Murkowski Close; Peltola Not

A new Alaska Survey Research organization poll (10/19-22; 1,276 AK likely general election voters; text to online) forecasts a tight US Senate election between incumbent Lisa Murkowski* (R) and former state Director of Administration Kelly Tshibaka (R), while freshman at-large US Rep. Mary Peltola (D-Bethel) appears to be cruising toward winning a full term.

As we have covered several times, Alaska has changed its election system. Now, four candidates from a jungle primary advance to a general election. Should no one in the general election attract 50% of the vote, the Ranked Choice Voting system takes effect. In the special election, even though the aggregate Republican vote was 60%, the RCV system, billed as electing the candidate with the broadest support, again yielded a candidate who attracted only a minority of the actual vote.

In the Senate election, the four qualifiers from the August 16th primary election were, in finishing order, Sen. Murkowski (45.1%), Ms. Tshibaka (38.6%), Democrat Pat Chesbro (6.8%), and Independent Buzz Kelley (2.1%). A total of 19 candidates were on the ballot.

According to the Alaska Survey Research poll, Mr. Kelley, who has already dropped out of the race and endorsed Ms. Tshibaka, will be first eliminated assuming no one receives majority support in the initial November 8th vote. The first round of Ranked Choice Voting would then appear to eliminate Ms. Chesbro, thus sending Sen. Murkowski and Ms. Tshibaka into a double-Republican RCV final round.

The actual vote is projected to break 41-39-16-4% in the aforementioned order. The first RCV round would eliminate Ms. Chesbro by a closer 41-40-17%. The final RCV round between Sen. Murkowski and Ms. Tshibaka would then break the incumbent’s way, according to the ASR poll, 56-44%.

Therefore, it appears that if Ms. Tshibaka is to defeat Sen. Murkowski, she will have to do so by winning outright in the actual initial vote. Because Mr. Kelley dropped out after the ballot deadline, his name still appears on the voting cards. If his 4% support factor wholly transferred to Ms. Tshibaka, she would certainly get closer to the 50% mark, but such will not be the case since Mr. Kelley’s presence on the ballot will still be in effect. There also will not be a notification on the ballot that he has withdrawn.

The House poll suggests that Rep. Peltola has a chance to win outright opposite former Governor and 2008 Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin and businessman Nick Begich, III (R). Even if she does advance into the RCV round, it also appears that she would easily beat both Palin and Begich in one-on-one contests.

The ASR polling results find the initial vote cutting 49-26-21-5% for Rep. Peltola, Ms. Palin, Mr. Begich, and Libertarian candidate Chris Bye, respectively. Obviously, the polling margin of error could mean that Rep. Peltola wins at this point since she is so close to the majority mark. If the race does advance to the RCV round, Mr. Bye would obviously be the first eliminated.

According to the poll, even adding these few Bye votes to the aggregate would allow Rep. Peltola to claim final victory. If the polling is not accurate, and Rep. Peltola fails to reach 50%, then Mr. Begich would be eliminated. The first RCV vote would cut 51-27-22% (Peltola; Palin; Begich).

Should Rep. Peltola again fail to reach 50% because of polling not being wholly accurate, she would then advance to the final RCV round with Ms. Palin. The Congresswoman would win the one-on-one RCV pairing with 57% of the Ranked Choice Vote.

The other caveat about the Alaska system is we will not likely see all of the final tallies until all of the outlying votes are received from the remote areas. This will take two weeks under Alaska election law.

Since the Senate race appears to be whittling down to two Republicans, the Senate majority status will not be at stake in this race. Democrats now holding what should be a safe Republican seat, on the other hand, could affect the final House outcome.

With multiple House races in California and New York, along with the Alaska race, potentially affecting the final House majority division, and all three taking weeks to finalize their totals, we could be waiting until Thanksgiving before we know fully how the party division will finally split. A closer than expected aggregate House result could mean quite a delay in understanding the full extent of the people’s wishes in the 2022 election.

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