Soldotna residents stand in line to vote at the Soldotna Public Library during the primary election on Aug. 18, 2020. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

Soldotna residents stand in line to vote at the Soldotna Public Library during the primary election on Aug. 18, 2020. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

Primaries kick off election season

Official election results won’t be available until absentee ballots have been counted and verified

Tuesday night preliminary results showed Ron Gillham leading in the race for the Republican nomination for District 30, which includes the Kenai and Soldotna area, in Alaska’s House of Representatives.

As of 10 p.m., Gillham led with 895 votes (61.3%), compared to 361 votes (24.73%) for Kelly Wolf. Coming in third in the race was the late Rep. Gary Knopp with 204 votes.

In District 29, which includes the Nikiski area, preliminary results showed Rep. Ben Carpenter on track to win his uncontested primary with 1,300 votes.

Official race results may take some time to calculate, however, as mail-in ballots have yet to be counted. According to the Alaska Division of Elections, Alaska voters had turned in 29,233 mail-in ballots to the state by Monday. Including special needs ballots, absentee voting, early voting, questioned ballots and ballots returned via fax and online, the division had received 38,075 ballots as of Monday.

In the District 29 race, 1,557 absentee ballots had been sent out, with 815 accepted but not counted as of Tuesday night.

In the District 30 race 1,450 absentee ballots had been sent out, with 748 accepted but not counted as of Tuesday night.

According to the Division of Elections, as an added security measure, absentee ballots will not be counted until after in-person voter history is completed.

In the other primary races, Dr. Al Gross was leading Tuesday night in the Democratic Primary for U.S. Senate with 18,427 votes for 77.64% of the vote.

Preliminary results showed Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, on track to win his uncontested primary with 37,077 votes.

In the race for Alaska’s sole seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, incumbent Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, was leading in the Republican primary with 29,559 votes (77.38%). Alyse Galvin was leading in the Democratic primary with 19,668 votes (84.13%).

Of the about two dozen voters the Clarion spoke to on Election Day, most were not voting based on any particular issue, but felt it was important to get out and vote to support their political party.

For Republican primary voters, the issues that did come up were the Alaska Permanent Fund dividend, binding caucuses and the economy. Democratic primary voters brought up the permanent fund dividend, health care, education and climate change as the major issues driving their decisions.

The incumbent in the District 30 race, Knopp, was killed in a mid-air plane crash above Soldotna on July 31, but his name remained on the ballot for the primary. Several of the Republican primary voters said that they would have voted for Knopp in the District 30 race if he was still alive.

Ten Republican voters shared their choice with the Clarion, with seven going for Gillham and three choosing Wolf. Four of those voters said that Knopp was their first choice.

“I would have voted for Knopp, may he rest in peace, but I feel like I was the most educated on Gillham and didn’t know much about the other guy,” Harald Nordskov, who voted for Gillham, said on Tuesday.

“I voted for Gillham because I’ve met him in person on more than one occasion and I know that he’s honest and he’ll do what’s best for our community,” Kenton Campbell said.

The Democratic primary voters who spoke to the Clarion on Tuesday all chose Gross in the Senate race and Galvin in the House race. One voter said that he agreed the most with Edgar Blatchford’s platform, but voted for Gross because he felt Gross had a better chance of securing the nomination.

“Gross had a lot of TV coverage and I liked what I saw from that,” Max Carpenter said.

“What I heard from Gross made a lot of sense, especially when he talks about affordable health care and affordable medication,” Mike Goode said.

On the southern Kenai Peninsula, incumbent Alaska Rep. Sarah Vance, R-Homer, ran uncontested in the primary election. Her challenger, Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly President and business owner Kelly Cooper, will not appear on the ballot until the November election as an independent.

The contested race of interest on the southern peninsula was for the Alaska Senate District P seat. John Cox of Anchor Point challenged incumbent Sen. Gary Stevens of Kodiak. Also running was Greg Madden of Soldotna, who ran as an independent.

As of 10 p.m. Tuesday, Stevens led with 1,202 votes, 51.81%, compared to 1,118 votes, or 48.19%, for Cox. In that race, for absentee ballots, 3,249 had been sent out, with 1,202 accepted but not counted as of Tuesday night.

Official election results will not be available until all absentee ballots have been counted and verified, and Alaska’s Division of Elections has set a target certification date of Aug. 30.

Homer News reporters Michael Armstrong and Megan Pacer contributed to this report.

Reach reporter Brian Mazurek at bmazurek@peninsulaclarion.com.

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