By BRUCE CAMPBELL
The top four candidates for Congress will be Republicans come Nov. 8.
Must Read Alaska has made a prediction on the top four candidates for Congress, so I will too. I mean, what’s to lose? There’s simply being wrong, and being wrong with the hugely fun MRAK crowd to hoot and holler over it. So here goes.
First let’s look at the numbers: There are 590,422 registered voters in Alaska. In the 2020 general election, a presidential election year, 361,400 actually voted.
But more importantly, in the primary leading up to the general, 133,569 voted, which is 23%.
Divide the 133,569 voters by 48 candidates and you get 2,782 votes per candidate. That is a very small margin, so turnout becomes hugely important, time already spent campaigning, endorsements, and the all important ingredient: volunteers. Those who have them are way, way ahead.
Who is going to vote? The 142,266 registered Republicans are motivated and energized. More than 22% will vote. I actually predict that over 50% will vote.
The 78,664 Democrats, having watched a new socialist “Workers’ Paradise” being carved bloodily out of Ukraine, will vote less
But both will have higher percent turnout than either nonpartisan (80,972) or Undeclared (259,634 = the biggest block of voters). Alaska Independence Party are voting stalwarts, all 17,861 of them. I think the same is true of Libertarians at 7,034.
Who ‘ya gotta choose: The field of 48 includes: 16 Republicans, 12 Nonpartisans, 10 Undeclared, 6 Democrats, 2 Libertarians, one American Independent Party (AmI), and 1 Alaskans for Independence Party (AIP) candidate.
It is interesting that the Republican candidates outnumber the Democrats by more than 2:1, but are fewer in number than Nonpartisans plus Undeclareds. Meanwhile the Democrat Party endorsed-Chris Constant is going to be financially eclipsed by Al Gross. Frankly, Constant is likely to flash by, high in the sky, like a comet. (“Constant Comet” is that an ad?) What about the Undeclared candidates? All but unknown, as best I can tell.
My favorite no-party candidate is Jeff Lowenfells, formerly a Democrat: He is a brilliant master gardener, who cares about Alaska, is dedicated and kept his gardening column going week after week for years, and who is truly dedicated to his view of Alaska. Oh BTW, he also registered as a Nonpartsan, and won’t gather enough votes to do more than take votes away from Constant and Gross. As I look over the list of N and U candidates, they will very effectively take votes away from Ds, and Gross.
As an aside, let’s be clear, each voter and candidate chooses to register for the party of his/her choice. You do not ask anyone permission to join their party. No party can withdraw the party membership from a candidate or individual. A party can refuse to endorse, give funds, or get involved in someone’s candidacy. Remember the time the Alaskan Democrat Party endorsed the Republican candidate: Sen Ted Stevens. And remember why: The winner of the Democrat primary was Theresa Obermeyer! I don’t recall any other State Party endorsing the other party’s candidate. Isn’t it fantastic to live in Alaska?
Back to our math problem. There is a large field of unknowns, some of whom may be brilliant, but I don’t know them. There are few, a precious few, better known candidates. Time is astoundingly short. Pollsters must focus on determining the known candidates to guess voter preferences. While this is the normal polling metric, I don’t think it applies in this crazy election for Congress. I think it is important to look at how factions build or dilute their base, and how energized each base really is. Lots of Republicans may build interest in Republican candidates. Fewer Democrats may serve to dilute their weakened voter base.
How many votes do candidates need to win the primary? Less than 30,000. How many will they get? This is where the fun starts. I’m sure someone could make pretty good money setting up a betting system for this race!
We know voters registered as Nonpartisan or Undeclared largely vote for Republican or Democrat candidates. They may just want to flit in the wind, flopping whatever way they choose at the last minute, or they may have public jobs where a party affiliation is perceived to be undesirable. We do know they don’t register as Nonpartisan of Undeclared planning to vote for the Nonpartsan or Undeclared candidate, because there rarely is one. I think all the Republican candidates will draw strongly from the U and N voters. L’s and AIP will split, half going to L and AIP candidates and half going to Republican candidates.
Ballots will be mailed to voters April 27, a week from now. They have to be postmarked for return by June 11th. The many last minute candidates are time challenged. Few are competitive with candidates who have been running for some time, building endorsements and volunteers.
