Redistricting Board votes 3-2 for Senate district tying together conservative fortress that encircles Anchorage

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An area of Anchorage that politicos have long referred to as the “conservative fortress” — a region between Eagle River and South Anchorage all the way to Girdwood — is now a Senate district. Another Eagle River Senate seat encompasses North Eagle River and the military community of Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson, and ties in Government Hill, which sits to the west of JBER.

The Alaska Redistricting Board approved a new map of state Senate districts after the Alaska Supreme Court had sent the board back to the drawing table over the previous map, which had linked part of Eagle River to a portion just south of it in the Muldoon neighborhood as a Senate district.

The Muldoon linkage had been contiguous and compact, as required by the legal guidelines for redistricting, but the liberal-leaning court decided the communities were too different and that the Redistricting Board had not allowed enough public input. The Supreme Court agreed with the Superior Court that the lines were politically gerrymandered.

The two liberal members of the Redistricting Board, Nicole Borromeo and Melanie Bahnke, are unhappy with the new map’s vote on Wednesday, which went 3-2, with the two women on the losing end. They fought for a map that would put Democrats more in control of Anchorage Senate seats. They publicly denounced the new map as gerrymandered, and signed their names in opposition to it, saying that the court should take over the process for drawing the lines since the board was “defunct, we are derelict in our duties.”

The two women, one appointed by a now-retired Supreme Court Justice and one appointed by former House Speaker Bryce Edgmon, preferred to dilute the military vote by incorporating it into the neighborhoods of downtown Anchorage and Government Hill.

Government Hill voters in 2020 voted for Joe Biden over Donald Trump by 35 votes (Biden-173, Trump-148). They voted for Democrat backed Senate candidate Al Gross over Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan, 166 to 151, just 15 votes. And they voted for Democrat-backed Alyse Galvin over Congressman Don Young, 186 to 152, just 24 votes.

In comparison, JBER voters in 2020 voted for Trump over Biden (Trump-249, Biden-81). They voted for Sen. Dan Sullivan over Democrat-backed Al Gross, Sullivan-243, Gross-86). And they supported Congressman Don Young over Democrat-backed Alyse Galvin, (Young-247, Galvin-109). These preferences are similar to how Eagle River precincts voted.

Those advocating in favor of the Eagle River tie-in to JBER said that the families in Eagle River have stronger relationships with the base, including school attendance. Bartlett and Eagle River High Schools have the highest number of military families in the area.

Those opposed are unhappy with Government Hill being paired with Eagle River, part of the Republican stronghold.

Political boundaries are redrawn every 10 years, following the U.S. Census. The boundaries are supposed to contain roughly equal portions of population so that political representation is even. In many states, redistricting also involves congressional districts, but in Alaska, the boundaries are for state House and Senate seats, since there is but one congressional at-large seat. The process for redrawing the maps started last August with the release of final Census numbers.

Two state senators — Sen. Lora Reinbold of Eagle River and Sen. Roger Holland of South Anchorage — had testified against the new Senate boundaries, which effect them. They are now in the same district and would have to run against each other this year; former Sen. Cathy Giessel has also filed to run for that seat.

But the Eagle River-South Anchorage fortress has been in one Senate district in the past, which will come into play when the map is reviewed by the court. So will the demographics of Anchorage’s oldest neighborhood, Government Hill, which was originally built to house government employees, and maintains that characteristic today.

Girdwood is an outlier for either South Anchorage or Eagle River, the communities it is tied to historically by the Iditarod Trail, but which are now dissimilar in voter behavior. In 2020, the Girdwood voters preferred Joe Biden over Donald Trump, (Biden-490, Trump-219). They voted for Al Gross for Senate over Sen. Dan Sullivan, (Gross-480, Sullivan-234), and Alyse Galvin for House over Congressman Don Young (Galvin-511, Young-229).

4 COMMENTS

  1. Why is it when someone says a district was gerrymandered it once meant the boundaries were set to tilt the election process to favor one political party over another, but now it just means the person saying it didn’t get their way?

  2. Congratulations! and a BIG thank you to Chairman John Binkley for standing his ground and not letting the two Lefty women on the Board brow-beat him. Good job, Mr. Binkley.

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