Braeden Garrett holds signs supporting Alaska House of Representatives candidate Justin Ruffridge at the intersection of the Kenai Spur and Sterling highways on Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Braeden Garrett holds signs supporting Alaska House of Representatives candidate Justin Ruffridge at the intersection of the Kenai Spur and Sterling highways on Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Ruffridge, Babcock lead in early primary results

Unofficial preliminary primary election results showed significant margins between the first- and second-place candidates

Kenai Peninsula residents got their first look Tuesday at which candidates will face off in Alaska’s 2022 general election.

Unofficial preliminary primary election results published by the Alaska Division of Elections late Tuesday showed significant margins between the first- and second-place candidates, with still more votes to be counted. The top four vote-getters in each race will advance to the general election in November. Because there are fewer than four candidates in local legislative races, all candidates will advance.

State Senate District D

Tuckerman Babcock took an early lead in the primary race for the central peninsula’s seat in the Alaska State Senate. Preliminary unofficial votes from the Division of Elections showed that the former chief of staff to Gov. Mike Dunleavy received about 50.41% of the roughly 7,800 votes counted as of 10:45 p.m.

Babcock said Tuesday that he thinks the votes cast in his favor reflect peninsula support for his conservative credentials and trust in him as a candidate. He said that primary season was about introducing himself as a candidate, but moving toward the general his focus will be on policy differences between him and his opponent, Jesse Bjorkman.

“It’s humbling to be in the lead,” Babcock said.

Bjorkman, a teacher at Nikiski Middle/High School who also serves on the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly, had received about 35.69% of votes at the same time.

Bjorkman said Tuesday that the results tell him that there are “lots of people” supporting his bid for the Alaska Legislature, despite the primary race being “low information.” A lot can change before November, Bjorkman said, adding that his focus moving forward will be on differentiating himself from his opponent.

“This race is still well within reach for the general election,” Bjorkman said.

Both Babcock and Bjorkman were followed by Andy Cizek, who received about 13.91% of votes cast.

State Senate District D, which includes the Kenai/Soldotna area and covers the northern half of the Kenai Peninsula with borders extended to above Tustumena Lake. That district is currently represented by Peter Micciche, who has said he will not run for reelection.

State House District 7

Justin Ruffridge pulled ahead of incumbent Rep. Ron Gillham late Tuesday in the race for the seat in the Alaska House that represents Kenai and Soldotna. Ruffridge, who currently serves on the Soldotna City Council, had clinched about 55.93% of the more than 3,300 votes counted at 10:45 p.m. Tuesday.

Ruffridge said Tuesday that he’s “super excited” about the results, which he said are a testament to the hard work put in by his campaign leading up to the primary. Between now and November, Ruffridge said he hopes to meet more people, but that he was “really impressed” by the voter turnout.

“I was just really happy to see how many people were engaged,” Ruffridge said. “It tells me that people have paid attention and they’re ready to make a choice.”

Gillham had secured about 44.07% of votes at 10:45 p.m. Tuesday. State House District 7 includes most of Kenai, Soldotna and Kalifornsky. Gillham could not be reached for comment before press time.

State House District 8 includes the Kenai Peninsula north of Tustumena Lake and east of Kasilof. It includes Bear Creek, but not Seward, which is in State House District 5 and State Senate District C. That district is currently represented by Ben Carpenter, who is running unopposed for reelection.

Unofficial election results can be found on the Alaska Division of Elections website at elections.alaska.gov/election-results.

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

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