Primary race predictions

Here are some flying-by-the-seat-of my-pants predictions for what’s going to happen in tomorrow’s primary races. I did not cover all the contested races. I chose the races that were interesting and that I knew something about. These predictions come from various interviews, lots of reading, and checking campaign finance reports. (See the most recent story on the reports here). But mostly, I’m going by gut feelings. Please keep in mind that primary races are tremendously impacted by turnout, unpredictable, and GOP primaries are all the more so. So there’s a good chance that I’m wrong on at least a few of these. Maybe more. Please leave comments with your own predictions and insights.

U.S. Senate GOP primary race: Joe Miller has certainly picked up steam in the final leg of this campaign. Mailers are being dropped. Phones are ringing off the hook. Mike Huckabee’s and Sarah Palin’s voices are floating through the wires. Sign wavers are out in droves. All of which should serve as a lesson to every candidate everywhere about the necessity of keeping something for the end.

Nearly everyone I talked to says that it’s nearly impossible for Miller to win against front-runner Dan Sullivan. But a close second, in front of Mead Treadwell, certainly isn’t out of reach. That’s what I’m going to predict, which I do with a heavy heart. In a state full of knee-jerk Republicans, Treadwell was one of the sane ones before he ran for state office in 2010. He was known for his moderate, deliberative stances on issues, and he might have had a chance had he let Sullivan and Miller duke it out on the right side of the stage, while he captured the middle. As it was, he tried to out-tea party Joe Miller—making abortion illegal in all cases except when the life of a mother AND child are in danger, abolishing the IRS, the Department of Energy, the Department of Education—to name a few. He got more extreme as time went on, and his campaign began to flounder. And as he did so, the more awkward it looked on him. Prediction: Sullivan 1. Miller 2. Treadwell 3.

Lt. Gov.: Democrats Wasilla high school teacher Bob Williams and Alaska state Sen. Hollis French are running for this seat. The winner will join gubernatorial candidate Byron Mallott as the number 2 on the ticket. Williams, a new political face, doesn’t lack for enthusiasm and energy. He’s one of a number of bright lights running as a Democrat this season. However, he did seem to lack the kind of cogent campaign strategy that anybody, particularly a new-comer, would need to run for statewide office, especially against French, who is one of the most well-known, well-respected and hardest working Democratic politicians in the state. Prediction: Hollis French wins. 

Ballot Measure 1: With more than $10 million spent by the No On 1 committee, this is the most expensive campaign in the state’s history. And yet, it’ll still probably be close. Those who are advocating a “No” vote—against repealing the oil tax bill that gave industry tax breaks at certain prices– will likely win, but probably not by much. The problem? A campaign that was run more like a business meeting than a political campaign. They didn’t have any good slogans. They had no defining theme. In the end, their message boiled down to this: Alaska, give us, the biggest, richest companies in the world tax breaks, and we will help your economy. The commercials, which I heard had to be approved by a committee of oil company executives and engineers, were boring and ineffective. By and large, with the exception of Sen. Lesil McGuire, the legislators who voted for the oil tax break decided they had better things to do than to fight for it. And Gov. Sean Parnell wasn’t much of a help. All of this emboldened the cash-strapped “Yes” crowd, who might still win through sheer determination, through social media and better slogans. However, if the “No” side does win, and the oil tax bill fails to be repealed, the oil companies will have won the battle, but I’d say that they further bruised their image with many Alaskans. Industry will need to pay attention to the PR damage wrought by this fight, and will need to try to reach out and repair it, particularly as the state and the companies enter what are bound to be testy gas tax negotiations. Prediction: No On 1 wins by less than it should given the money that was spent on the campaign.

House District 3: The contested Republican primary in House District 3 in North Pole between Reps. Tammie Wilson and Dough Isaacson will likely be a squeaker. Wilson is said to have a slight edge in the race, mostly because she’s supposedly knocked on more doors and as she’s done so, she carried with her a message of relative pessimism, which apparently plays well in Santa-country. If Wilson wins—which I think she will–she’s not necessarily going to be leadership’s favorite legislator. She’s tough, she asks questions and she’s a she. For that reason, if she’s elected, she has the potential to be a strong voice in the currently flaccid and ineffective women’s caucus. Prediction: Wilson wins.

