elections 2020

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Nearly two weeks after Election Day, leading candidates for the Kenai Peninsula’s state House and Senate races can finally declare victory.

The Alaska Division of Elections finished counting the absentee ballots received for several districts this weekend, including District 29, where Rep. Ben Carpenter is on track for reelection, and District 30, where newcomer Ron Gillham has secured the seat previously occupied by Rep. Gary Knopp.

There is still a chance some absentee ballots arrive from overseas before Nov. 18. But those would only amount to a few, if any, said Tiffany Montemayor of the Division of Elections. Results remain “unofficial” until certification later this month.

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News of President-elect Joe Biden’s projected victory reached Alaskans early Saturday morning. 

In New York City, Atlanta and Minneapolis, there was dancing in the street. In Colorado Springs, Nashville and Boise, there were pro-Trump protests and “Stop the count” demonstrations. In Juneau and Anchorage there were small public protests and celebrations.

Not in Kenai or Soldotna. Many political signs across both cities were quietly taken down over the weekend and there was no public hullabaloo on either side.

Courtesy of Ron Meehan

On Election Day, 21-year-old Ron Meehan was paying very close attention to races in two completely different time zones. 

On the one hand, he was watching results roll in in Connecticut, where he goes to college. But he was also keeping a close eye on races in Alaska.

Meehan is the regional vice chair for the Alaska Democratic Party and the vice chair of the Alaska Gulf Coast Democrats, which encompasses Districts 29 through 32. He’s serving a two-year term.

Meehan is a senior at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn., where he’s studying government and environmental studies. Before that, he grew up in Kenai and graduated from Soldotna High School in 2017.

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Incumbent Republicans are leading in local House and Senate races. That’s without the absentee ballots that the Alaska Division of Elections will start counting next week. There may be over 8,000 ballots in House Districts 29 and 30 alone.

For House District 29, which includes Sterling, Hope, Nikiski and the eastern peninsula, incumbent Ben Carpenter leads challenger Paul Dale by a margin of nearly three to one, a difference of 2,610 votes.

Carpenter is a Republican from Nikiski who was first elected in 2018. He said today he’s cautiously optimistic about the results. 

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Updated Wednesday, Nov. 4., 11:10 a.m.

With all peninsula precincts reporting but thousands of absentee votes still uncounted, incumbent Republicans are leading in local House and Senate races.

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Like every good voter, David Martin had a plan. The Soldotna resident was going to vote in person today, like he does every election.

Then, on Monday, he was admitted to Central Peninsula Hospital for an unexpected new development to an existing medical problem. 

“As soon as I came in here and they said they were going to be keeping me for a few days, I was really worried," he said. "I was actually pretty upset. I didn’t know if I was going to be able to vote.”

But he did, this afternoon.

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It’s not uncommon on Election Day to spot a candidate waving signs on the corner of the Kenai Spur and Sterling highways. That’s where Greg Madden was camped out around noon today.

Madden, who’s running for Alaska Senate to represent District P, had voted at Soldotna Prep School an hour prior. He said it was neat getting to vote for himself.

"I’m not used to seeing my name on the ballot," he said. "But I was in a hurry to get back over here, so I didn’t stop and savor it too long. Just get it done and moving on.”

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With more people voting absentee than ever before, this cycle has been more of an election season than a singular Election Day.

And don’t hold your breath for a conclusive election night, either. Results won’t be finalized at least until Nov. 10, when the state begins counting all absentee and special needs ballots, said Tiffany Montemayor of the Division of Elections.

Jeffrey Meyers, an assistant professor of history and political science for Kenai Peninsula College, said the results we see tomorrow will likely skew more conservative than the final results. That’s in part because President Donald Trump has politicized absentee voting by falsely alleging it leads to voter fraud.

Incumbent Ben Carpenter and challenger Paul Dale are seeking the House District 29 seat, representing Nikiski, Sterling, Hope and the eastern peninsula.

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Municipal election results are in … kind of.

Only votes that were cast in person have been counted as of now. The borough is still counting absentee ballots — 4,574 and counting — and residents will have to wait until Oct. 13 to see how those results impact the existing totals.

Some candidates are behind by just enough that those uncounted absentee votes might boost them to victory.

Others are ahead by large enough margins that they’re calling the elections now, like Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce.

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You could not ask for a better, more bluebird afternoon for some election-day sign-waving. Around noon today, a dozen or so Kenai candidates and supporters were doing just that.

“There’s been honking. I think positive honking,” said Henry Knackstedt, a candidate for Kenai City Council. He was stationed out on the intersection of the Kenai Spur and Bridge Access Road today, encouraging passersby to hit the polls. He already voted absentee.

Voters on Oct. 6 have a rematch to settle for Kenai Peninsula Borough mayor — incumbent Charlie Pierce or challenger Linda Farnsworth-Hutchings.