Alaskan voters will help choose America’s next president Tuesday, in an election with almost every state lawmaker’s seat on the ballot and the future leadership of the state Senate an open question.
Tuesday’s ballot is headed by the presidential ticket, with President Barack Obama and GOP challenger Mitt Romney alongside their vice-presidential nominees Joe Biden and Paul Ryan. While Alaska has only three electoral votes at stake and is one of the last states in the nation to have its results come in on election nights, they could take on added significance with national media reporting both candidates in a statistical dead heat.
Alaska’s sole U.S. representative, Don Young, is taking on a field led by Democratic challenger and state Rep. Sharon Cissna in his bid for a 21st House term. Young and Cissna met Monday for their final debate at an Anchorage Chamber of Commerce luncheon, with Young saying more jobs were crucial to resolving the national debt and Cissna saying improved health care was part of the answer.
Alaska redistricting in response to the 2010 U.S. Census, conducted in Tuesday’s elections under an interim plan approved by the Alaska Supreme Court, is set to remake the state Legislature. Some 59 of the Legislature’s 60 seats are in play -- all 40 House seats and every Senate seat except that of Juneau Sen. Dennis Egan, following a 2009 legal dispute over replacing Sen. Kim Elton.
Most attention is on the makeup of the state Senate, with Gov. Sean Parnell and business interests targeting a bipartisan Senate coalition that blocked his plan to reduce taxes on the oil industry during this year’s legislative session. Organizations backing Parnell’s proposal and groups backing coalition members have both run ads in recent months, and two members of the coalition were defeated during the Republican primary in upset victories by challengers.
Almost the only sure thing in the Legislature this year is the outcome of 17 races -- three in the Senate and 14 in the House -- where candidates, mostly incumbents, are running unopposed after the passage of a Thursday deadline to file as a write-in candidate.
Two questions are before voters, including the fate of $453 million in state transportation bonds covering more than 30 projects across Alaska. A separate ballot measure, mandated every 10 years by the state constitution, asks voters whether they wish to convene another constitutional convention.
In addition, voters will decide on more than a dozen judicial retention elections for posts throughout the state. While retention elections are rarely controversial, Superior Court Judge Sen Tan has been targeted for removal by the conservative group Alaska Family Action, after he twice struck down a measure passed by lawmakers requiring that parents be notified before their children have an abortion.
Channel 2 and KTUU.com will both have extensive coverage of Tuesday's election returns once polls close at 8 p.m. Look for live streams of Channel 2's election updates throughout the night, as well as returns updated in real time along with videos and details from Election Central when they come in from the field.
Contact Chris Klint