JUNEAU, Alaska (TUSEN) — Republican Alaska governor Mike Dunleavy won re-election to become the first governor in the state since 1998 to win consecutive terms.
Dunleavy received more than 50% of the vote after the final results were released on Wednesday, and the race did not go to ranked choice.
Dunleavy said he was “relieved it’s over and behind us and we can now focus on the next four years.”
He credited the win to the effective communication he said he had with Alaskans, a practice that began with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We told the people of Alaska at the first press conference we had on that virus that we would communicate consistently and constantly and that we would be transparent in everything we reported to the people, and that became the norm,” Dunleavy said. said in a phone interview after the win.
“I think that has strengthened the relationship between me and the people of Alaska,” he said.
Facing a recall campaign during his first term, Dunleavy overcame challenges in the November 8 election from former Governor Bill Walker, an independent; Democrat Les Gara, a former state legislator; and Republican Charlie Pierce, a former mayor of the borough who rejected calls to suspend his campaign after being sued in October by a woman who said he had sexually harassed her.
Gara and his running mate, Jessica Cook, congratulated Dunleavy and Lt. Gov.-elect Nancy Dahlstrom.
“We wish Mike and Nancy both the best of luck as they tackle the terrifying issues we all face, from struggling schools impacting student opportunities to silent but damaging crises, including the lack of affordable and accessible childcare, affordable housing and massively inadequate mental health care. health personnel needed for children and adults living in crisis,” he said in a statement.
Dunleavy kept a low profile throughout the campaign, with Walker and Gara bemoaning his decision to appear in only a handful of debates.
Dunleavy’s first term was marked early on by tensions with legislators in both parties and by a recall sparked by public anger over vetoes and budget cuts he had proposed. Recall backers gave up their push last year, with the governor’s race looming.
Dunleavy praised the dividend paid to residents this year from Alaska’s oil fund as significant, which when combined with a one-time energy relief payment of $662 totaled $3,284 per person. He said the money would provide relief to Alaskans amid high inflation and energy costs. Last year’s dividend was $1,114. There is an annual application process and residency requirements to qualify for a dividend.
Walker said he thought the payout, which was approved by lawmakers earlier this year amid a spike in oil prices, helped Dunleavy’s candidacy.
“It’s hard to argue with money being disbursed,” he said in a post-election interview.
The amount available for dividends for many years was determined by a formula. But Walker, while serving as governor in 2016 and facing deficits, reduced the amount of money available for checks. The size has since been set by lawmakers, who used revenue from the oil fund, long used to pay dividends, to also help pay government spending and limit what can be taken out of revenue each year.
Dunleavy pressed for years in vain for a dividend according to the old formula. He later proposed splitting the annual withdrawal from earnings 50/50 between dividends and government spending. This year’s dividend was in line with that approach.
Two public interest groups filed a complaint in September with the agency that enforces campaign funding rules in Alaska alleging improper coordination between Dunleavy’s campaign and an outside group that supported Dunleavy’s re-election. The campaign denied any coordination. An investigative report was expected some time after the election.
This year’s state election was the first since a divided federal appeals panel last year struck down certain contribution limits, including limits on what an individual can give to candidates.
Gara was particularly critical of the decision, blaming the Dunleavy administration for failing to challenge the ruling. He said on social media that he “would be there to work on a voter initiative to reduce Alaska campaign donations so that your votes are treated no less than the votes of outside donors.”
Dunleavy ran on a ticket with Dahlstrom, a former state legislator who ran the state corrections department for much of Dunleavy’s first term. The lieutenant governor oversees elections in Alaska, among other things.
Dunleavy’s new term begins on the first Monday in December.
The US Express News writer Mark Thiessen in Anchorage, Alaska, contributed to this report.