Here’s my thoughts on the winners and losers in Alaska’s 2022 elections.
Rep. Mary Peltola earned herself a full term in Congress. It was a win for moderate voters, bipartisanship, and perhaps most important of all, for good old-fashioned character and decency.
As she in did with her historic write-in victory 2010, Sen. Lisa Murkowski proved that the majority of Alaskans prefer candidates who prioritize the state, country and conscience over the dictates of her party.
Gov. Mike Dunleavy is the first Alaska governor to be reelected in 24 years. He picked up enough first place votes to be declared the outright winner. And assuming that he was the second choice for most people who voted for Charlie Pierce, he exceeded his 2018 margin of victory.
That said, voters did not give him a mandate.
Democrats picked up two seats in the state Senate, making it likely that chamber will be governed by a bipartisan majority. And it’s very much in the realm of possibility that, for the fourth consecutive session, a bipartisan coalition will keep Republicans from controlling the House.
Voters also resoundingly rejected holding a constitutional convention which Dunleavy endorsed.
Those results suggest he should balance his popular victory with some genuine humility. And begin the next legislative session with more respect for the opposition than he showed during the past four years.
In Alaska Senate District D, Jesse Bjorkman wasn’t an outright winner. He had a four-point lead over Tuckerman Babcock, Dunleavy’s first chief of staff. But Babcock knew it was highly unlikely he’d pick up many second-place votes from non-partisan candidate who finished third. And in a classy move the day after the election, he congratulated Bjorkman and wished “him the best in his new role.”
Les Gara congratulated Dunleavy on Wednesday. But like Babcock, he should have done it earlier when it became clear he had no path to victory. And the lack of a formal statement from Bill Walker is very disappointing.
At least on paper, Kelly Tshibaka and Sarah Palin were still in the running when the ranked choice tabulations began on Wednesday. But neither of them deserved to win that way after suggesting the system was purposely rigged to benefit their opponents.
Before any votes were even counted, Tshibaka said she’d accept the results if she lost if “the election was done in a way where we don’t believe that there was something that went super-wrong.” Coming from a Donald Trump-endorsed sycophant, that’s like saying the only legitimate outcome is if she wins.
Then while holding a narrow lead with tens of thousands of votes yet to be counted, Tshibaka told a right-wing radio host she was “anticipating a whole bunch of shenanigans” by Murkowski’s team.
Tshibaka did concede on Wednesday. But she couldn’t resist adding that ranked choice voting was “indisputably designed as an incumbent-protection program.”
Palin proved herself to be the poorest loser of all. The day after the election she posted a video on Twitter that defied the reality of Petola’s 20-point lead.
“In anticipation of an announcement of victory” Palin said, “it’s a privilege to announce and appoint” a chief of staff to serve under her in Congress.
After Peltola’s lead grew, Palin blatantly implied that ranked choice will never result in “fair, free, transparent, clear elections.”
The truth is the open primary, which advanced the top four candidates to the general election regardless of party affiliation, hurt them more than ranked choice. And what made them unpalatable to most voters was their refrain that Democrats and RINOs are out to destroy America.
That’s Trump’s schtick.
It seems Tshibaka and Palin badly misread Alaskans by thinking his endorsement all but guaranteed they’d win. And like him, they lack the moral character to be graceful losers.
Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, said it best after losing his U.S. Senate race to J.D. Vance. “I have the privilege to concede this race. Because the way this country operates is that you lose an election, you concede. You respect the will of the people.”
Across the nation, almost every losing candidate bowed out with respect for the election process and the outcome. And that’s a victory for democracy.