Supporters hold campaign signs at the intersection of Sterling Highway and Kenai Spur Highway on Tuesday, Nov. 3 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Supporters hold campaign signs at the intersection of Sterling Highway and Kenai Spur Highway on Tuesday, Nov. 3 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

State House races await absentee count

Gillham, Carpenter, Vance report solid leads

Editor’s note: This article has been edited to correct the current vote difference between Rep. Ben Carpenter and Paul Dale.

Following Tuesday’s general election, the candidates for the state House races on the Kenai Peninsula weighed in on the preliminary results as well as what they expect from the thousands of absentee ballots that have yet to be counted.

District 29 — Carpenter takes strong lead over Dale

“I’m cautiously optimistic,” Rep. Ben Carpenter told the Clarion on Wednesday following his preliminary lead in the District 29 race against opponent Paul Dale.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Carpenter leads in that race with 4,046 votes compared to 1,436 for Dale. This total includes the votes that were cast in person on Election Day, but not the absentee votes that were cast ahead of Nov. 3.

Carpenter benefited from Alaska’s red wave on Tuesday, with Election Day ballots leaning heavily in favor of the Republicans in each race.

Carpenter predicted that the absentee votes will narrow his margin of victory, but not enough to swing the election in Dale’s favor.

“In the borough election here in October, the absentee ballots broke overwhelmingly for the liberal candidates,” Carpenter said. “So I’m cautiously optimistic that the lead I have now may be insurmountable, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility that the numbers go his way.”

Dale told the Clarion on Wednesday that he’s holding out for the final results before conceding.

“It’s been a very unusual year,” Dale said. “So I think I’ll wait and see what happens when absentee votes are counted before I make a decision about the conclusion of the race.”

Alaska’s Division of Elections has received 3,415 absentee ballots from District 29 as of Wednesday, and all but 10 of those ballots have been fully or partially accepted. Tiffany Montemayor, public relations manager for the Division of Elections, said in an email Wednesday that absentee ballots are still being accepted, so that number could increase by the time absentee votes are officially counted starting Nov. 10.

Carpenter currently leads by 2,610 votes, so Dale would need to receive about 90% of the outstanding absentee ballots in order to swing the election results.

District 30 — Gillham leads Baisden

In the District 30 election, Republican Party nominee Ron Gillham currently leads his race with 2,974 votes compared to 1,497 for his opponent James Baisden. Baisden ran as a petition candidate. He told the Clarion on Wednesday that he wasn’t expecting the outstanding absentee ballots to change the outcome.

“The results probably aren’t where we’d like to see them, but the voters have voted and we’ll accept that,” Baisden said Wednesday. “It looks like there’s probably another 4,000 absentee ballots that need to be counted and we’ll see where it falls, but it doesn’t look like that’s going to make a difference.”

Gillham did not respond to the Clarion’s request for comment Wednesday.

The state has received 3,607 absentee ballots from District 30 as of Wednesday, and 10 of those have been rejected. Baisden would need to receive about 70% of the district’s absentee votes in order to shift the results as they currently stand.

District 31 — Vance leads Cooper

With all precincts reporting in District 31, Rep. Sarah Vance is ahead by a wide margin with 3,711 votes compared to Kelly Cooper’s 1,571. According to division results broken down by district, Vance carried every voting precinct except for Kachemak/Fritz Creek, which Cooper carried with 305 votes to Vance’s 303.

With more than 4,000 absentee ballots to count starting Nov. 10, final results won’t be known for some time.

Reached Tuesday night, Cooper told the Homer News her campaign isn’t ready to concede just yet, and will wait to see how those absentee votes affect the results.

“We knew going in that it was going to be an uphill battle, based on the makeup of our district,” she said.

Cooper said her goal was to be a petition nominee candidate and to represent undeclared voters. She noted that, based on preliminary results Tuesday night, the entire state had a big night for Republicans.

“We did the best that we could, and it’s in the voters’ hands,” Cooper said.

She said campaigning in a year so affected by the ongoing COVID-19 virus wasn’t easy and made reaching voters more difficult.

“We didn’t do any indoor large gatherings, so reaching voters face to face was a real challenge,” Cooper said. “But it wasn’t something I was willing to do differently because I really want our numbers to get down and our kids to get back in school.”

Reached Wednesday morning, Vance told the Homer News she’s feels she’s in a comfortable position after election night, but will be waiting to see the final results.

“I think that’s a very comfortable place to be,” she said of her lead of 70.1% to 29.68%.

Vance said she felt her campaign for reelection went well.

“I tried to stay positive and focus on the issues,” she said.

Advocating for what people elected her to accomplish last time around — a permanent fund dividend calculated using the 1986 formula and lower state spending — was important to her, she said.

Vance thanked her supporters, the voters, and her opponent for running.

“By engaging in the process, we’ve already won,” she said of the voters exercising their rights.

Reach reporter Brian Mazurek at bmazurek@peninsulaclarion.com. Reach reporter Megan Pacer at mpacer@homernews.com.

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