This story originally published in the Peninsula Clarion.
Alaskans came out Tuesday to exercise their right to vote in a race that determined a new governor, the same congressman, and several new state legislators.
Don Young was able to maintain his incumbency this midterm election, with 54.05 percent of the vote against newcomer Alyse Galvin as of press time Tuesday night. The 85-year-old is the U.S. House of Representatives currently longest-serving member and was first elected in 1973.
Mike Dunleavy won a highly contested governor election that began as a three-way race and ended closely between former U.S. Sen. Mark Begich and former state Sen. Dunleavy. Preliminary results show Dunleavy holding at 52.77 percent of the vote.
Alaska Ballot Measure 1 failed by a wide margin after Alaskans voted to oppose the divisive ballot initiative that sought to rewrite decades-old law regarding salmon habitat.
While incumbent Sen. Peter Micciche’s name was the only one on the ballot for State Senate District O, he was not alone in the effort to represent the peninsula in a State Senate seat. Ron Gillham narrowly lost the Republican primary for the District O race and decided to launch a write-in campaign after residents encouraged him to stay in the race. The write-in efforts didn’t pay off for Gillham. With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Micciche got 65.74 percent, with write-in candidates capturing 34.26 percent of the vote.
Micciche said he is humbled and grateful District O constituents will be entrusting him with the State Senate seat once more.
“I’ll be spending the next several months before I return to Juneau, reaching out to those who are shy about attending public meetings and making sure everyone feels heard,” Micciche said. “I’m pleased with the outcome and to continue serving the people of the peninsula. I want to thank my competitors. I believe they sharpen game and point out areas of improvement. Continuous improvement is always my goal.”
Tuesday night’s write-in candidate Gillham said the race didn’t turn out as he had hoped but wanted to congratulate Sen. Micciche.
“Peter made a lot of promises,” Gillham said. “I hope he keeps them. There’s a lot of people that are going to be watching him to make sure that he keeps his word.”
In District 29, which encompasses Nikiski, Hope, Seward, Cooper Landing and Sterling, Ben Carpenter of Nikiski won with 70.83 percent of the vote with all precincts reporting.
“I like these numbers better than the Primary Election,” Carpenter said Tuesday night. “I appreciate the confidence people had in me, especially as a first-time candidate.”
Gary Knopp, who ran unopposed, was elected as the representative for District 30.
Tuesday afternoon several groups waved political signs along the busy Sterling Highway and Kenai Spur Highway intersection in Soldotna, also known as the Soldotna Y.
Vice Chair for District 30 Democrats, Eva Knustson, was waving signs in support of several candidates. She said the turnout at the intersection was great.
“We’re trying to get a bunch of people to come out here and show support for the candidates,” Knuston said. “It’s been pretty great out here. Everybody’s getting along. Everybody’s cheerful. I love the peninsula because all these people are just showing up.”
Micciche and write-in candidate Gillham, who are both running for the District O Senate seat, waved signs across the street from each other. Both said they were impressed with the number of people who came out to wave signs and support their campaigns.
“We’ve had a good reception here at the Y,” Micciche said. “I’m excited about how many people are out from all the different campaigns. It’s an active election year and that’s a very good thing.”
Gillham said he was feeling good about the race as he was holding campaign signs along the Sterling Highway.
“It seems like I’m getting a lot of support,” Gillham said. “A lot more than even in the primary race, so I’m feeling pretty good about it.
Gillham encouraged people to get out and vote.
“I mean this is what America is about, our democracy,” Gillham said. “If you don’t vote, keep your mouth shut.”
Groups who both support and oppose Alaska Ballot Measure 1 stood side by side waving signs along the road in Soldotna.
Owen Phillips from Soldotna has been working for the Stand for Alaska campaign. While holding signs along the Sterling Highway Tuesday afternoon, he said Alaska Ballot Measure 1, which sought to rewrite salmon habitat law, is possibly the most important issue Alaskans will vote on in this election.
“I think it’s incredibly important that everybody in the state votes ‘No’ because I think regardless of whether or not you believe there should be more protection for salmon, it’s a very poorly written initiative,” Phillips said. “If we want to move forward, we should move forward in a tested method rather than something that’s a complete overhaul.”
Sarah Youngren dressed up as a salmon and held signs supporting Alaska Ballot Measure 1 along the Sterling Highway in Soldotna.
“We’re out here holding signs for Ballot Measure 1, because we think it is a smart update to a permit law that’s been in place since statehood.”
Also along the Sterling Highway in Soldotna, resident Nick Longobardi was balancing three different campaign signs. He said he came out to wave signs in support of Alaska Ballot Measure 1, Mark Begich for governor and Alyse Galvin for Congress because this election was pivotal.
“I think Don Young’s about overdue,” Longobardi said. “I think it’s come time for him to head out. We really need to hold Washington accountable. There’s just so much going on right now. We want answers, basically, and I think Alyse will help us get there. As far as Begich goes, he just seems like he actually knows what he’s talking about. He’s not just throwing out political bullet points. He’s actually thought it through and you can tell that by listening to the debates.”
At the polls, Kenai resident Calvin Cotterell said he voted because he was tired of current leaders. He said he doesn’t vote along specific party lines, but for who he feels is best for the job, which he said was 90 percent Republican this election.