After a marathon season of door-knocking, advertising and campaigning, it’s time for the final vote.
On Tuesday, Alaskans across the state will go to the polls to decide who will replace Bill Walker as the state’s chief executive. They’ll decide if the longest actively serving U.S. Representative will get another term. They’ll decide control of the Alaska Legislature. They’ll pass verdict on judges across the state. And they’ll choose whether or not to support a ballot measure that has become the most expensive state-level campaign in Alaska history.
Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. across the state, with first results expected by 9:15 p.m. and last results after 2:30 a.m., the Division of Elections said. The Empire will have a print deadline of 11 p.m. and publish updates online throughout the night. The Empire is also hosting an Election Central gathering at McGivney’s downtown restaurant to watch the results come in.
“I think tomorrow is going to be crazy,” said voter Kelly Mercer on Monday as she left an early voting station in downtown Juneau’s State Office Building.
More than 56,000 Alaskans had cast votes before the start of the last day of early voting on Monday, with advance turnout on pace to finish behind only 2014 among state midterm elections.
Tuesday will decide whether turnout tops that year overall. Four years ago, more than 285,000 Alaskans cast votes in the election that legalized recreational marijuana, raised the minimum wage and made Bill Walker the only independent governor in the United States.
Now, Walker has withdrawn from his re-election bid, leaving the outcome in doubt between Republican Mike Dunleavy and Democrat Mark Begich. Libertarian candidate Billy Toien is also on the ballot.
The latest polls in the race have shown a tightening race between Dunleavy, who has consistently led, and Begich, who surged after Walker’s withdrawal. Walker’s name remains on the ballot, and even though the incumbent said he voted for Begich, a sufficient number of Walker votes could spoil Begich’s chance to come from behind.
One of the biggest dividing issues between Dunleavy and Begich is their stance on Ballot Measure 1, which would implement a new law protecting salmon streams. Dunleavy opposes the measure; Begich supports it.
According to campaign finance reports, the fish fight over Ballot Measure 1 has become the most expensive in state history, with almost $15 million total spent for and against the proposal.
In addition to a tight governor’s race, Alaskans will also decide a race for the U.S. House of Representatives that may be even closer. Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, has been in office since independent challenger Alyse Galvin was 8 years old, but polls show Galvin neck-and-neck with Young.
With Young finishing his campaign in Anchorage, Galvin embarked on an attempt to visit all of Alaska’s 40 statehouse districts in the last four days before the election. In Juneau on Sunday, she rallied supporters at the Mendenhall Valley Public Library before campaigning from home to home as a rain-snow mix fell across the valley.
Working in parallel with her were dozens of volunteers for local statehouse races. Republican Jerry Nankervis and Democrat Andi Story are believed to be in a tight race to succeed incumbent Rep. Justin Parish, D-Juneau, in House District 34.
“We hit over 1,000 doors this weekend and we had 17 volunteers out there,” Story said on Monday evening as she waved signs amid the evening rush hour.
Story said she expects to vote in the morning, attend the Power and Privilege Summit at the University of Alaska Southeast, then join supporters for a party at her Valley office.
In Douglas and downtown Juneau, independent Chris Dimond garnered a large amount of support with a campaign that started early, but Democratic candidate Sara Hannan has seen an upwelling in support within downtown Juneau’s Democrat-leaning districts. Both are competing to succeed Rep. Sam Kito III, D-Juneau and represent House District 33.
For Senate District Q, which covers both House districts, independent candidate Don Etheridge is attempting to upset frontrunning Democratic candidate Jesse Kiehl. Both men are seeking to replace Sen. Dennis Egan, D-Juneau.
During the last legislative session, the House of Representatives was narrowly controlled by a coalition of Democrats, independents and moderate Republicans. The results of Juneau’s House races could decide the fate of that coalition.
The Alaska Senate is more firmly controlled by a Republican-led coalition that includes one Democrat, and control of that body is less likely to change.
Dimond, reached Monday night, said he was feeling “nerves, a lot of energy” on the eve of the election.
“It’s been a long week,” he said. “You can only prepare yourself so much for this. Just the anticipation now — it’s like waiting for Christmas.”
• Contact reporter James Brooks at firstname.lastname@example.org or 523-2258.