Republican Governor of Alaska Mike Dunleavy won re-election, becoming the first governor of the state since 1998 to win consecutive terms.
Dunleavy received over 50% of the vote after the final standings were released on Wednesday, with the race failing to go to the ranking vote.
Dunleavy, who faced impeachment during his first term, overcame challenges in the November 8 election from former Governor Bill Walker, an independent; Democrat Les Gara, former state deputy; and Republican Charlie Pierce, a former borough mayor who rejected calls to suspend his campaign after he was 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 few debates.
Dunleavy’s first term was marked early on by tensions with lawmakers from both parties, and by appeal efforts fueled by public anger over the veto and budget cuts he had proposed. Recall that supporters pulled back from their pushes last year as the governor’s race loomed.
Dunleavy touted as significant the dividend paid to residents that year from the Alaska Oil Fund, which when combined with a one-time energy credit of $662, came to a total of $3,284 per person. He said the money would bring relief to Alaska residents facing high inflation and energy costs. Last year, the dividend was $1,114. There is an annual application process and residency requirements to qualify for the dividend.
Walker said he believed the payout approved by lawmakers earlier this year amid rising oil prices was in favor of Dunleavy’s candidacy.
“It’s hard to argue with money being sent,” he said in a post-election interview.
The amount available for dividends for years was determined by the formula. But Walker, being governor in 2016 and facing a deficit, has reduced the amount of funds available for checks. The size has since been set by lawmakers who use the proceeds from the Oil Wealth Fund, long used to pay dividends, to also help pay for government spending and limit what can be withdrawn each year from earnings.
Dunleavy unsuccessfully sought a dividend under the old formula for years. He later proposed splitting the annual payout from earnings 50/50 between dividends and government spending. This year’s dividend was in line with this approach.
In September, two public interest groups filed a complaint with the agency that enforces campaign finance rules in Alaska, alleging improper coordination between Dunleavy’s campaign and a third-party group that supported Dunleavy’s re-election. The campaign refused any coordination. An investigation report was expected sometime after the election.
This year’s state election was the first since last year a divided panel of federal appeals courts set certain limits on contributions, including limits on what an individual can give to candidates.
Gara was particularly critical of the decision and blamed the Dunleavy administration for failing to challenge the ruling. He said on social media that he would “be there to work on a voters’ initiative to reinstate campaign donation caps in Alaska so that your votes are not considered less important than those of external donors.”
Dunleavy was running on the ticket with Nancy Dahlstrom, a former state attorney who headed the state’s corrections department for much of Dunleavy’s first term. Among other things, the lieutenant governor oversees elections in Alaska.
Dunleavy’s new term begins on the first Monday in December.