The state’s primary elections are over, but the final candidate list for the general election hasn’t been decided yet. Most notably, the Republican primary for Senate District O on the central peninsula, has been a surprise.
The Alaska Senate Majority Leader may not make it back to Juneau this fall. Senator Peter Micciche faces a close primary race in his district, with preliminary counts from Tuesday’s election too close to call. His challenger, political newcomer Ron Gillham, leads by just 12 votes.
Absentee and questioned ballots have yet to be tallied. Micciche has picked up 45 votes since the end of polling Tuesday night, but as of Wednesday afternoon, some 500 ballots remain to be counted. Gillham mostly avoided the spotlight during the campaign, making few public appearances and raising a fraction of the money as Micciche. Campaign disclosures from the Alaska Public Offices Commission, APOC, show that a week before the primary, Micciche had nearly $48,000 on hand. Gillham, less than $2,000.
A Soldotna resident since 1985, Gillham owns Golden Eagle Charters and Lodging and is a career North Slope worker. He said at a recent candidate forum his focus would be on trimming the state budget even further and blocking any new taxes.
“I went to a website, Alaska’s Checkbook, and there was millions of dollars in there that can be cut. One thing I would like to see is the legislature moved to Anchorage. We don’t need to move the capitol, just the legislature to Anchorage on the road system, which would save a lot of money. I do not believe in Planned Parenthood. I think that can be cut. I do not believe that our taxes should be going for killing babies. I know that’s a sore subject for a lot of people, but that’s just my belief.”
Funding for medically-necessary abortion has been protected in Alaska since a 2001 Supreme Court decision, however, the Trump administration has been pushing for a rule to restrict federal funding to abortion providers.
Gillham was traveling Wednesday and couldn’t be reached for comment. I spoke briefly with Senator Micciche after a Chamber of Commerce meeting Wednesday. He wouldn’t comment on the possibility of a write-in campaign for the general elections, and said he remained cautiously optimistic that the ballots left to count would swing his way. The final results should be out within 10 days.
Also waiting anxiously for the final tallies to be made is Wayne Ogle, who had a slim three vote lead for the Republican nod in House District 29, where he faces another political novice, Ben Carpenter. The winner of that primary will face Shawn Butler, the Democrat nominee for district 29.