House District 9 6: In a three-way race, odds are that the incumbent is going to win. In this case, that would be Rep. Eric Feige. But that conventional wisdom has a very real chance of overturning in this race, where Feige is being challenged both on the right and with a frontal assault as well. One of his opponents, George Rauscher has the endorsement of the socially conservative Alaska Family Action. On the other is Jim Colver, who has the most union money of anyone in this race. Also, Colver is walking the snot out of this relatively hard-to-walk district. And he seems amiable while doing it, not necessarily an adjective used to describe Feige. The winner will face Democrat Mabel Wimmer. Prediction: I’m going out on a limb and saying the race will be close, but leaning Colver.

House District 12: This is the Valley House district being vacated by Rep. Bill Stoltze, who’s running for Senate. Cathy Tilton, a former legislative aide, looks as if she might have a slight leg-up against fellow Republican Mat-Su Borough Assemblyman Ron Arvin in this race. As far as I can tell, there’s barely an ideological difference between the two. But Tilton’s campaign feels more vibrant than does Arvin’s, and she’s put social media to good use. Also, Tilton’s last minute flyer pointing out that Arvin missed more than half percent of the Mat-Su Assembly meetings last year might have bruised Arvin as well. If she wins, Tilton will also likely be a strong voice for that feeble women’s caucus. Let me say that both would be fine legislators. Prediction: Leaning Tilton.

District F: This is the home to the only contested primary state Senate seat in the state. This new district without an incumbent stretches from Chugiak to Palmer. The two Republican candidates vying for this seat are Rep. Bill Stoltze from Chugiak and Palmer Mayor DeLana Johnson. Most are saying that this race will be a blowout victory for Stoltze. I agree. Every indicator – – endorsements, campaign cash, name identification and effectiveness of campaign reach – – suggests that Stoltze will win by a comfortable margin on primary night. Prediction: Stoltze wins. 

House District 21 is the Turnagain/West Anchorage area and is currently held by Rep. Lindsey Holmes, which she won as a Democrat before switching parties and becoming a Republican and has since announced her retirement. It is in play between two Republicans: Anand Dubey and Matt Fagnani. Dubey, a chemical engineer and computer programmer, captured the Republican nomination two years ago and lost to Holmes. While he has not attracted significant financial support, he has proven to be a tireless worker and has developed a computer program that is designed to help him with his door-to-door campaign, voter persuasion and get-out-the-vote effort. Matt Fagnani is making his first bid for elective office. He is currently the executive director of a North Slope training cooperative. From all appearances, Fagnani is the establishment candidate and has gained significant backing from the GOP leadership and their contributors. He has raised significantly more campaign cash than  has Dubey. Both candidates have signs up throughout the district. My read is that Dubey has knocked on more doors than Fagnani; but Fagnani had the resources to touch voters through other media sources. This race is a toss-up. The Republican nominee in this district will face an uphill battle against Democrat Matt Claman. Prediction: Toss-up.

House District 32 consists primarily of Kodiak Island and Cordova and is hosting yet another three-way contest for the GOP state house nomination provoked by the retirement of Republican Rep. Alan Austerman. One of the leading candidates for the seat is his daughter, Carol, who serves on the Kodiak Island Borough Assembly.. The two other candidates are Rich Walker, who hasn’t made much of a mark in the race. and Louise Stutes, who I’m told is running neck and neck with Austerman. Until recently, Stutes owned and operated the Village Bar. Her husband is a commercial fisherman and she has been endorsed by the AFL-CIO. Both Austerman and Stutes are Yes on #1, and Austerman recently posted a picture of herself welcoming Mark Begich to Kodiak, which some say won’t play well in a Republican primary. Too, as an Assembly member, Austeman recently voted for the highly controversial ordnance that required the public to be polite when they testified at Assembly meetings. That didn’t go down well in Kodiak. Death threats were issued and police guarded the next Assembly meeting. But mostly, the primary issues in this district are fishing and the community’s concerns over the development of the Pebble mine, about which they both repeat pretty much the same lines. The winner will face Democrat Jerry McCune of Cordova. Prediction: Toss up with a slight edge to Stutes, because Kodiak doesn’t seem like a town that likes family dynasties. 

