates have worked hard and have taken their campaigns door-to-door. A big unknown is what effect the Democrat’s ground game—played in full force in this district—will have on the state House race. After all, East Anchorage is Mark Begich’s hood, and they’re working hard for him there. However, LeDoux’s got name recognition and she’s a wily vote-getter. Prediction: Earlier in this campaign, I called the race a nail biter. It still is. It’ll be close, but I’m calling this a win for LeDoux.
House District 16 – The seat is currently held by Democrat Rep. Max Gruenberg. He is being challenged by Don Hadley. Prediction: Expect Rep. Gruenberg to win this race.
Senate District I – Sen. Berta Gardner, a Democrat, is running unopposed.
House District 17 – Incumbent Democrat Rep. Andy Josephson, who has proved himself as a capable and bright legislator, is running unopposed.
House District 18 – Democrat Rep. Harriet Drummond is being challenged by Independent candidate Phil Isley. Prediction: You can feel comfortable dropping a congratulatory note in the mailbox to Drummond. She’s a sure winner.
Senate District J – Democrat Sen. Johnny Ellis is the incumbent. This seat is not up for election until 2016.
House District 19 – This East Anchorage/Airport Heights district has witnessed a tough race between two women. There have been accusations of unlawfully tearing down signs, police reports and even a brochure showing one of the candidates shooting a pistol. The incumbent is Democrat Rep. Geran Tarr and she’s being challenged by Libertarian Candidate Cean Stevens. While Stevens appears to be making a strong push, and is being helped by Brad Keithley’s independent expenditure committee, this district is one of the few blue voting blocs in the state. Prediction: Geran Tarr will win it.
House District 20 – Democrat Rep. Les Gara is the incumbent and is running unopposed. This is his seat for life, if he wants it.
Senate District K – This seat is currently held by retiring Sen. Hollis French and is made up of Sand Lake and Turnagain. Republican Rep. Mia Costello represents the Sand Lake side of the district, which is the more conservative district. She will be running against Democrat Clare Ross, who will likely run strong on the Turnagain side. This seat is proving to be one of the most-hard fought races for the state Senate. As a first time candidate, Ross has exceeded everyone’s expectations. Both have raised well over $100,000. Ross has additionally benefited from independent expenditure groups as well as from the Democrat Party’s ground game. But it’s all going to come to which parts of the district will turn out the most votes. Prediction: After looking at the numbers, I’m calling this race a toss-up, leaning Mia Costello by a thin margin.
House District 21 – Democrat Matt Claman and Republican Anand Dubey are running for the District 21 House seat held by retiring Rep. Lindsey Holmes. This Turnagain-centric district was one of the few areas in the state that voted for Obama in 2012. Claman has out-raised Dubey, but Dubey is a hard worker and an interesting candidate. Two years ago, Republican Dubey ran strong against then Democrat Holmes. Then this year, Dubey surprised the Republican establishment by winning the primary. Prediction: Even though I think Dubey should not be underestimated, it’s a tough district for him, and so I’m calling it a (close) win for Matt Claman.
House District 22 – This seat is opening due to the incumbent’s Senate bid. The Republican candidate Liz Vazquez will be facing Democrat Marty McGee. In many respects, predicting the outcome of this race is proving to be one of the most difficult. Some Republican insiders tell me that they are really worried and that Marty McGee is everywhere. Then again, some of my Democratic friends in the district tell me they haven’t heard from McGee and are being bombarded with mail from Vazquez. I haven’t seen any polls for this race. I know McGee has out raised Vazquez. I know Vazquez has ran before in the district and is likely to have some residual name identification. I know this district is heavy-Republican. Prediction: I’m calling this race a toss-up, leaning Republican and Vazquez.
Senate District L – The seat is currently held by Republican Sen. Lesil McGuire. This seat is not up for election until 2016.
House District 23 – Democrat Rep. Chris Tuck is the incumbent. He is running unopposed.
House District 24 – Republican incumbent Rep. Craig Johnson is being challenged by Democrat Mike Fenster. Prediction: Johnson, who was first elected in 2006, should win re-election by a comfortable margin.
Senate District M – Republican Sen. Kevin Meyer is the incumbent being challenged by Felix Rivera. Meyer was first elected to the Alaska House in 2000. Before that, he was a member of the Anchorage Assembly. Prediction: Rivera—who is one of my former students–has been brave to run, but it’s safe to say that Sen. Meyer is one of the more well-liked and hard working senators in Juneau and will coast to reelection.
House District 25 – Democrat Patti Higgins is challenging Republican incumbent Rep. Charisse Millett. Higgins was a former chair of the Alaska Democratic Party and seems to be a perennial candidate. Prediction: I’m calling a lopsided victory for Republican Charisse Millett.
House District 26 – Republican incumbent Bob Lynn has proven adept at working his district. He’s pretty good with social media too. This year, he’s being challenged by Bill Goodell. I think it’s safe to keep this seat in the Republican ledger. Prediction: The winner will be Rep. Bob Lynn.
Senate District N – This district stretches from East Anchorage, to the Hillside and down Turnagain Arm to Girdwood. Republican incumbent Sen. Cathy Giessel is known for her support of the oil industry. Her opponent, Democrat Harry Crawford isn’t. Crawford has served in the Legislature before. He got there by beating Rep. Ramona Barnes, one of the most powerful legislators that has ever walked the halls of the state Capitol. This is one of those races where everyone is watching. Giessel has raised the most campaign dough. Crawford is getting a lot of help from organized labor and money from their PACs. Prediction: Girdwood and parts of East Anchorage will likely go for Crawford. However, there are too many Republicans in this district and she just works too darned hard and presents too well at the door to be beat. I’m predicting a Giessel victory.
