Senate District E race preview: Dunleavy v Keogh

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


20 thoughts on “Senate District E race preview: Dunleavy v Keogh

  1. LysanderSpooner

    Questions for the Dunleavy supporters here:

    If the senator is so supported by voters in his district, why is he ducking debates and forums in the district? If the senator is so supported by voters in his district, how come his APOC report listing contributors to his campaign is filled with deep-pocketed contributors from outside the district (like Randy Ruedrich), whose expectations for return on their “investment” almost certainly have nothing to do with the interests of the people Dunleavy is supposed to be representing?

    I suppose if my APOC report looked like Dunleavy’s, I’d be skipping debates, too.

  2. Palmer Resident

    I don’t know where you get your information. Warren Keogh’s residence is in Chickaloon. He owns a house in Palmer where his campaign office is. I guess you got a little confused but try to get your facts straight. Many people in Alaska own multiple properties throughout the state where they spend varying degrees of time. Only one is their residence. And, just for the record, there are many many people in his District who adamantly disagree with Dunleavy’s radical and fiscally irresponsible actions in Juneau and who adamantly agree with Mr. Keogh’s approach to open and honest government. This is one Independent who wholeheartedly supports Mr. Keogh and looks forward to his brand of leadership.

  3. LysanderSpooner

    Fact check: It was actually the Alaska Legislature that voted against putting Dunleavy’s idea to a vote of the people. I’m guessing they realized, like the majority of Alaskans who were opposed to it, that it was designed to benefit a small minority at the expense of the more general public good.

  4. Palmer Resident

    Oh, and let me add that the Matanuska Susitna Borough School District has a very impressive array of school choices….something like 11 charter schools including a Waldorf and Spanish immersion school, a home school program, a correspondence program, a technical/vocational high school, and 2 alternative schools, in addition to the “regular” brick and mortar K-12 programs. What is lacking? Public money should go to public schools that serve all students regardless of their physical and emotional needs. Would the private schools do that? Could they turn students away? If they accept public money they would have to serve all the kids that show up at their door steps. How would transportation be covered? Would buses have to run kids back and forth to all the “new” private schools that would pop up trying to collect on tax dollars? Too many questions were left not only unanswered, they were left unasked. Warren Keogh would not shut out public comment and strong public scrutiny of such an enormous change to our Constitution. That’s the kind of leader we need in Juneau, not some puppet to the purveyors of ALEC legislation.

  5. LysanderSpooner

    No, you don’t really want people to “think on their own”. You want them to think like you. Unfortunately for you and Sen. Dunleavy, on the issue of education funding, you are in a very small minority. There is not even a basis in fact for your assertion that the majority of Dunleavy’s district supported his radical idea.

    You should consider the possibility that people did listen. Dunleavy’s proposal had extensive public hearings and legislative vetting. But in the end, he couldn’t even muster enough support for it among his colleagues in the legislature.

    The idea was garbage from the outset. All the public time and money wasted by Dunleavy and others trying to convince Alaskans otherwise could have been spent more productively elsewhere. Dunleavy was most definitely not representing the people of his district by pushing the radical agenda of a narrow special interest group.

  6. Palmer Resident

    Isn’t it interesting, then, that the NEA has not endorsed Mr. Keogh? That’s right. Ask them. Perhaps Mr. Keogh is indeed an Independent who will represent the PEOPLE in his district. Dunleavy would continue to lead the state over the fiscal cliff with ideas like SJR9 without one ounce of energy spent on figuring out what the real true costs of such a move would be on the state budget and what the real true impacts would be on public education. That’s fiscally irresponsible and a total failure of leadership. He took an oath to uphold the State Constitution and 4 weeks later his first bill is in direct opposition to that Constitution? Something stinks there. Maybe it’s his horse.

  7. Palmer Resident

    Warren Keogh has been visiting the communities throughout the District. He’s been to Whittier twice, Valdez twice and Delta twice, stopping in community along the way. He’ll continue to do that throughout the campaign and will continue to listen and meet with his constituents when elected to office. Unlike Mr. Dunleavy, Warren Keogh knows he will represent the people of his district.

  8. Ethan

    I’m not in Dunleavy’s district, but I seem to recall that when he was last running and making the rounds on talk radio, that I liked what he had to say and that I probably would’ve voted for him if I that was my race to vote in.

    Then I seem to remember that one of the first pieces of legislation that he sponsored was something to do with using people’s credit scores as a metric when considering how much they should have to pay for car insurance. My recollection of that might be a little fuzzy, but at the time I remember that it sounded like some sort of ALEC piece of crap that gets rammed through when no one is looking. Maybe someone in his district remembers this more clearly, but it definitely changed my perception of Dunleavy from a common sense type guy who cares about improving the state to someone who says whatever he has to to get elected, then follows whatever orders he is given by whomever it is that he actually works for. I could be wrong…..and I hope I am.

