November 8, 2012 | Volume 42, Number 45

Absentee votes will decide race for House

Democratic challenger Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins of Sitka is declaring “victory with a huge asterisk” over incumbent state Rep. Bill Thomas, R-Haines, in Southeast’s House District 34 election.

  As of Wednesday evening, Thomas trailed Kreiss-Tomkins by 44 votes with all precincts reporting.

However, there are still about 1,300 in-person and by-mail absentee ballots to be counted, Division of Elections Director Gail Fenumiai said. That number will continue to increase as more absentee ballots are received. There are also five early votes and a handful of question ballots to be counted.

  Absentee ballot counting begins Monday, Fenumiai said.

  Kreiss-Tomkins said the race is still too close to call, but he is pleased with his campaign and election results. He received 57.4 percent of Sitka votes and 30.3 percent of votes in the Chilkat Valley.

Thomas won all three Haines precincts. Vote tallies in Haines, Haines Highway and Klukwan, respectively, were 581-260, 70-33 and 36-6.

   Kreiss-Tomkins won Angoon, Pelican, and Port Alexander. Thomas prevailed in Craig, Hoonah, Hydaburg, Kake, Kasaan, Klawock and Metlakatla.

Thomas said he expected the close race because of recent redistricting that lumped Haines and Sitka in the same district. Kreiss-Tomkins beat Thomas in both Sitka precincts.

  “I think we were concerned that we got put in there because it’s the biggest municipality in the district and they ran their favorite son,” Thomas said.

  Thomas said he is concerned Kreiss-Tomkins will be unable to exercise enough influence in the House to bring money into Haines.

  “You think (voters) would care about their pocketbook and the infrastructure needs in Haines,” Thomas said. “Now they’re going to have to pay for everything that they want.”

  Thomas said even if he wins the election, he has already lost his position as co-chair of the House Finance Committee because of the undecided race.

  Thomas and Kreiss-Tomkins each said they would broach the issue of a recount after absentee ballots are counted.

  In the race for Senate District Q, Sen. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, beat out Sen. Albert Kookesh, D-Angoon, getting 64 percent of votes districtwide. Kookesh won 57.6 percent of the vote in the Chilkat Valley, but lost to Stedman in Sitka, Ketchikan and Wrangell.

  “I wasn’t able to overcome the block of votes that were available out of Sitka and Ketchikan. We knew that going in, though. We knew it would be an uphill battle. I was at least willing to try, though. But it wasn’t enough,” Kookesh said.

  Kookesh and Stedman agreed they ran one of the cleanest, friendliest races in the state. One of Kookesh’s concerns, however, is that Stedman might not spend as much time in the smaller communities of the district, such as Kake and Angoon.

  “The district is huge and it takes a lot of travel time. (Smaller communities) certainly are not going to be ignored,” Stedman said.

  Stedman said he is pleased the race wasn’t a close one. He said his main concern is the underrepresentation of Southeast Alaska in the senate and the disproportionate influence of senators from Southcentral areas like Anchorage and Kenai.

  In the race for U.S. Representative, the Chilkat Valley lined up with the district and favored Republican Don Young over Democrat Sharon Cissna. Young received 60.2 percent of the vote in the Chilkat Valley compared to 62.4 percent in the district.

Nearly three-fourths of Chilkat Valley voters supported Bonding Proposition A, which will net Haines $15 million of state money for harbor improvements.

  In the presidential election, Obama received 47.5 percent of the vote in Haines, while Romney received 45.9 percent. In the highway district, Romney topped Obama, 56 percent to 34.3 percent. In Klukwan, Obama took 57.1 percent of the vote; Romney received 40.5 percent.