Clockwise from upper left: Mary Peltola, Lisa Murkowski, Mike Dunleavy and Jesse Bjorkman

After ranked-choice tabulation, Murkowski, Peltola win reelection

The tabulation process was streamed live by KTOO

Jesse Bjorkman and Justin Ruffridge will represent the central Kenai Peninsula in Juneau next legislative session following a final round of election results and ranked choice tabulation conducted Wednesday evening by the Alaska Division of Elections.

Also, incumbents U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski and U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola won their respective bids for reelection to Congress after tabulation on Wednesday. Gov. Mike Dunleavy also won reelection. The tabulation process was streamed live Wednesday by KTOO public radio in Juneau.

Bjorkman, who represents Nikiski on the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly, will represent the State Senate district that includes Kenai and Soldotna in the Alaska Legislature for the upcoming session. Bjorkman emerged as the highest vote-getter on Election Day, but didn’t cross the 50% threshold needed for victory until Wednesday.

After nonpartisan candidate Andy Cizek was eliminated from the race, Bjorkman clinched about 53.6% of votes cast. That’s compared to Republican Tuckerman Babcock, who received about 46.4% of votes.

In the race for Alaska State House District 7, which includes Kenai and Soldotna, ranked choice tabulation was not needed. With all votes counted, Republican Justin Ruffridge, who currently sits on the Soldotna City Council, received 52.6% of votes. He will replace incumbent Rep. Ron Gillham, who received 46.5% of votes.

Murkowski will head back to Washington, D.C., following Wednesday’s tabulation. The race between Murkowski and challenger Kelly Tshibaka has been tight in the weeks since Election Day. In recent updates, less than one percentage point separated the two candidates, both Republicans.

It wasn’t until Democrat Pat Chesbro was eliminated during Wednesday’s tabulation, and her roughly 30,000 votes redistributed, that Murkowski crossed 50%. After tabulation, Murkowski received about 53.7% of votes, compared to Tshibaka, who received about 46.3% of votes cast. Buzz Kelley, who also appeared on the ballot, suspended his campaign earlier this year.

“I am honored that Alaskans – of all regions, backgrounds and party affiliations – have once again granted me their confidence to continue working with them and on their behalf in the U.S. Senate,” Murkowski said in a Wednesday statement. “I look forward to continuing the important work ahead of us.”

Incumbent U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola, a Democrat, was reelected to the U.S. House of Representatives for a full two-year term after edging out former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, Nick Begich III and Chris Bye, who also ran for the seat. Petola has held Alaska’s only seat in the U.S. House since this summer, when she won a special election for the seat following the death of former U.S. Rep. Don Young. She is the first Alaska Native and first woman to represent Alaska in the U.S. House.

Incumbent Gov. Mike Dunleavy won reelection to Alaska’s highest office after a final round of ballots kept his ticket above the 50% threshold needed to trigger ranked choice tabulation. With Alaska’s vote count complete, Dunleavy — running with lieutenent governor candidate Nancy Dahlstrom — clinched about 50.3% of the more than 263,000 ballots counted.

Dunleavy held a solid lead over Democratic gubernatorial candidate Les Gara, whose ticket received 24.2% of votes, and nonpartisan candidate Bill Walker, who received 20.7% of votes. Republican candidate and former Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce received about 4.5% of votes.

“Alaskans, thank you for voting and for your continued support over the past four years,” Dunleavy said Wednesday via social media. “From public safety and improving our education outcomes to growing our economy, I am honored to serve Alaskans for another four years. We look forward to working with the Legislature to prioritize the policies Alaskans expect us to accomplish.”

Wednesday’s post-tabulation results are unofficial; the Alaska Division of Elections’ target date for certification is Nov. 29. The full tabulation process can be viewed on KTOO’s YouTube channel at youtube.com/watch?v=egMMy1QGqRQ.

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at ashlyn.ohara@peninsulaclarion.com.

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