  9. Alaska Voter

    It cracks me up sometimes when I read the comments that are posted on this blog site. I’m not sure if your policy that allows anonymous posting is designed to be empathetic to the dumb and stupid, or to just encourage a free flowing of dialogue.
    Mr/Mrs/Whatever Lysander Spooner is a regular commenter. Spooner’s post today is subject to criticism both specifically to this post as well as in the larger context of his other posts from other news stories. Spooner is obviously a liberal and probably a Democrat that seems to support that party’s issues and members. He criticizes Dunleavy for not representing the will of the people; however, while Dunleavy’s position may be out of step with a majority of Alaskans, I doubt if he is out of step with his constituency. To me, it seems that the majority of the support for education choice in centered in the Valley. In fact, I think the entire Valley delegation supports some aspect of school choice. Now for the absurdity of Spooner’s logic, he should post a rant or two objecting to the horrible representation provided by Sen. Bill Wielechowski and Sen. Hollis French, both whom opposed SB 21 and favored the passage of Ballot Measure #1. Not only did their positions fail statewide at the ballot box, it also failed in their individual districts contrary to their activism and even using government funds to issue brochures promoting SB 21’s demise. That is what I call bad representation that needs explaining. But, Spooner is one of those illogical liberals that overlooks such detail when it isn’t convenient for his argument.
    I happen to know Sen.. Dunleavy and know that he cares about quality education. He spent his entire professional life in education. Rather than having a knee jerk opposition to his proposals, maybe we’d do well to listen, discuss, maybe modify and come up with something that benefits the children. What I see is a polarization of the issue with the NEA – AK and teachers on one side, in essence a labor union, and the school choice people at the other extreme. The solutions are probably somewhere in the middle. To find them will require commitment, a willingness to listen, debate and work together. It would be nice for the parents to get off the respective bandwagons and think on their own to find solutions for our children.

  10. Garand Fellow

    No. He was doing exactly the opposite of what you said. He was proposing to take an idea to the people. But the NEA used their power and money to prevent discussion of whether the idea should go to the people. If in fact any “ramrodding” was done it was not done by Dunleavy.

  11. Whittier Resident

    Redistricting has put Whittier in Senate District E. Before redistricting, Alan Austerman was our state representative and I can’t recall him even ever visiting Whittier. That’s certainly not the kind of representation I want. Senator Dunleavey has already been to visit our community and took the time to meet and listen to our concerns

  12. KIzzy

    The idea of a representative government is that legislators represent their constituents. Mike Dunleavy does that. I doubt if Sen. Dunleavy cares what folks in Anchorage, Sitka or Mars have to say about this issue as much as his own constituents. The Matanuska borough happens to be an area that supports a broader opportunity for education choices. The NEA’s answer appears to always be more money and we know that isn’t the solution.

  13. LysanderSpooner

    Let me get this straight, he “dislikes governmental power over people”, yet he was using his government position to ramrod a notion that a huge majority of Alaskans were opposed to? How does that work?

  14. Garand Fellow

    I have known Mike Dunleavy for a long time. He is a great Alaskan and will be senate president one day. His entire motivation in politics is to improve this state he likes and identifies with so much. Quite likely no other elected official dislikes governmental power over people as much as Mike does, and Alaskans need to elect as many people as possible who think like that. No legislator in my memory, including other retired teachers, have thought more about how to put Alaska education on track.

    I don’t know anything about education except that I am a beneficiary of public education. Therefore I didn’t understand what Mike was trying to do with his education proposal except I am sure he wanted to make a much needed game-changing improvement. However, I was not at all surprised that the NEA immediately pushed back against the proposal without even learning what Mike had in mind.

    Regardless, the Alaska Legislature needs Mike Dunleavy. We don’t often have people who are as smart as he is who are not at the same time trying to make a billion dollars in Palo Alto or NYC.

  15. Anonymous

    LOL. Disparaging a comment is not really the same thing as factually refuting it.

    You must be dizzy from all that spinning. Dunleavy was way out of touch with a large majority of Alaskans on the issue of education funding. Anyone with a working knowledge of Google can follow the debate, and poll results, to see where the truth really lies here.

  16. Warrior

    L. Spooner’s comment is designed to denigrate Senator Mike Dunleavy and his campaign. However, the ill-informed liberal Spooner doesn’t realize that Dunleavy is representing the desires and values of his district. To suggest otherwise, is simply stating an uninformed or a minority view of the district. In fact, Mr. Spooner’s comments have provoked me to send a contribution to the Senator. Keep up the good work Mike! The last thing we need in Juneau are more liberal, big-spender, anti-development environmentalists like Warren Keogh. In fact, I think the guy even has residency issues. Sure, he has a house in Chickaloon but we all know he really lives in Palmer which is not in the district. This independent would never vote for Keogh. I’m a Dunleavy guy 100%.

  17. LysanderSpooner

    Don’t be fooled by this very superficial description of Dunleavy, especially his public school bona fides. He was the architect of the wildly unpopular effort to radically change the state constitution to allow for the funneling of public education money to private and religious schools. Despite knowing from the outset that a large majority of Alaskans were opposed to the measure, Dunleavy and his posse, abetted largely by Senate President Charlie Huggins, still devoted a substantial amount of legislative time last session to force-feeding this misguided notion to Alaskans.

    There is no place for this kind of behavior in the conduct of the people’s business. Blatant pandering to a narrow special interest group at the expense of the public good is a slap in the face to Alaskans. Voters would be wise to show Dunleavy the door.

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