Alaska elections always seem to yield some intriguing results, and last Tuesday’s ballot results are no exception.
Part of the intrigue lies in the potential for the results of the races for U.S. Senate and governor to flip when the early/absentee votes are counted. The state’s unofficial election day results show Dan Sullivan with an 8,149-vote lead over Sen. Mark Begich, and Bill Walker with a 3,165-vote lead over Gov. Sean Parnell — with more than 40,000 ballots still to be tallied. Whichever way those races go, there’s also the strong possibility that our governor and senator will have been elected with less than 50 percent of the vote.
There’s also a great deal of intrigue in trying to interpret the results of the election as a whole. This time around, Alaskans voted to legalize recreational use of marijuana and raise the minimum wage — both fairly liberal stances — while requiring additional regulation for resource development and, generally speaking, voting for conservative representation in government.
It’s interesting to note that the results of the ballot measures are a little more nuanced on the Kenai Peninsula. Voters in House District 29, which includes Nikiski, Sterling, Funny River and the eastern peninsula, and House District 30, the Kenai-Soldotna area, rejected the ballot measure on marijuana by a narrow margin while voters in House District 31, which stretches from Homer to Kasilof, approved of the measure.
And on Ballot Measure 4, which would require the Legislature to sign off on large-scale mining in the Bristol Bay Fisheries Reserve, nearly 64 percent of Kenai Peninsula voters said yes.
While the ballot measure pertains specifically to mining, its passage indicates to us that Alaskans, including Kenai Peninsula residents, believe resource extraction can and must be done responsibly, with minimal impact to the environment or to other resources.
Here on the Kenai Peninsula, oil and gas development is a key part of our economy, and we’re thrilled to see the boom under way in the Cook Inlet basin.
What we don’t want to see are issues such as what has happened at the Baker Hughes facility in Nikiski, where excess cement had been dumped at the back of the property, eventually running over onto a neighbor’s land. The company last week was completing a cleanup of the spilled material, but we have to wonder why something like this happened in the first place — particularly in this day and age, when procedures for dealing with every substance a company might come across are clearly spelled out. It’s little wonder that residents want an additional level of insurance that companies will follow through on promises to mitigate the environmental impact of resource development.
With so many votes left to count, there’s still more to be gleaned from the general election, but we hope our legislators take note of the additional responsibility Alaska voters have placed on them.