Primary results suggest likely Legislature leadership shakeup

Primary results suggest likely Legislature leadership shakeup

Senate president likely loses her primary.

Several prominent Republicans in the Alaska Legislature lost their seats in Tuesday’s primary election, meaning there’ll be a big shift in GOP leadership at the Capitol in January.

Alaska Senate President Cathy Giessel lost her Republican primary Tuesday from a challenger critical of her leadership style, according to unofficial results.

Roger Holland told the Associated Press he did not think he could definitively say he had won until next week, when election officials count absentee ballots. But he said he felt great late Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Ronald Gillham of Soldotna won the Republican primary for the House seat that was held by the late-Rep. Gary Knopp. Knopp died in a plane crash last month.

Gillham’s name was among three sent to Gov. Mike Dunleavy for consideration for an appointment to the seat. Dunleavy spokesperson Jeff Turner on Monday said the office did not have comment on the vacancy, according to AP.

Giessel was not the only member of the Senate Majority leadership to loose their primaries Tuesday.

According to unofficial results from the Division of Elections, Sens. Gary Stevens of Kodiak and Natasha Von Imhof of Anchorage both lost to challengers. Stevens chaired the joint Legislative Council for the Senate and Von Imhof was co-chair of the important Senate Finance Committee.

[Election officials say it was a slow day at the polls]

Von Imhof’s co-chair on the Finance Committee, Sen. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, won his primary but whether or not he’ll retain his chairmanship in the new Senate is not yet clear.

Sen. John Coghill, R-North Pole, who had served in the Legislature since 1999, also lost his seat to a primary challenger.

There were losses for incumbent Republicans in the House as well.

House Majority Leader Steve Thompson, R-Fairbanks, leads his challenger by only more than a percentage point according to unofficial results. Mark Neuman of Big Lake; Sharon Jackson of Wasilla; and Gabrielle LeDoux; Chuck Kopp and Jennifer Johnston of Anchorage all lost their primaries.

Most Democratic incumbents had few or no challengers and none lost their primaries to party challengers.

Juneau Democrats and independents strongly favored congressional contenders Alyse Galvin and Dr. Al Gross, both running as Democratic-backed independents for House and Senate respectively. Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, faced no party challengers.

While Alaska’s only House Representative since 1973 sailed to an easy victory in his primary, challenger John Nelson was able to win about 17% of the vote. DOE results show Juneau’s Republican Primary results largely follow along the same lines.

DOE used its social media Tuesday night to remind the public results are unofficial until after the State Review Board certifies the election results. Absentee ballots will not be counted until Aug. 25, DOE said.

Unofficial results are available online at the DOE website.

• Contact reporter Peter Segall at Follow him on Twitter at @SegallJnoEmpire. The Associated Press contributed reporting to this article.

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