In South Anchorage, Reps. Chuck Kopp and Jennifer Johnston, each polished and experienced lawmakers and campaigners, were soundly trounced in Tuesday’s primaries by challengers from the right.
The voting patterns in their districts — 24 and 28 — were almost identical on Primary Election Day.
The two Republicans got in trouble with their bases after they organized a Democrat-Republican caucus that put Democrats in charge of key committees, and installed a Democrat speaker, all of which made Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s agenda fall flat, even though the House was clearly dominated by Republicans.
Kopp became Rules chair in that House organization, and Johnston became vice chair of Finance, eventually ascending to co-chair.
Kopp, the District 24’s Republican incumbent, only received 601 votes on Tuesday.
In 2018, Kopp won 1,535 of the primary ballots, compared with challenger Stephen Duplantis’ 642 votes.
This year it was flipped, with challenger Tom McKay bringing in twice the votes that Kopp received — 1,202.
Johnston, District 28’s Republican incumbent, received just 600 votes in the Republican primary. Newcomer James Kaufman won decisively with 1,625.
Two years ago, Johnston won the primary with 1,637 votes.
Both incumbents are solid campaigners and both are likable, have excellent communication skills, and have the benefit of professional staff who take personal leave to work on their campaigns with them.
But it wasn’t enough for South Anchorage, which turned a lot more “red” on Tuesday. Both seats are considered safe Republican for the General Election.
The numbers on these races and others in Alaska will change as absentee ballots are counted beginning Aug. 25. But they won’t be enough to pull either of these public officials to victory.