House District 36: Yet another three way race between Chere Klein, Patti Mackey and Agnes Moran, also without an incumbent. The seat opened when Peggy Wilson announced her retirement, and I’ll be darned from this distance if I can figure out what the real ideological differences are. I’ve been told that when you get them in a room, they all toe the Republican line. What it all boils down to is personality and history. Moran was endorsed by Frank and Nancy Murkowski, and according to a trusted source (hey you!), she has some tea party folks on her side. She’s also on the board of the family bank, the First Bank-Ketchikan. While on the Borough Assembly, Moran lead the fight to sue the state over education funding and I’m  told that she isn’t always as polite as she could be to the public. Too, her campaign manager isn’t the most beloved character in the community. But all this might do her well as a member of the mythical women’s caucus that I keep envisioning. I’m told that Patti Mackey’s campaign is lacking energy and that Chere Klein, once a dark horse, is emerging in the race. She’s a former staffer to Wilson and appears to have her support. She’s also got connections with the construction industry and the support of John MacKinnon from the Associated General Contractors. Whoever wins will face independent Dan Ortiz, who is doing really well on fundraising and supposedly has signs dotting the island. Prediction: Leaning Klein.

House District 40 which encompasses the North Slope and Northwest Arctic Borough, is currently represented by incumbent Rep. Ben Nageak of Barrow, a rural Democrat who has joined the House majority caucus. He is being challenged by Dean Westlake who is a resident of the Northwest Arctic Borough. Westlake is an employee of NANA Regional Corp. Traditionally, these legislative seats are won based on family-ties, geography and personality. Consequently, the seats tend not to turn over very often. This year, issues seem to be playing a larger role in the campaign than is usually the case. Nageak and Westlake have a strong disagreement on Ballot Measure #1 which would repeal the new oil tax. Nageak voted for the passage of SB 21 and is standing by his vote by taking a No on #1 stand. Westlake is a proponent of repealing SB 21. He has also been critical of Nageak’s support of KABATA which could possibly limit his options organizationally should he win. In the final days of the primary election, the race has become contentious and considered to be close. Westlake has aggressively attacked Nageak’s record. Most political observers feel that the race will be decided between geographical turnout between the two boroughs. Prediction: Toss-up, leaning Nageak because he’s the incumbent. 

CORRECTION: Carol Austerman is not a bookkeeper. That’s her sister Dawn. Alan Austerman’s name is not “Allen.” 

Contact Amanda Coyne at


26 thoughts on “Primary race predictions

  1. Lynn Willis

    I was attempting to respond to a comment by “Anonymous” relating to an earlier post of mine.

  2. At Matozoa

    Amanda, I almost took the pink ballot today for Joe (in the end, not); I think he’d be so much more fun against the Bulldozer, w/ interesting campaign exchanges.
    – So the no on 1 are betting that the price of gasoline WON’T go up? Sourdough lesson: Don’t play poker with Awl Company people.
    Thanks for your journalism.

  3. Lynn Willis

    While spending is unsutainable,the State Constitution creates a significant demand for revenue at state level by requiring state funding of schools and also allowing unorganized boroughs to be funded by the State.
    Article 10, Section 6: “The legislature shall provide for the performance of services it deems necessary or advisable in unorganized boroughs, allowing for maximum local participation and responsibility. It may exercise any power or function in an unorganized borough which the assembly may exercise in an organized borough.”
    We had better wake up and smell the coffee if we want to meet our constitutional funding obligations alone and, if the people want services, start mandating the formation of taxing authorities outside of Juneau as we have in Anchorage and other locations.

