Things are a little different in Alaska

5 mins read


Alaska is different. Few license plate mottos mean much but “The Last Frontier” is on point. It’s right on the edge of wilderness and the sizes of everything, from the mountains to distances to travel between cities, is not on the scale people in the Lower 48 are used to. Alaska’s politics are different too. It has voted Republican in nearly every presidential election but has, dare we say, a mavericky streak in state politics.  Since 1990 it has had two different independent governors. Candidates frequently run on the “Not Affiliated” line and gain crossover support. And there are two independent members of the Alaska House, one of whom is Speaker.

On the numbers, Republicans are in the majority in the Alaska House, holding 23 seats out of 40. But six of those Republicans decided that the best way to improve lives, including funding schools, ferries and other necessities rather than shut them down was to support a bipartisan coalition including all the Democrats and independents in the chamber.  This coalition now controls the House.

So in 2020 there are multiple paths to maintaining the coalition that is committed to improving lives.  One is to flip a number of vulnerable seats held by radical lawmakers who oppose the coalition, which would make the governing majority more secure.  And,  absent that, the coalition is likely to last, and continue being the strongest force in Alaska state government to improve lives if its members are re-elected — including the 6 Republican members of the governing majority who may face primaries. Today only 3 of them have challengers but with the filing deadline coming up it’s possible that all of them could. 

So with that out of the way, let’s take a look at our map.  As Alaska is different from all of our previous states, this map is too.  Instead of offering race ratings we’re pointing out which seats are held by Democrats, Republicans, Independents and Coalition Republicans — remember the governing majority we are trying to defend is made up of all the D’s, I’s and CR’s .  In the case of the first two (D’s and R’s), we highlight which seats could change partisan hands. In the case of the last two (I’s and CR’s) assume that most of the incumbents could be at risk in a competitive primary or general election.

And let’s take a look at Anchorage and Fairbanks insets

And with that out of the way let’s go through each category of representative

Democrats: 15

Of the 15 seats held by Democrats there are three that Trump carried in 2016.  The incumbents in those seats each won in 2018 by at least 6 percent so they’re favored again in 2020, though we’re keeping an eye on their races.

Independents: 2

Speaker Bryce Edgmon switched from Democrat to unaffiliated prior to being elected Speaker and it seems unlikely that he’ll face a serious challenge in his seat, the only State House seat in the country that includes the Eastern Hemisphere. Dan Ortiz, on the other hand, faces a serious challenge in his Republican-leaning seat.

Coalition Republicans: 6

August 18 is a key date for determining control of the Alaska House in 2020 because that’s when we’ll see if the Coalition Republicans can win their primaries. Those primaries can have fewer than 1,000 votes in them so it’s difficult to predict just how they’ll shake out; low turnout means high volatility.  Notably, if Anti-Coalition Republicans win these primaries they could face competitive general elections in some of the seats.

Republicans:  17

There are around 5 seats of Anti-Coalition Republicans to be picked up in the Anchorage area. In some of them, the challenger is running without party affiliation on the ballot, which tends to help their chances of winning. We’ll know a lot more about the chances here (and how many resources they should expend in these seats) after the filing deadline and primary.And that’s it for Alaska.  I hope I made The Last Frontier’s political situation a little less confusing for you.  And if you appreciate that, we always appreciate your donations to support the work FNF is doing across the country.


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