Alaska holds a nonpartisan, top-four primary for congressional and state-level offices. Under this system, all candidates for Alaska governor run in a single primary regardless of party affiliation, and the four candidates with the most votes advance to the general election. The Alaska primary for governor saw a wide field of contenders. Incumbent Governor Mike Dunleavy (R) and former Governor Bill Walker (I) led in fundraising leading up to the primary.
As of this posting, Governor Dunleavy, former Governor Walker, and Les Gara (D) have advanced to the general election. State election officials are still in the process of counting ballots. With 69% of the vote reported, we may not know who has secured the final spot for days or even weeks.
Before being elected governor, Dunleavy served in the Alaska State Senate from 2013-2018. He also served on the Mat-Su Burough School Board from 2009-2012. Governor Dunleavy announced a “war on criminals” by proposing four bills that would increase penalties for crimes, give judges more discretion in releasing suspects before trial, and reduce parole. That same year, he used an administrative order to scrap the state’s Climate Action for Alaska Leadership Team put in place by his predecessor. In November 2021, Dunleavy ordered state agencies to ignore federal vaccine mandates, saying they were unconstitutional and unnecessary. If reelected, he pledges to prioritize public safety. He supports giving parents a stronger say in their children’s’ education. He has proposed three amendments to the Alaska constitution that bar all new taxes without a vote of the people, cap spending by the state, and guarantee that the Permanent Fund Dividend remains in place. Dunleavy was endorsed by former President Donald Trump. By July 22 he had raised $1.23 million for his campaign.
Walker served as Alaska’s Governor from 2014-2018. He campaigned for the office on a centrist platform, mingling traditionally conservative and progressive positions. He initially sought reelection in 2018 but, facing low polling numbers, he suspended his campaign; he went on to endorse the Democratic candidate, Mark Begich, who lost to Governor Dunleavy in the general election. Walker states that one of the reasons he is running for governor again is because of the bipartisan infrastructure bill that he claims Dunleavy has shown little interest in: He hopes to find more common ground with the Republican-controlled legislature that he struggled with during his previous tenure as governor. He plans to grow the Permanent Fund, believing that Alaska’s future is tied to its success. Walker has reportedly raised over $1.5 million for his campaign so far.
Gara, originally from New York, has worked as a consultant, a writer, and a state assistant attorney general. He served in the Alaska State House of Representatives from 2003-2019. Gara, who was raised in the foster care system, says that witnessing Governor Dunleavy increase hardship for those born into adversity is what led him to run for governor. If elected, he plans to improve Alaska’s schools, citing legislation he sponsored in the Alaska House of Representatives to lower class sizes. He pledges to support the state’s tourism industry, condemning Governor Dunleavy’s defunding of tourism marketing funds. Gara advocates a $15 minimum wage in Alaska and promises to support legislation that addresses climate change. He had raised about $1.13 million for his campaign by the end of July.
Charlie Pierce (R) is currently in fourth place vying for the last spot in the general election. Pierce was a manager at ENSTAR Natural Gas Company for 26 years. He serves as the Kenai Peninsula Burrough mayor. He claims that he has put the town on a strong fiscal path, and argues that he can do the same for the state of Alaska. Pierce believes that Governor Dunleavy has shown a lack of urgency and that he could accomplish more as governor. If elected, he plans to prioritize natural resource development, education, and business growth. Pierce had reportedly raised around $120,300 as of July.
Christopher Kurka (R) is currently in fifth place. Kurka serves in the Alaska State House of representatives, a position he assumed in 2021. He believes that health related mandates are unconstitutional, and that it is the duty of government to protect people’s liberty to make their own healthcare decisions. If elected, he promises to reform Alaska’s criminal justice system and make penalties harsher. He cites the work he has done in the state legislature to support the Permanent Fund Dividend, and pledges to make paying Alaskans’ full statutory dividend his top spending priority. Kurka’s campaign had raised around $135,000 by July 22.
While the Cook Political Report and Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball both rate the Alaska gubernatorial general election as likely Republican, the state will be using a new voting system that could muddy the waters as we get closer to November: This year’s general election will use ranked choice voting. (The switch was approved by voters in November 2020.) In this system, voters rank candidates in their order of preference. If a candidate wins an outright majority of first-preference votes, they will be declared the winner. However, if no candidates win an outright majority of first-preference votes, then the candidate with the fewest first-preference votes is eliminated. That candidate’s first-preference votes are then lifted, and any second-preference votes are applied to the remaining candidates along with their first-preference votes. This process is repeated until a candidate wins an outright majority. And when a winner is finally determined, The Last Frontier will be the first state in the nation to have elected a governor using this method.
Thanks to Congresswoman Liz Cheney’s primary race dominating the headlines, many folks outside of (or even inside of) the state of Wyoming may not have realized that 2022 is a gubernatorial election year. And both parties held primaries yesterday to choose nominees.
Governor Mark Gordon (R) secured approximately 62% of the vote in last night’s Republican primary, defeating three other candidates. Gordon’s campaign has focused on his accomplishments from his first term, including his push back on efforts to close schools and mandate vaccines for Wyoming National Guard members. He has cited federal overreach as the biggest challenge for Wyoming. He is touting his nearly 40 lawsuits against the Biden Administration, many related to oil and gas leasing on Federal lands.
Gordon will face Theresa Livingston (D) in the general after she received approximately 71% of votes, defeating one other Democratic opponent last night. Livingston is focusing her message on health care and renewable energy in her campaign. She says her number one priority if elected would be to expand Medicaid, and she supports subsidizing hospitals for the cost of childbirth after two labor and delivery units closed in the state. She envisions the state moving past fossil fuels and would support an income tax for higher incomes.
With over 75% approval rating in the state, Gordon is overwhelmingly a favorite for an additional four years. The Cook Political Report and Sabato’s Crystal Ball have rated this race as solid Republican.
Down ballot, two incumbent state Senators–including Senate Appropriations Chair Drew Perkins–lost their Republican primaries to candidates who portrayed themselves as more conservative. Perkins has refused to give legitimacy to former President Trump's unsubstantiated claims of fraud during the 2020 election. He recently served as Senate President (2019-2020) and Majority Leader (2017-2018). If current numbers hold, at least five House Republican incumbents will have also lost their seats.