By Jim Ellis
Aug. 22, 2018 — Voters in the Last Frontier and Equality State selected their nominees yesterday in Republican and Democratic primaries. Even though they are small, relatively speaking, the impact of the results is important. Here’s a rundown of the results:
Sen. John Barrasso easily overcame his self-funding primary opponent last night with a 67-28 percent landslide victory. The senator topped investor David Dodson and four minor GOP candidates in the Equality State Republican primary.
The Barrasso nomination victory makes him the prohibitive favorite to win a third general election in November. Dr. Barrasso was originally appointed in 2007 after Sen. Craig Thomas (R) passed away shortly after winning re-election in 2006. He was then elected in a special 2008 election, and re-elected to a full term in 2012.
Sen. Barrasso now faces former Teton County School Board chairman and two-time congressional nominee Gary Trauner in the general election. Trauner was unopposed in yesterday’s Democratic primary.
In the tight three-way governor’s race, state Treasurer Mark Gordon defeated billionaire mutual fund founder and national Republican donor Foster Friess, 32-26 percent, with attorney Harriet Hageman finishing third with 21 percent of the vote. The remaining 20 percent was divided among three also-ran candidates.
Gordon now advances to the open general election where he will oppose the Democratic winner, former state Rep. Mary Throne who captured the party nomination with just over 71 percent of the vote.
The Republican advantage is huge in Wyoming, as last night’s turnout depicts. GOP primary turnout exceeded more than 112,000 voters, while the Democrats only reached 17,000. Even though Republican voting history has been extremely strong in the 21st century in this state, Democrats have had success in winning the Wyoming governorship. In fact, three of the state’s last five governors have been Democrats, dating all the way back into the mid-1970s. All five of those governors served more than one term.
In the state’s lone House race, freshman Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wilson/Jackson Hole) easily was re-nominated, capturing just over 68 percent of the vote against two GOP opponents. She now becomes the prohibitive favorite in the general election against Democratic winner, Greg Hunter, a retired oil geologist.
With a preliminary turnout appearing higher than in 2016, but lower than the last midterm in 2014 and in 2012, former state Sen. Mike Dunleavy easily defeated ex-Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, 62-32 percent, in the Republican gubernatorial primary with five others dividing the remaining six percent of the vote.
Dunleavy now advances to the general election where he will face Independent Gov. Bill Walker and former US Senator and ex-Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich (D). The latter man was unopposed in the Democratic primary. Libertarian Billy Tolen also will appear on the gubernatorial general election ballot; he also had no primary opposition.
Walker is the nation’s lone Independent governor. He had hoped to run on the Democratic ticket this year, but retreated to the Independent ballot line when former Sen. Begich entered the race.
Pre-primary polling suggested that the governor is actually trailing in third position in the major three-way race, and is in danger of being unseated in the general election. If so, it will be the second time in two elections that Alaska voters will have defeated an incumbent governor. In 2014, Walker, on the Independent coalition ticket that made him the de facto Democratic candidate, defeated Republican incumbent Sean Parnell, 48-46 percent.
In the state’s lone congressional race, veteran Rep. Don Young (R-Ft. Yukon), the Dean of the House serving 45 years and counting, was easily re-nominated for a 24th term defeating two Republican opponents with 71 percent of the vote. He will face education reform activist Alyse Galvin, who topped three other Democratic contenders with 54 percent of the vote.
As an aside, it appears that three state legislators were defeated, or are trailing, in the Republican primary. One is down three votes, and another 12, reminding us that every vote does, in fact, matter.