  4. Lynn Willis

    I didn’t see the article having anything to do with the credibility of DOR production forecasts. That wasn’t the issue at all. What was asked was if the TAPS volume declines would continue and, in the testimony I mentioned, the answer was that the decline trend would continue as far as the Exxon Mobile Executive could foresee. A Conoco-Phillips agreed that the decline would continue.
    The “tailspin” started years ago my friend and we need to deal with that and should have been told that years with our elected leaders planningt accordingly. Instead we got, and still get, record expenditures, equivocations and promises. Having a Governor and majority caucus who refuses to accept reality doesn’t help.
    Having a broken legislative process now might just provide the ‘coup de grace’. Amanda’s comments regarding the challange Democrat Representative Ben Nageak from the North Slope is having with re-election illustrate the problem perfectly. Representative Nageak is a member of the majority caucus. Rep. Nageak faces expulsion from the caucus if he was not to support the entire (dare I say bloated) proposed budget. That budget includes funding for KABTA and I understand why the people on the North Slope might resent seeing KABATA consume vast amounts of highway funds. Rep. Nageak’s Faustian bargain might now come home to haunt him.

  5. Carol Austerman

    Hey Amanda – I’m not a bookkeeper – that’s my sister Dawn. And by the way, my Dad’s name is spelled Alan.

  6. Pulse Taker

    Note to Anon:
    Are you refering to Romney’s third cousin?

    Hey Amanda:
    Tammie Wilson wins today in NP. Take it to the bank.

  7. anon

    You are a fool, Buzz Aldrin not just “an astronaut”. You do realize that the man who endorsed him was the 2nd man on the moon and one of the most influential people in American history, right??

  8. Northern Observer

    #misleadwithmead is having an election night event at Sub-Zero. His candidacy resonated with the public so much that they nemed an establishment in his honor.

  9. Garand Fellow

    I would gratefully accept your outcomes although Feige and Isaacson have been above average legislators and would be missed. To some degree today will possibly decide how the House Majority organizes after the November election.

    I worry very much about the ballot measure in that the implications for approval are quite severe and the YES group has come on strong at the end. I think it would be a remarkable upset if Sullivan didn’t win today, and it will be fun if you are correct and Joe Miller comes in second. This morning in this town the No crowd of sign-wavers far outnumbered the other side, and most of the No crowd also held a Sullivan sign.

    The Miller and Treadwell sign wavers were about equal in number. The Treadwell people here are just about all from one religious group but it is a big group. The Miller people seem to be about half from the hunting and fishing crowd and half from the conservative side of the Christian conservatives, and I suspect that Sullivan will be an easy second choice for them to make come November.

    We need to focus on beating Begich and Reid. The Beltway leads us around by the nose up here in Alaska, and beating Begich is the best defense and the best message Alaskans can send Obama. Moreover, we will live for a generation with the court picks Obama makes during the next two years if Reid continues to control the senate.

    I saw Dubey in a debate two years ago and found him very well informed and a compelling candidate. The legislature never has enough of those kind of people so at least if he wins today I hope everyone supports him as I expect you are right about the general election being tough.

    Ketchikan is as conservative today as it was when anywhere in downtown could be heard the Ketchikan Spruce Mills carriage going back and forth, so the winner today goes to Juneau. In District 34 the challenger, the Democrat, failed to show up at the Tongass Democrats Annual Picnic on Sunday. The weather was poor and the wieners were gassy but still, all the other Democratic candidates were there to speak and rally the troops. (As a matter of fact it’s quite likely that the candidate has never spoken to a crowd in his entire life!) Possibly the Anchorage IBEW and the Minority Leader didn’t know about the picnic and forgot to put it on the calendar?

    Thank you for keeping us up to date on so many races. It will be an interesting evening.

  10. Matt Fagnani

    Thank you for your question. I’d be happy to set the record straight. I think you might be misreading the APOC report on financial disclosures. i am currently employed at APICC and I have never taken a paycheck from my wife’s firm. As the APOC report requires, we’ve listed all income and investment holdings.


  11. Twig

    My bet is that Ballot Question 1 will not be decided until all the votes are counted. It will be extremely close, ddecided by less than a hundred votes. Which way? Who knows.

