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We Build Alaska

Why Republicans Tom McKay and Julie Coulombe are in trouble, and why it matters

Representative Tom McKay (R – Anchorage) and Republican Julie Coulombe may end up being victims of ranked choice voting. McKay and Coulombe are both in second place in three way races. But neither of their main opponents have a majority of the vote, meaning the races will be decided using ranked choice voting. In both races the person in third place is a Republican, which under ranked choice voting should help McKay and Coulombe. However, the dynamics of both races show that is not likely to happen.

McKay is currently down by five points to Democrat Denny Wells, 45.06% to 39.94%. Republican David Eibeck has 14.58%. Eibeck reported only raising $350 the entire election cycle. This suggests the people who voted for Eibeck were not voting for him, but rather against McKay and Wells. To win, McKay will need a lot of the Eibeck voters to rank him second. If a majority of them bullet voted, McKay will lose. At least 1,114 votes remain to be counted in this race (758 absentee and 356 early). Wells is currently winning absentee votes (57.2%) and early votes (47.45%), so his lead should increase when the Division of Elections updates the vote count today.

Julie Coulombe is in better shape than McKay, but not by much. She is currently down by four points to Independent Walter Featherly, 43.86% to 39.74%. Republican Ross Bieling has 15.98%. Like Eibeck, Bieling did not raise much money. He reported raising less than $2,000, and a of that was non-monetary in the form of old campaign signs.

Bieling has run for the House several times, so he has some name ID in the district. But like in District 15, the Bieling voters were probably not voting for him as much as against Coulombe and Featherly. While McKay has the benefit of incumbency, this is an open seat. If a majority of Bieling voters bullet voted, Featherly will win. At least 1,279 votes remain to be counted in this race (895 absentee and 384 early). Featherly is currently winning absentee votes (57.31%) and early votes (51.04%), so his lead should also increase when the Division of Elections updates the vote count today.

In the August special House election to replace the late Don Young, 20% of the people who voted for Nick Begich did not rank a second choice, and almost 30% of them voted for Democrat Mary Peltola. That was a high profile race, where these two State House races were at the bottom of the ballot. Ballot exhaustion normally increases down ballot. Granted, many Republicans embraced the “rank the red” strategy, but the first round of the results for the U.S. House race show nearly similar results to the August special election. The likelihood is most of the people who voted for Eibeck and Bieling bullet voted. And for the ones who did mark a second choice, some percentage of them ranked Wells and Featherly second. Both McKay and Coulombe will need miracles to win.

If Wells and Featherly prevail, the likelihood of another coalition in the House will dramatically increase. If they both win, and Representative Neal Foster (D – Nome) – who is in a tight race – holds on, coalition members number 20. This does not include Representative Josiah Patkotak (I – Utqiagvik), a key swing vote. He would make 21. If Democrat Donna Mears comes from behind and beats Republican Forrest Wolfe, who is ahead by 135 votes, a House coalition is all but guaranteed.

We will have a better idea of where things stand this afternoon when the vote totals are updated. The retabulation of votes in races where a candidate does not have 50% plus 1 will take place on November 23 at 4 pm.

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Floridawoman
14 days ago

Victim? That is like saying Hillary was a victim to our constitution and the electoral system,
like saying we are all victims to the constitution and the Senate system where seats are not based on population, but on state borders. Let me guess you don’t like RCV because it is new? Eh me grumpy…rant over.

John Whitmer
13 days ago
Reply to  Floridawoman

Floridawoman, you are spot on. You’re a victim when you don’t like what’s happening to you. Your examples were great, here’s another: A Germany leader in the mid 1900s was a victim of the allied forces in World War 2. They were out to get him, politically motivated, a witch hunt. Drove him to suicide. He was planning to run again. (And as we all know he really won the war – the allied forces stole it from him.) Again, a victim

Lynn Willis
14 days ago

If you lose a legal election you can and should be described as “loser”. You lost! Do better next time. However, after Trump, now in MAGA world you are a “victim”.

Actual credentialed journalist (retired)
14 days ago

“Victim” good christ Jeff, next you’ll be calling APD “victims” of the bodycam law.

Dan
13 days ago

It’s pretty exciting to see folks like Denny succeeding in RCV. Whatever you think of his politics, you will never meet a person of higher character or with more integrity than Denny. We could use some leaders with his character.

