Mike Dunleavy 1st governor of Alaska re-elected since 1998

Alaska Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy won re-election, becoming the first governor in the state since 1998 to win back-to-back terms.

Dunleavy received more than 50% of the vote after final tallies were released Wednesday, and the race did not go to ranked-choice voting.

Dunleavy, who faced a recall effort in his first term, overcame challenges in the Nov. 8 election from former Gov. Bill Walker, an independent. Democrat Les Gara, former state legislator; and Republican Charlie Pierce, a former borough mayor who rejected calls to suspend his campaign after being sued in October by a woman who said he sexually harassed her.

Dunleavy kept a low profile during the campaign, with Walker and Gara bemoaning his decision to appear in only a handful of debates.

Dunleavy’s first term was marked early by tensions with lawmakers in both parties and a recall effort fueled by public anger over vetoes and budget cuts he had proposed. Repeal advocates abandoned their push last year as the governor’s race drew closer.

Dunleavy cited as significant the dividend paid to residents this year from Alaska’s oil wealth fund, which combined with a one-time energy assistance payment of $662 totaled $3,284 per person. He said the money will 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 believes the payment, which was approved by lawmakers earlier this year amid a spike in oil prices, benefited Dunleavy’s candidacy.

“It’s hard to argue with the money being sent,” he said in an interview after the election.

The amount available for dividends for years was determined by a formula. But Walker, while governor in 2016 and facing deficits, reduced the amount of funds available for checks. Since then, the size has been set by lawmakers, who use profits from the oil-wealth fund, long used to pay dividends, to also help pay for government spending and limit what can be withdrawn each year. from profits.

Dunleavy for years pushed unsuccessfully for a dividend under the old formula. He later proposed splitting the annual withdrawal from earnings 50/50 between dividends and government spending. This year’s dividend was consistent with that approach.

Two public interest groups filed a complaint in September with the agency that enforces Alaska’s campaign finance rules, alleging improper coordination between Dunleavy’s campaign and a third-party group that supported Dunleavy’s re-election. The campaign denied any coordination. An investigation report was expected shortly after the election.

This year’s state election was the first since a divided federal appeals panel last year struck down some contribution limits, including limits on what an individual can give to candidates.

Gara was particularly critical of the decision and blamed the Dunleavy administration for not challenging the decision. He said on social media that he would “be there to work on a voter initiative to restore limits on campaign donations in Alaska so that your voices are not treated as less important than the voices of outside donors.”

Dunleavy ran on a ticket with Nancy Dahlstrom, a former state legislator who led the state’s corrections department during much of Dunleavy’s first term. The lieutenant governor, among other duties, oversees elections in Alaska.

Dunleavy’s new term begins on the first Monday in December.

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