Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Race of the Day- Alaska Governor

98 Days Until Election Day

Status: Republican Incumbent
2012 Presidential Result: Red State (West)

Outlook: Likely Republican

Most political watchers throughout the country will be staying up late on Election Night to see who wins a Senate race in Alaska, which could determine the balance of power in Washington. At the same time though, Alaskans will be voting for Governor, in a contest that will certainly get far less attention in the lower 48. Gubernatorial races in Alaska are usually decided on issues related to energy and the state's resources. I cannot claim to be an expert on the internal politics of Alaska, but it does seem like the incumbent GOP Governor will be given a second full term.

The primaries are still to be held in August, but it seems fairly evident who the major players for November will be. Additionally, the parties will nominate candidates for Lt. Governor next month in a separate election, but then those nominees will run together for the general election. Barring a major upset, Governor Sean Parnell will be paired on the Republican ticket with Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan (who should not be confused with the Dan Sullivan who is leading GOP candidate for the Senate nomination), while the Democrats months ago united behind the candidacies of Byron Mallot, the former Mayor of Juneau who was also once the Executive Director of the Alaska Permanent Fund (whatever that really is) for Governor and State Senator Hollis French for Lt. Governor. French sought his party's nomination for the top job four years ago and started to do so once again before deciding to settle for a chance for the number two office.

Lt. Governor is a job that Parnell once had, after being elected in 2006, alongside another "SP." By the time Sarah Palin was the surprise GOP Vice Presidential nominee in 2008, Parnell was in the somewhat awkward position of contesting a narrow defeat in a GOP Congressional primary against the state's longtime incumbent, who had been plagued by ethics allegations at the time. Parnell did not manage to overcome that U.S. House result, and did not see himself elevated to the Governorship either (which he surely would have preferred that year.) Nonetheless, it was not too long after that Palin resigned the Governorship with an eye on national things, leaving Parnell to ascend to the office after all.

As the incumbent, Parnell was able to overcome Republican primary challengers and then easily won a full term in the GOP leaning state in November. Many talked about Parnell as a potential Senate candidate in 2014, but he decided to take the politically easier path of a reelection campaign. However, the main 2010 primary opponent, attorney and former Valdez Mayor Bill Walker is once again running against the incumbent. Having pulled out of the GOP primary contest, Walker will be on the ballot as an Independent, in a state where Independent candidates for Governor have done better than most other places, and have even been elected. Appearing on the ballot with him for Lt. Governor will be Craig Fleener, a recently resigned Deputy Commissioner of the state's Department of Fish and Game. It appears that Walker is running as a more moderate option to the two major parties.

Conventional wisdom is that Walker would run a distant third,but would still take enough of the vote to hurt the expected victory margin of Parnell over Mallot. However, the Walker campaign is touting a poll from June showing the Independent in second place, easily ahead of the presumptive Democrat nominee. Those results also show that it would be a virtual tie in a two way race between Parnell and Walker. All that shows that Walker may very well be hurting the Democrats more. Nonetheless, nobody appears poised to drop out of the race to let anyone have a better shot against the incumbent Republican.

It remains to be seen as to which candidate will come in second in November, but the long-standing GOP split in Alaska is definitely at play in this race and might very well hold Parnell to under 50 percent of the vote. Still, it would be a major upset at this point for Parnell to actually lose.

Parnell campaign link:


Gubernatorial races predicted thus far: 0D, 2 R (1 Safe, 1 Likely)
 Overall totals predicted thus far: 7 D, 9 R