For example, if Gross filed as a Nonpartisan to conceal his perceived association with Democrats, it will cost him added time and effort to reach Democrat voters and get their votes. Time spent jet setting about the Lower 48, holding highly profitable fundraisers in the homes of the very wealthy, is time not spent advertising or campaigning. (One gets the sense, from his last campaign, that he enjoys the fundraising part of being a candidate.)
So here are my numbers for the Special Election Primary mail-in ballot. I will assume the increased interest for this direct mail election will increase turnout to 160,000 voters. The turnout will be highest among Republicans. My party breakdown is R = 75,000 R, D = 25,000, N = 12,000, U = 30,000, L = 6,000, AIP = 12,000. I see the Democrat Party’s smaller base and lower turnout resulting in it being even harder for a D candidate to advance in the Jungle Primary system.
I selected the top five Republican candidates among those I know, those who have been running, and those with experience winning significant campaigns in Alaska. I also count more Nonpartisan and Undeclared voters going for Republican candidates than Democrats or Nonpartisans. Feel free to substitute other Rs and yes, that will draw down Republican numbers, but most will draw from Ns and U’s.
Nick Begich (R) = 28,000, (Longest candidacy, greatest number of volunteers, endorsements)
Tara Sweeney (R) = 26,000, (Strong rural vote, will draw D’s, as well as N’s and U’s)
Sarah Palin (R) = 25,000 votes, (Very strong draw of N’s, U’s, fewer already committed R’s)
Joshua Revak (R) 18,000, (Must also draw from remaining uncommitted R’s, will draw N & U.)
Al Gross (N) 16,000, (Mostly D’s, many N’s and U’s)
Christopher Constant (D) = 14,000 (D’s, U’s)
Jeff Lowenfels (N) = 8,000 (D, N, & U)
John Coghill (R)= 5,000 (L’s, N’s, U’s, some D’s, many R’s)
Chris Bye (L) = 4,000 (L)
Andrew Halcro (N) = 4,000 (D, U)
Adam Wool (D) = 3,000 (D, U)
Emil Notti (D) = 2,000 (D, U, N)
Tim Beck (U) = 2,000 (D, U) (Yes, I predict Tim beats Santa.)
Santa Claus (U) = 1,000 (D, U)
The remaining 40 candidates get fewer than 4,000 votes.
Total = 160,000 votes.
Lots of candidates shaves the totals for the most active candidates. Can the most active candidates bring in voters who would not otherwise bother to participate in a non-presidential year election? Maybe for the party not in power = Republicans. This election is about turnout, turnout, turnout!
Qualifier: Top 4 Republicans only works if the Republicans play nice in the sandbox, as Alex Gimarc has brilliantly explained. The media wants mayhem, hands tied, shot in the head. But candidates can, for example, give the answer they want to what ever question the media asks. Best answer: “Why thanks for asking who my second choice will be on the Ranked Choice Ballot.” Then simply say something nice about your second choice Republican.
Sarah could say: “I think Tara is a great second choice, her experience in the Trump Administration blah, blah and her name ‘Tara’ rhymes with Sarah.”
Nick could say: “I would choose Sarah as my second choice candidate, because Mama Bear will teach Alaskans to say ‘Ew, Gross.'”
Revak, Coghill, other fantastic individuals who have been willing to put their name in as Republicans, could easily compete for attention by finding better, funnier ways of dinging the D or N candidates.
A key point from this exercise is how few votes one needs to reach the top four in November. Not even 30,000 votes. Does it mean D’s will try to harvest ballots? Fake signatures? Well frankly, they will have to do so in such large numbers it will take a lot of work for the free lunch crowd!
“Playing nice,” of course, is strictly limited to fellow Republicans, and only in the special Primary. We can expect Palin to go, well full-on Mama Bear when it comes to Democrats like Constant, and any other D, N, or U candidate whose head pops up above the rail.
The special election ends and we then vote for the temporary Congressman using the ranked choice system. Most importantly, the top four candidates in the special primary will be known to voters in the Aug. 16 primary. Voters will possibly advance the same four to the general election Nov. 8.
Congressman Don Young would love to know that the special election winner will attain several months seniority over other Congressmen elected in 2022!
These numbers are laid out for your enjoyment. My 40 years or more of door to door canvasing for candidates doesn’t give me any crystal ball to predict the future. I have full confidence MRAK readers will get a good laugh as they offer their own prediction.