Mike Chenault has been a state representative in Alaska for 14 years and, for the third time since 2010, he successfully defended his seat against a challenger.
With nearly 77 percent of the vote in 11 precincts on Tuesday, Chenault, a Republican, carried House District 29.
Democratic challenger Rocky Knudsen garnered just over 22 percent of the more than 5,500 votes cast.
“It’s good to know that the folks in my district, I guess, still believe that I’m doing the things that they want me to do,” Chenault said from an election-night party at the Egan Center in Anchorage.
The now 8-term representative said he also plans to run for Speaker of the House again. Chenault was first elected as Speaker in 2009 and is the longest running Speaker in the state’s history.
That decision will likely happen later in the week, Chenault said.
“We’ll get organized here in the next few days and see if I’ve got enough votes,” he said.
For some who support Chenault, they’d like to see him go further than the state house.
“I wish that Mike Chenault had been running for U.S. Senate,” said Roy Moore after he voted on Tuesday. “I think he’s a good man, I think he had the experience and the background that would have made a great U.S. Senator.”
Another supporter, Diana Forsulund, said she liked what Chenault had been doing during his last decade in office.
“I know that we’re going to be getting more work here as far as the oilfields and natural gas,” she said. “I feel like that’s important.”
Looking to the future, Chenault said education would be a strong issue for him in the upcoming session.
“Another issue is the budget,” he said. “How do we keep our spending under control to match the revenues that we take in? The gas pipeline is still going to be one of the biggest issues we have out there. We’re not putting pipe in the ground yet, but we’re further along then we’ve been, we need to stay that course and make a project of that magnitude happen.”
At a party for the Democratic Party at Stanley Ford in Kenai, Knudsen sat quietly watching election results roll in on a big screen television near the front of the dealership’s display room.
He held an early lead as precinct results were reported, but was quickly surpassed by Chenault.
“I was a little bit surprised at the first (results) I said,” he said. “It was a probably a little higher than I thought it might be.”
Still the idea that more than 1,100 people voted for him carries some weight.
“It makes me feel that I’m glad that I (ran),” he said. “Maybe we got some people out to vote that didn’t vote before. If we did get people out and voter turnout improved, that’s what I really wanted to accomplish.”
Sybille Castro said she voted for Knudsen and for gubernatorial candidate Bill Walker because they stood for open government.
“We need transparent government here in Alaska, no more backroom deals,” she said. “Alaskans need to put Alaska first. It’s very important that no outside money will influence our state anymore.”
Now that the pressure of the race is off, Knudsen said he is looking forward to relaxing in his Nikiski home.
“I built a new shop this year and I need to finish that,” he said. “I’ve got wood, I didn’t get a chance to cut wood, but I’ve got a lot of wood to split.”
Knudsen, a newcomer to politics, said he had been naive going into the race.
“There was a lot of things I was surprised about,” he said. “One of the things is all of the questionnaires that get sent to you. That’s probably the biggest thing.”
Still, the process wasn’t all bad for him.
“Right know, I don’t know if I really want to run again, but I think I learned enough to help someone else run,” Knudsen said.
Reach Rashah McChesney at firstname.lastname@example.org.