House District 27 – This seat is currently held by the Republican Majority Leader Rep. Lance Pruitt who is being challenged by Democrat Matt Moore. For whatever reason, it seems like every independent expenditure committee that’s ever supported a Democrat is after Pruitt. And he’s also got Brad Keithley going after him as well. Prediction: I’m giving the edge to Lance Pruitt, the guy that the Washington Post named as one of their “Top 40 Under 40.”
House District 28 – Republican Rep. Mike Hawker is a survivor in more ways than one. He’s being challenged by Democrat Sam Combs. Earlier this year, some pundits suggested that Hawker might be vulnerable this election cycle because of the controversy surrounding the Anchorage LIO lease. Not true. Hawker is well-liked in his district, is methodical in raising campaign funds, and usually runs a decent campaign. Combs, a newcomer to politics, hasn’t done much in the way of advancing his campaign. Prediction: Expect to see Rep. Hawker back in Juneau next year.
Kenai, Homer, Southeast and Rural House and Senate Races
Senate District O – Republican incumbent Sen. Peter Micciche who won his first seat in the Senate just two years ago is a rising star in Juneau and appears to be on a solid course to re-election. He is being challenged by Independent candidate Eric Treider. Prediction: Republicans can count Micciche as a winner.
House District 29 – Speaker of the House Mike Chenault is one of the more popular politicians in the Kenai/Nikiski area. He is the longest serving Speaker in the state’s history. The Democrats are challenging Chenault with Rocky Knudsen, who is probably very nice but isn’t drawing the Rocky-like crowds that he would need to draw to win this race. Prediction: Expect Mike Chenault to win.
House District 30 – Kenai’s Shauna Thorton is the Democrat challenging Republican incumbent Rep. Kurt Olson. In 2004, Olson was first elected to the House. Prediction: Put Rep. Kurt Olson in the winner’s column.
Senate District P – Republican incumbent Sen. Gary Stevens represents the district, which has some new communities in it. One of those new communities is Cordova, which is home to Stevens’ Democratic challenger Robert “Moose” Henrichs. Over all, it appears that Henrichs is taking the race more seriously than Stevens. Then again, he has to since he’s running against a well-known incumbent. Prediction: It makes me nervous that Stevens has been taking the race for granted to some degree. Still, I’m predicting that Stevens will win re-election.
House District 31 – Homer Republican incumbent Rep. Paul Seaton is running for re-election unopposed.
House District 32 – This is an open seat due to Rep. Alan Austerman’s retirement. Austerman’s daughter, Carol, ran in the Republican primary and was defeated by Louise Stutes, a Kodiak businesswoman who is married to a commercial fisherman named Stormy. Stutes is being challenged by Democrat Jerry McCune from Cordova. McCune heads United Fisherman of Alaska. Prediction: I call this race a toss-up, leaning Stutes.
Senate District Q – Democrat Sen. Dennis Egan represents this district and is well-liked. His Republican opponent Tom Williams ran off to Africa in the final weeks of the campaign for a vacation, making it hard to take him seriously. But even if he were in Juneau, rather than in Africa, Sen. Egan owns this race. Prediction: Egan will win re-election easily.
House District 33 – The Democrat incumbent, Sam Kito III, was appointed to the Legislature during the 2014 session taking the place of Rep. Beth Kerttula who now works in the White House. Peter Dukowitz is the Republican challenger. Prediction: Despite never facing an election until this year, it appears that Rep. Kito will be easily win his election.
House District 34 – Republican incumbent Rep. Cathy Munoz is facing a challenge from Democrat George McGuan. While McGuan has waged a more aggressive campaign than expected and is enjoying some support from the unions, it doesn’t seem enough to beat the well-liked Rep. Cathy Munoz who received the endorsement of the Alaska State Employees Association, which means a lot in Juneau. Prediction: Put Rep. Munoz in the win column.
Senate District R – Republican Sen. Bert Stedman is the incumbent in this Southeast Alaska district. He is not up for election until 2016.
House District 35 – The incumbent is Democrat Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins from Sitka who is being challenged by Petersburg commercial fisherman Steven Samuelson. Kreiss-Tomkins knocked off Republican powerhouse Bill Thomas from Haines when redistricting put the unfamiliar Sitka into this district. Prediction: Even though I’m told Samuelson has run an impressive campaign, I’m calling this for Kreiss-Tomkins.
House District 36 – The southern part of Senate District R encompasses Ketchikan and Wrangell. This seat is open due to Rep. Peggy Wilson’s retirement. The candidates for this seat are Republican Chere Klein and Independent Dan Ortiz. Klein won in a three-way primary in what many thought was a come-from-behind victory. During the primary, Ortiz appeared to have lots of support if votes can be measured by the proliferation of signs. And he seems to have kept that support, helped in no small part by the non-partisan Unity ticket heat. Prediction: Close but leaning Ortiz.
Senate District S – Democrat Sen. Lyman Hoffman is running unopposed.
House District 37 – Democrat Rep. Brice Edgmon is running unopposed.
House District 38 – Democrat Rep. Bob Herron is running unopposed.
Senate District T – Sen. Donny Olson is a Democrat running unopposed.
House District 39 – Democrat Rep. Neal Foster is running unopposed in this Nome seat.
House District 40 – Democrat Rep. Ben Nageak is running unopposed.
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