This Jan. 16 photo shows Alaska state Rep. Scott Kawasaki, a Fairbanks Democrat, talking on a telephone before the start of the legislative session at the state Capitol in Juneau, Alaska. Republican Alaska Senate President Pete Kelly appears to have lost his re-election bid but told The Associated Press that he’s leaving open the option of a recount. Ballots tallied Friday, Nov. 16, 2018 show Kawasaki widening his lead to 173 votes in the Fairbanks race. (Mark Thiessen | The Associated Press File)

This Jan. 16 photo shows Alaska state Rep. Scott Kawasaki, a Fairbanks Democrat, talking on a telephone before the start of the legislative session at the state Capitol in Juneau, Alaska. Republican Alaska Senate President Pete Kelly appears to have lost his re-election bid but told The Associated Press that he’s leaving open the option of a recount. Ballots tallied Friday, Nov. 16, 2018 show Kawasaki widening his lead to 173 votes in the Fairbanks race. (Mark Thiessen | The Associated Press File)

Key Alaska House race tied, though ballot review continues

Republican Bart LeBon and Democrat Kathryn Dodge vie to succeed Rep. Scott Kawasaki in Fairbanks.

The race for an Alaska House seat that will decide control of the chamber was tied Wednesday, though that tally could change with hundreds of absentee ballots going through the auditing process Friday.

The Division of Elections said the review board went through ballots voted early and on Election Day in the race to succeed Fairbanks Democratic Rep. Scott Kawasaki. The board is scheduled to audit about 600 absentee ballots Friday, according to a division spokeswoman.

Heading into Wednesday, Republican Bart LeBon held a five-vote lead over Democrat Kathryn Dodge. The division said the two were tied with 2,661 after Wednesday’s review, which gave Dodge six additional votes and LeBon one.

Michaela Thompson, an election coordinator with the division, attributed Wednesday’s change in numbers to several factors.

She said the board made adjustments based on ballots that were marginally marked and not picked up by the machine. Those were added through a hand count, she said. She said there also were ballots set aside as uncounted on Election Day after, for some reason, not going through the machine. Those were set aside in an envelope for review, she said.

The division has targeted Monday for certifying the election. If the tie stands and is certified, a recount in the race would occur Nov. 30, the division said.

Wednesday marked the deadline for overseas ballots. The division said it did not receive any such additional ballots since the prior ballot count Friday.

The outcome of the House race will decide who controls that chamber. If Republicans take the House, it would be significant, with Republican Mike Dunleavy elected governor and Republicans maintaining control of the Senate.

The last time the GOP held the governor’s office and both chambers was 2014.

House Republicans, who have been in the minority the past two years, rushed to claim control after the election, a move that assumed a win by LeBon, who held a larger lead on election night.

Republicans said they had 21 members, including LeBon, the bare minimum for a majority of the 40-member House. Not included in that tally were Republican Reps. Gabrielle LeDoux and Louise Stutes, both of whom won their races.

LeDoux and Stutes were among three Republicans who joined with Democrats and two independents to form a coalition after the 2016 elections. They were branded as “turncoats” by the former chairman of the state Republican party for doing so.

The third Republican, Rep. Paul Seaton, changed his party affiliation to nonpartisan in seeking re-election. He lost to a Republican.

One of the coalition independents, Rep. Jason Grenn, also lost his re-election bid this month to a Republican.

The current House speaker, Democrat Bryce Edgmon, had said the Republican rush to claim control was premature. Edgmon won a primary in 2006 on a coin toss, after that race ended in a tie. He was elected to his first term later that year.


• Becky Bohrer is an Associated Press reporter.


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