Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy reelected to second term

Nov. 24—Dunleavy

Gov. Mike Dunleavy has won reelection and will serve as Alaska governor for a second four-year term.

Results of the November election were finalized Wednesday, with the Republican incumbent earning just over half of first-choice votes. It was the only statewide race that did not necessitate a ranked-choice voting tabulation, because Dunleavy earned a majority of votes, with 266,472 ballots counted.

Rank choice results for other races, including U.S. Senate and U.S. House, are scheduled to be tabulated starting at 4 p.m. Wednesday.

Dunleavy's first term began with unpopular slashes to the state budget he said were necessary to balance the state budget. That led to the launch of a recall effort against him, but the governor ultimately emerged victorious in the wake of a historically large Permanent Fund dividend sent out to voters weeks before Election Day, becoming the first Alaska governor earning a second consecutive term since Democrat Tony Knowles did so in 1998.

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Challengers who focused their campaigns on criticizing Dunleavy's record of cutting state services were unsuccessful. Democratic former state lawmaker Les Gara earned 24% of first-choice votes. Independent former Gov. Bill Walker earned 21%. Both spent much of their campaigns attacking Dunleavy's education and fiscal policies.

Republican former Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce — who faces sexual harassment allegations from a former employee — earned less than 5% of first-choice votes after mounting a feeble campaign.

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While Dunleavy faced criticism for his first year in office after proposing draconian cuts to state services, public perception of his performance as governor changed with the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced the recall effort against him to grind to a halt. Dunleavy was credited with avoiding some of the public health pitfalls faced in other states during the pandemic and keeping the state's death toll from the coronavirus lower than in other states.

In the months before the election, Alaska faced a windfall in revenue due to higher oil prices, credited in large part to Russia's war in Ukraine. That allowed Dunleavy to promise and deliver on a large dividend that some voters said was key in their decision to support the governor's reelection.

Dunleavy's bid was marked by his absence from the campaign trail. He participated in four candidate forums and held almost no publicly advertised campaign events.

Dunleavy's running mate, Nancy Dahlstrom, will be sworn-in as lieutenant governor early next month, succeeding Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer, who did not seek another term. Dahlstrom previously served in the state House. Most recently she was the commissioner of the state Department of Corrections, stepping down in May to become Dunleavy's running mate. As lieutenant governor, Dahlstrom will be charged with overseeing Alaska's elections.

Dunleavy thanked his supporters in a social media post and said he would work with the Legislature "to prioritize the policies Alaskans expect us to accomplish."

"From public safety and improving our education outcomes to growing our economy, I am honored to serve Alaskans for another four years," the governor said. "Together, we will work to build an Alaska not just for the next four years but for 50 years and beyond. I will devote myself to ensuring our best days are in front of us."