Election 2016 has started; incumbents and contenders are getting ready for election or reelection next November; and, Alaska is in a fiscal crisis.
Even if we suffer from election fatigue, observing incumbents during the upcoming session is very important. If we pay attention, we will be well prepared for our day in the voting booth next fall. Incumbents that want to be reelected, but don’t demonstrate the leadership we need to face this fiscal crisis, can be replaced – and relatively soon.
Legislative Session begins January 2016. Will our elected body rise to the occasion and work in earnest with Governor Walker on the critical issues? Or, will they obstruct the Governor, drag their feet, avoid the issues, and wait for the price of oil to rise? Only time will tell.
Election data drawn from the state Division of Elections shows clearly that a statewide upset for incumbents is very possible. Alaska had an embarrassing average voter turnout rate of approximately 56% in the last general election; we can do better.
If registered nonvoters can be convinced to vote, positive change can happen. This exciting opportunity to make a difference is looming large. Every volunteer is important and the campaign trail offers many opportunities for us to help our candidate(s) of choice.
Volunteers may help in many ways. Most importantly this cycle, volunteers can help urge the typical nonvoter to vote. Going door-to-door, hosting fundraisers, stuffing envelopes, making phone calls, and waving signs are a few of the many other important ways one can help. Now, let’s move on to this year:
On The Senate Side
Senate terms that end January 2017 include Senators Coghill, Huggins, Stoltze, Wielechowski, Ellis, McGuire, Giessel, Stevens, Stedman, and Olson.
Incumbents I’m watching as of this writing have three things in common, (1) their term ends this cycle, (2) they have filed a letter of intent and/or registered to run for reelection, and (3) they voted ‘yes’ on legislation (sb21 and sb138) that, in my opinion, favors the oil industry to the detriment of the state. This legislation, I believe, is a contributing factor in the state’s current fiscal crisis. This group includes:
Senator John Coghill represents District B, Western Fairbanks (Ester, Goldstream, University), Badger, North Pole, and Chena Lakes. Senator Coghill was first sworn in October 27, 2009. In his last election, November 2012, he won with 60% of the vote; however, in his district of more than 28,000 registered voters, more than 12,000 registered voters did not vote.
- Coghill’s challenger would have needed just more than 3,289 votes for the win in 2012.
Senator Bill Stoltze represents District F, greater Palmer, Trunk, Seward Meridian, Peters Creek and Chugiak. Stoltze served in the House for years but was sworn into the Senate January 20, 2015 . He won his last election November 2014 with 73% of the vote; however, in his district of more than 26,000 registered voters, more than 10,000 did not vote.
- Stoltze’s challenger would have needed just more than 7,211 for the win in 2014.
Senator Cathy Giessel represents District N, Cheney Lakes, South Muldoon, Baxter, Chugach Foothills, Stuckagain Heights, Bear Valley, Rabbit Creek, and Girdwood. Senator Giessel was sworn in January 18, 2011. She won her last election November 2014 with only 55% of her district’s vote; however, her district has more than 28,000 registered voters. Of those, close to 10,000 did not vote.
- Giessel’s challenger would have needed just more than 1,700 for the win in 2014.
In closing, let me share this summary from a New York Times editorial, November 2014. I think it says it well:
“Showing up at the polls is the best way to counter the oversized influence of wealthy special interests, who dominate politics as never before. But to encourage participation, politicians need to stop suppressing the vote, make the process of voting as easy as possible, and run campaigns that stand for something.”
Alaskans, let’s show up.
Election 2016, On The House Side coming soon, stay tuned.
LeadDog Alaska is written and published by Tara Jollie; Retired Deputy Commissioner State Department of Labor; Director, Community and Regional Affairs, and long-time state employee. Tara currently blogs under the nickname LeadDog Alaska.
Election 2016 On the Senate Side/cc/November 2015