In Senate District E, Republican Sen. Mike Dunleavy is being challenged by Independent candidate and former Mat-Su Borough Assemblyman Warren Keogh. (Both have released web ads, which are below.) The district encompasses House Districts 9 and 10. It isn’t a district for anyone with fear of distances. It stretches from south of Cantwell down the Parks Highway to Houston, runs out to Skwentna, north to the city limits of Wasilla and Palmer, then up the Glenn Highway to Glennallen, goes just north of Delta down to Valdez, and through the tunnel to the City of Whittier. Just the drive between Delta and Wasilla is about six hours.
Dunleavy, towering above his Senate colleagues at 6’7″, is known as a strong conservative, whatever that means in Alaska these days. He was elected in 2012 by defeating incumbent Sen. Linda Menard in the Republican primary with more than 57 percent of the vote. He was unopposed in the general election. Prior to his election to the Senate, he was a teacher, school superintendent and school board member.
Keogh, a former Mat-Su Borough Assemblyman and resident of Chickaloon, is running for the Senate seat as an Independent. He is a Vietnam vet, a retired firefighter and paramedic, and is known, either fairly or unfairly, as an environmentalist for his opposition to coal mining in the area.
Even though Dunleavy is the incumbent, the district is new and represents several population centers new to the senator.
Most who I’ve talked to say that the district has strong conservative leanings and the people historically vote Republican, suggesting that Dunleavy should do well in the race. However, Keogh signs are popping up around the district, many of them right next to fellow Independent, gubernatorial candidate Bill Walker’s signs.
Walker’s independent bid for governor, now coupled with running mate Democrat Byron Mallott, is the wildcard in this Senate race.
Walker, from Valdez, is expected to do well in the Glennallen – Valdez corridor. Keogh has endorsed his candidacy and is hoping to be the beneficiary of Walker’s coat-tails in this part of the district.
Both Walker and Keogh enjoy the support of unions. Organized labor, in a show of strength in this year’s primary, was largely responsible for a major upset by beating Republican Rep. Eric Feige in House District 9. Labor’s candidate, Jim Colver, emerged from the primary with an especially strong showing of support in Valdez. Now, that same group of labor organizations and the NEA has joined forces to help defeat Dunleavy.
However, it should be noted that Colver’s victory was in a three-way race where he was considered the moderate of the three. The outcome would have been likely different had the two conservatives in the race not split the vote.
The House District 10 portion of the Senate seat is held by Rep. Wes Keller. This incumbent is considered to be one of the most conservative members of the Legislature and does not appear to be threatened in this election cycle, which bodes well for Dunleavy. Additionally, Dunleavy has represented much of this area and enjoys a familiarity with the electorate.
According to APOC reports filed through the primary election, Dunleavy out raised Keogh four to one. The next APOC report is due October 6th.
Prediction for now: District leans heavily Republican. I’m putting my money on Dunleavy for Senate, and Colver and Keller for House.
Contact Amanda Coyne at email@example.com