Martin
13 days ago

Your assumption that Eibeck’s and Bieling’s supporters likely “bullet” voted is based on what? Why are they more likely to bullet vote than the others’ supporters? Has that been demonstrated by other contests?

yada
13 days ago
Reply to  Martin

No idea if Jeff’s prediction is true, but he did give his rationale… Neither of the third place finishers in those races raised much money and Jeff didn’t feel like they were running much of a campaign. Thus he expects those voters’ behavior to differ from races where the third place candidate was running an active campaign, his theory being that third place candidates who were active probably had supporters (who didn’t necessarily hate other candidates) whereas those who didn’t run much of a campaign are more representative of distaste with the other options than support for the third place… Read more »

Mark Regan
13 days ago
Reply to  yada

Doesn’t that rationale suggest that Lisa is in more trouble than you’d think — Chesbro didn’t run much of a campaign so, on that rationale, people who voted for Chesbro bullet voted?

Floridawoman
13 days ago
Reply to  Mark Regan

The whole post just seems liked a vieled attack on RCV with no justification.

Joel Adams
12 days ago
Reply to  Floridawoman

One problem with Rank voting is that we end up with elected officials with only a minority of support. We are currently in that position with Peltola and will be, very likely, with Murkowski. How is it we will say they represent us, when they only have the support of a minority. The minority could be only 25%+1. It’s a rank system the stench of which we can smell all the way from DC

Actual credentialed journalist (retired)
12 days ago
Reply to  Joel Adams

Huh? You’ve got it exactly incorrect. The winner in an RCV contest has at least 50% plus one vote – a majority. Until RCV, any race with three candidates would likely lead to a non-majority candidate elected.

Martin
12 days ago
Reply to  Joel Adams

If they had a majority of the support, they’d win on the first round.

Dan
12 days ago
Reply to  Joel Adams

Isn’t it pretty obvious that, regardless of the system we will elect politicians with a minority of support? Whatever support there is for Murkowski, Tshibaka has less, not more. Same is true of Peltola and Palin. An argument can be made that Begich could be more supported than Peltola – but a traditional primary system doesn’t elevate him over Palin, so its a moot point.

floridawoman
12 days ago
Reply to  Joel Adams

The same can be said for the electoral college and the Senate system. Do you want to rewrite the US constitution?

That said Lisa and Mary have close to 50% of the vote already. So am not sure what your point is? Any election race with more than two candidates has the potential to have a winner with just 33.34% of the vote total.

Some Guy
12 days ago
Reply to  Joel Adams

That’s the beauty of ranked choice. You have to have a majority to win. If no one gets 50% plus 1 then the loser…. Wait, why am I trying to explain this. It cracks me up that in these partisan times in a likely red state like Ak you have enough Republicans with their heads so far up their own a**es that they refuse to rank anyone else after their guy/gal and when you end up with a situation that produces results like what we saw in the special election, which I’ll add that I’m happy about. I mean ranked… Read more »

Shelia
13 days ago

Yes, Jeff there are some problems with RCV. Number one is that it takes too long to count and compute. Move the general election up? Is that even possible? The second reason is that it is easy to collaborate with another candidate to beat a stronger candidate. Look at Gara/Walker. Both had funds out of the same law firm (The one Walker works for). Now why would the law firm donate substantial money to a opposition candidate to the one that works for them? And at the end they finally said to rank each other, when that had to be… Read more »

floridawoman
12 days ago
Reply to  Shelia

let us not forget Gara and Walker lost….under RCV. So your point is?
People dislike change, in twenty years when a new voting system is selected by the people, the same folks knocking RCV will protest that we should stick with RCV and not move to a new system.

Martin
12 days ago
Reply to  floridawoman

RCV is good. The problem is that Walker and Gara were both shortsighted. The should have run as a single ticket, one as Gov., the other as Lt. Gov. Then they might well have won.

Some Guy
12 days ago
Reply to  Martin

I Doubt it. Dunleavy won the first time because Walker took their money and I have a hard time thinking that it would be any different the second time around. Even if Gara didn’t run Walker’s odds wouldn’t have been any better. You would have to think that anyone who voted for Les first would likely rank walker second and for the sake of argument with the numbers we’re looking at now Dunleavy still has over 50% of the vote.

Frank Rast
12 days ago

Danny Wells worked very hard to get my vote, he came to my door, I got a flyer from McKay the day before the election. Easy choice for me

Some Guy
12 days ago
Reply to  Frank Rast

.

Last edited 12 days ago by Some Guy