Alaska in Brief

Anchorage state House recount doesn’t change outcome, as Republican incumbent McKay keeps lead 

By: - December 8, 2022 5:55 pm
Jeffrey Congdon, Region II Elections Supervisor, feeds ballots through the scanner during the House District 15 recount on Dec. 8, 2022, at the Division of Elections Director's Office in Juneau. (Photo by Lisa Phu/Alaska Beacon)

Jeffrey Congdon, Region II Elections Supervisor, feeds ballots through the scanner during the House District 15 recount on Dec. 8, 2022, at the Division of Elections Director’s Office in Juneau. (Photo by Lisa Phu/Alaska Beacon)

The results of the Dec. 8 recount did not change the certified winner of the House District 15 race in Anchorage, the state’s closest race of the November election. Anchorage Republican incumbent Rep. Tom McKay still led Democratic challenger Denny Wells, after results were announced Thursday afternoon.

McKay’s lead grew as a result of the recount, from seven to nine votes over Wells. Following last month’s certified results, Wells requested the recount.

Denny Wells, the Democratic candidate for House District 15 in Anchorage, looks on during the recount on Dec. 8, 2022, in Juneau. (Photo by Lisa Phu/Alaska Beacon)
Denny Wells, the Democratic candidate for House District 15 in Anchorage, looks on during the recount on Dec. 8, 2022, in Juneau. (Photo by Lisa Phu/Alaska Beacon)

Wells was at the recount, which took place at the Alaska Division of Elections office in downtown Juneau. State-paid recounts are available for candidates who finish within 0.5% of each other.

“A seven-vote margin in a 7,000 vote race, like, that’s literally a 10th of a percent there,” he said Thursday as the recount was taking place. “And to me, that just says, ‘Let’s check.’”

Wells said before the recount ended that his hope was to be “confident enough in the numbers to just be able to say, you know, this is the election results and it’s accurate, whatever it is.” 

Wells has five days to appeal the recount. 

During the recount, election workers in Juneau fed in-person, absentee and early ballots through a scanner; absentee and questioned ballots were reviewed; one precinct was randomly chosen for a hand count; and the state retabulated the ranked choice result.

Elections Director Gail Fenumiai reviewed ballots with ambiguous marks, skips, over votes, no votes, and/or an oval filled in for write-in but no name written. She then reached a determination regarding each voter’s intent, according to the Division of Elections. 

On Thursday, ballots being reviewed were displayed on a large screen as Fenumiai announced her determination.

“At least you beat a ham sandwich,” Fenumiai said to Wells as she adjudicated a ballot that had marked Wells first and the write-in, “ham sandwich,” second.  

At this point, voters have elected 21 Republicans to the Alaska state House, though caucuses haven’t been determined and there are still some unknowns in a couple races. 

The eligibility of Republican Wasilla Rep. David Eastman, who won his race, is going through a legal challenge. An Anchorage Superior Court judge heard arguments on Thursday to dismiss a lawsuit challenging Eastman’s eligibility for office and avoid a trial. 

And the eligibility of West Anchorage Rep.-elect Jennifer “Jennie” Armstrong also faces a legal challenge. The Democrat defeated Republican Liz Vazquez, but Vazquez and four supporters sued, alleging that Armstrong did not live in Alaska long enough before registering as a candidate for office. An Anchorage Superior Court judge is hearing the case. 

In the state Senate, Wednesday’s recount of the Senate District E in South Anchorage also did not change certified results, and reaffirmed Republican Cathy Giessel’s win. Roselynn Cacy, the Democratic candidate, had requested a recount of her ranked choice loss, in which she trailed both Republicans, Roger Holland and Giessel. 

GET THE MORNING HEADLINES DELIVERED TO YOUR INBOX

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Lisa Phu
Lisa Phu

Lisa Phu covers justice, education, and culture for the Alaska Beacon. Previously, she spent eight years as an award-winning journalist, reporting for the Juneau Empire, KTOO Public Media, KSTK, and Wrangell Sentinel. She's also been Public Information Officer for the City and Borough of Juneau, lead facilitator for StoryCorps Alaska based in Utqiagvik, and a teacher in Tanzania and Bhutan. Originally from New York, Lisa is a first generation Chinese American and a mom of two young daughters. She can be contacted at [email protected]

MORE FROM AUTHOR