2022 Midterms Preview – Alaska
Updated: Sep 22, 2022
The Millennial Agora continues our complete preview of the upcoming midterm elections for Congress with the state of Alaska. A state of just over 700,000 people, Alaska is a traditionally Republican state split mostly among ethnic groups in the state. The white population is generally conservative, while the high minority of Native Americans and Inuit in the state tend to vote more Democratic (In the 2020 Presidential Election, Donald Trump won Alaska by 10%, largely due to strong support from the state’s white population). The state has become an interesting case, however, due to its method of voting called ranked-choice voting. In traditional elections in the United States, there is one candidate from each main party and whoever receives more votes, wins the election. With ranked-choice voting, however, there are multiple candidates from each party and voters rank each candidate in their preferred order, from their favorite to their least favorite. The two candidates, regardless of party, who receive the most votes becomes the “ranked” candidates, and they are then allocated a certain number of the votes from all other candidates who finished outside the top two. This method of voting is currently only used in statewide elections in two states, Alaska and Maine, and has been highly controversial from voters from both parties. However, this method is supposed to give voters more choice to vote for the candidate they want in a general election, especially for candidates who in most elections would have been eliminated in the primary stage. Ranked-choice voting led to a shocking victory for the Democrats in Alaska in 2022. In 2022, there will be elections in Alaska for the House of Representatives, Senate, and Governor of the state. Alaska, due to its small population, only has one seat in the House of Representatives and this number remained unchanged after redistricting in 2020 to reflect changes in the United States’ population. Currently, this one seat is occupied by a Democrat. Alaska is also an interesting case, since they just had a special election to fill it’s one House seat in August 2022, after Don Young, the Republican incumbent, passed away. All the candidates who ran for election in the special election will once again run for the House seat in November.
House of Representatives
Alaska receives one seat in the House of Representatives, and this seat will be up for election in November. Despite having a CPVI of R+8, Alaska’s election for the House is competitive due to the ranked-choice voting. (The CPVI, or Cook Partisan Voting Index, is the main metric to measure the strength of a political party for a particular House district or Senate seat. The measure was created and managed by the non-partisan Cook Political Report and uses historical data, as well as polling, to create the “partisan lean” of each district or state. A CPVI rating of R+15 would mean that on average, Republican candidates win elections in that district or state by an average of 15%, while a rating of D+15 would mean the same thing, but for the Democratic candidate. A district or state with a CPVI with double digits is considered to be non-competitive).
A. Current Representative: Mary Peltola (D)
B. Population Distribution: 66% Urban, 34% Rural
C. Demographics: 62% White, 15% Native American, 7% Mixed, 6% Hispanic, 6% Asian
D. Cook PVI: R+8 (Tossup/Leans Republican)
E. Outlook: The Alaskan At-Large District, representing the entire state, has become much harder to predict since the introduction of ranked-choice voting. The state had been represented by Republican Don Young since 1973, but he passed away in March 2022. Throughout his term, he won most elections relatively easily, but did have some close calls with Democratic challengers in the 2010s and 1990s. Upon his death, a special election was scheduled for August in order to fill his seat, with the winner of the election only being guaranteed a place in the Senate for the last three months of his term. That election turned out to have a very surprising ending with Democrat Mary Peltola, the first Alaskan of Native origin, winning the seat with 51% of the vote (she received 39.6% of the first-ballot vote). Her main Republican challenger, former Vice-Presidential Nominee Sarah Palin, finished with 48% of the vote (she finished with 30.9% of the first-ballot vote). The Republican vote split between Palin and Nick Begich III (who received 27.8% of the first-ballot vote), with Palin receiving more votes and thus the majority of Begich’s vote count. With the same candidates running again in November, there may need to be a change in strategy from the two Republican candidates in order to avoid ticket splitting, as Rep. Peltola is the only Democratic candidate running. Because of the ranked-choice voting, the race in Alaska has become difficult to predict, but most outlets are leaning towards a Republican victory, as many Republicans, wanting to take back the seat from a Democrat, may rally more heavily around one candidate, who will almost certainly be Palin.
F. Millennial Agora Prediction: Republican Victory (GAIN)
As with every other state, Alaska has two seats in the Senate, with one of these seats being up for election in 2022. This senate seat has been occupied by Republican Lisa Murkowski since 2002, and she is running for reelection. Sen. Murkowski has been a controversial figure in the Republican Party, often being categorized as a centrist and an anti-Trump Republican, although her stance on Donald Trump changed multiple times during his Presidency. After the events of January 6th, she voted to impeach the former President, which led to her being censured by the Alaska Republican Party. The Alaska Republican Party also vowed to run a challenger against her to try and place a pro-Trump Republican in her seat. This election, like that for the House, also uses ranked-choice balloting, but in this election, there are three Republican candidates (Sen. Murkowski, Kelly Tshibaka and Buzz Kelley) and one Democratic candidate (Pat Chesbro). Sen. Murkowski won the primary for this election with 45% of the vote and margin of victory of just under 6%. The race is essentially a two-person race, despite the presence of four candidates, as Sen. Murkowski will try to defend her seat from Kelly Tshibaka, the candidate nominated by the state Republican Party (in the primary for this election, the other two candidates only managed 9% of the total vote). With two very popular Republicans on the ticket, this race has much a much better outlook for Republicans than the House race. This race is categorized as “Solid Republican” by nearly all major news outlets.
Millennial Agora Prediction: Republican Victory (HOLD)
The third and final race in Alaska is for Governor of the state. Incumbent Governor Mike Dunleavy (R) has been serving as the top politician of the state since 2018. He is trying to become the first incumbent Republican Governor to win reelection since 1978. Once again, this election also uses ranked-choice voting, and there are two Republican candidates, one Democrat, and one Independent. In the primary for this election, Gov. Dunleavy earned 40% of the vote, while Democratic nominee Les Gara and Independent Bill Walker (who was Governor of Alaska from 2014-2018) combined for 45% of the vote. This race is interesting, since there is really one major candidate for both parties, plus a popular Independent candidate, meaning that the overall margin of victory for the winning candidate will probably not be very big. Still, Gov. Dunleavy performed well in the primaries, does not have to worry about a true Republican challenger, and is running in a red state, all good things for his outlook in this election. Most media outlets have categorized this race as “Likely Republican”.
Millennial Agora Prediction: Republican Victory (HOLD)
The Millennial Agora is predicting that the Senate and Governor races will end in holds for the Republicans, while the Republicans will gain a seat in the House. This gain is important for the Republicans, but does not really gain them a true seat, since the seat would only be occupied by a Democrat for less than three months. A hold for Democrats in the House would present a much bigger prize than a gain for the Republicans.
Thank you for reading our preview of the midterm elections in Alaska. Check back tomorrow as we go from the frozen tundra of Alaska to the red-hot deserts of Arizona as we look at a state which has gone from solid red to a mixed purple; our first true battleground state of our 2022 midterm previews.