  12. Jon K

    Lynn, I’m one of those guys who is optimistic about our future – assuming No prevails – and I’m also very concerned about our deficits. The reason why the two are linked is that without getting more investment, more players on the Slope, and more production we are totally screwed. The focus of our tax policy has to be on these objectives – it simply won’t matter what tax structure we have if oil production continues to decline. And please don’t say production declines are inevitable. It is simply not true. Look at the Gulf Mexico, North Sea, California, etc. – most basins have turned around production declines including Cook Inlet, which has seen oil production nearly double and it will very likely double again as new production comes on-line in the coming years.

    The problem with Dermot’s article is that is it does not point out why DOR’s forecast isn’t the most accurate source of information – largely because the forecasts are now very conservative and do not include many projects that are now coming on line. If we step back, however, and look at all of the new spending and new players – most of which are not included in the forecast — then you begin to see a realistic way to increase production by a significant amount.

    Here are the facts that our press unfortunately refuses to cover: The legacy producers are spending a huge amount on in-field development, Conoco is expanding at Alpine West, Exxon at Point Thomson, Hilcorp will revitalize BP’s assets, Caelus is going to be spending over a $1 billion at Oooguruk, Brooks Range is moving forward with Mustang and has other projects in the pipeline, and ENI has announced plans to expand its development as well. All of these projects are moving forward. On top of these developments, Repsol, Great Bear, and Linc are all moving in the right direction towards development. There is a ton of positive momentum on the North Slope — assuming a Yes vote doesn’t send us into a tailspin — and the future might not look as bleak as you think.

    That said, regardless of where we head with production, we need more sustainable budgets. I just haven’t seen anyone come up with any realistic ideas that actually address what is driving the budget.

  13. Lynn Willis

    Those are very courageous (and probably correct) predictions from you Amanda. Now if you made one mistake you can never run for political office because your opponent will have proof “That she was wrong on a critical state issue impacting thousands of Alaskans!”.
    On the issue of SB21 repeal; seems that none of the folks claiming repeal of SB21 will place us at the pot at end of the rainbow want to talk about state spending. I was intrigued by Dermot Cole’s most recent article regarding future oil production based on recent testimony before the Regulatory Commission of Alaska. (RCA). You might question the timing of this article but you cannot deny the quotes it contains. These producers are being bluntly honest even though some don’t want to hear it. This is from Cole’s article.
    Question (to J. Ray of Exxon Mobil): Do you expect that the decline in Taps (Trans-Alaska Pipeline System) volumes will reverse in 2014 or the foreseeable future?
    Response: “No, I have no reason to believe that this trend will reverse itself in the foreseeable future.”
    So Governor Parnell (who has line item budget veto power) and your “fiscal conservative” friends in the legislative majority, there it is in black and white. Now, just for starters, how about another mere 300 million capital expenditure to (once again) fix the Port of Anchorage?

  14. Crystal Ball Central

    Your predictions and insights are gutsy, fun and well-informed. I appreciate your courage and attempt to shine light on some of the competetive primary races. Thanks so much.

  15. Robert

    Mead Treadwell says he’s surging and expects to win hiis race by 10 points. You will have egg on your face on this one. You obviously didn’t here that he was endorsed by an astronaut, Romney’s third cousin and Bill Clinton’s cat. #misleadwithmead

  16. Just Me

    According to Fagnani’s financial disclosure filed with APOC he was the E.D. of the Alaska Process Industry Careers Consortium from 03/24/2014 Through 05/23/2014. He also worked for his wife’s PR firm collecting a salary between $100,000 and $200,000.

    On top of those salaries, Mr. Fagnani collected unemployment insurance.

    Matt Fagnani is a man who earns over 100K in salary from his wife’s PR firm, owns stock in Berkshire Hathaway, and collects unemployment insurance.

    My question is, did he collect campaign donations while he was collecting unemployment insurance ?

    Somebody should ask him this.

  17. senatorsceptic

    The US Senate is definitely an interesting race. Learned a lot about DNR Dan Sullivan. It is very concerning that he is all over the place on his fishing license when declaring residencies! Can hardly believe the former Natural Resources Commisioner won’t even come clean about a discrepency like that! His stance on stand your ground is more like wallowing in a quicksand of doubletalk and backtracking. This candidate definitely has the money and outside influence, but his dirty laundry has this Alaskan concerned.

Comments are closed.