Don't call it a wave, but progressives hold cash advantage in most key races (Part 2)
20 charts for 20 open seats!
Good evening, Alaska!
In this edition: Finally, we come to the end of our stroll through the latest campaign finance reports covering the race for the Alaska Legislature. With at least 20 of the 60 seats in the Legislature set to have a new butt in the seat when legislators gavel into session next year, this write-up brings you 20 graphs illustrating various interesting races in the House. For the Senate-focused write-up, check out Monday’s edition (I’ve also posted a version with a sortable table on the blog).
Coming soon: Back to regular political coverage.
Current mood: 📈
Word of warning: Google likes to automatically clip long emails, and this is a long one. If it seems like it randomly cuts off, check for an “View entire message” button on the bottom or head over to akmemo.substack.com to view the post.
The state of the race: The House
As I wrote on Monday, Democrats and progressive candidates for the Alaska Legislature hold wide to massive fundraising advantages in pretty much every race that we’d expect to be competitive and are nipping at the heels of the conservative candidates in races that would typically be considered a longshot under the old election rules. A lot can and will change over the next three months but it’s a good look at the state of the race for the Alaska Legislature, which will go a long way to determining what kind of policies we see take shape in Alaska over the next two years on everything from the state’s budget, the dividend and abortion.
Between the retirements and redistricting (which drove at least one of the retirements), the Alaska Legislature is guaranteed to have new faces occupying at least 20 of the 59 offices on this year’s ballot (remember Sen. Donny Olson, D-Golovin, gets this year off thanks to redistricting). All but five of those seats are in the House, and they’re a really varied collection of deep red, deep blue and purple districts. This year’s round of redistricting—as well as underlying shifts in political attitudes—moved several Anchorage-area seats to the left while Fairbanks saw quite a few of its seats swing wildly to the right (Democratic Rep. Grier Hopkins being the biggest loser going from a light blue district to a crimson red one).
Finally, the big cash advantages held by Democrats and progressives isn’t just a result of their strong fundraising, but of surprisingly anemic fundraising efforts by Republicans. In several races, it appears that Republican candidates have already thrown in the towel… or at least took the summer off from fundraising. Either way, they’ve got a lot of ground to make up.
The Midnight Sun Memo by Matt Buxton is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
Some kind of… wave?
As someone who rolled his eyes at all the talk of the “Blue Wave,” it’s still hard to look at the following races and not notice the massive cash advantages that the Democrats and progressives hold over their opponents. Cash certainly doesn’t win elections, but it certainly helps when the entire election system has been turned on its head when we’re navigating ranked voting and open primaries. Some of these races are close enough that a fundraiser or two would easily close the gap. The one thing that cash can’t erase are the underlying numbers of a district, especially when you’re talking about districts with big concentrations of hardline straight-ticket voters.
Let’s look at the races:
House 18 — Anchorage Government Hill/JBER
The race with the most likelihood to flip from Republican to Democrat is home to the second-highest fundraising total of any House race with Democrat Cliff Groh topping $101,000 from 409 individuals, which also the most of any legislative candidate in this cycle. His fundraising total is nearly three times more than the combined total of his opponents Democrat Lyn Franks ($20,000) and Republican Rep. David Nelson ($18,150). Franks has pursued the seat in several recent cycles, coming very close to winning the seat in 2020 without all that much institutional support.
Redistricting has seen the district shift left with the addition of Anchorage’s Government Hill neighborhood, meaning the underlying numbers here will likely give the edge to either Democrat over Nelson in ranked voting. Groh, however, has certainly got the Groh-mentum (Oh, Groh-n).
House 14 — Midtown/Spenard
Two-time congressional candidate Alyse Galvin has the wind to her back and is running downhill to office in the Alaska Legislature. Galvin did well throughout Anchorage in 2020 during her last congressional race and has raised a whopping $118,662 from 314 individuals. Her Alaska percentage is lower, though, with about 75%. Her Republican opponent, Nicholas Danger, has not reported any fundraising.
Candidates (and their fundraising) with opponents who haven’t reported any fundraising: Sitka Independent candidate Rebecca Himschoot ($29,760.24), Juneau Democratic Rep. Sara Hannan ($5,900.00), Anchorage Democrat Genevieve Mina ($13,542.36), Eagle River Republican Jamie Allard ($64,353.32), Wasilla Republican Rep. Cathy Tilton ($23,603.62) and Sutton Republican Rep. George Rauscher ($5,400.00),
House 12 — Abbott
Independent candidate Calvin Schrage has raised nearly eight times as much as Republican challenger Forrest Jay McDonald. Schrage’s got $80,000 coming from 260 individuals and 14 labor groups. He can count 99.6% of his money coming from Alaska. McDonald ran as a Democrat in 2016 before switching parties and has raised about $10,250 from 35 individuals—including Must Read Alaska’s Suzanne Downing (who’s listed at an Alaska address)—with about 93% coming from Alaska.
While I haven’t taken a deep dive into the underlying numbers on this race, I would have thought it would’ve made for one of the better cases for a Republican pickup in the Anchorage area. It’s not exactly like former Rep. Mel Gillis was a particularly inspiring candidate, but McDonald and all his baggage don’t exactly help.
House 16 — Turnagain/Sand Lake
House District 16 is a district that shifted so far to the left that it scared off Republican Rep. Sara Rasmussen, who had a bit of a redemption tour in the Legislature this year while playing the role of Relatively Reasonable Republican. She was also paired against Rep. Matt Claman, who’s just a complete powerhouse in fundraising, switched over to challenge incumbent Republican Sen. Mia Costello in another race that’s shaping up to have a massive cash advantage for Democrats.
Democratic candidate Jennie Armstrong got out to a strong lead with fundraising, taking in $14,991.00 from 105 individuals and two labor groups. Former Republican legislator-turned-perennial Anchorage municipal candidate Liz Vazquez, who is as close to a legitimate challenger in the race, has reported total income of $3,520.54, but $3,000 of that is non-monetary value of reusing her old signs. The remaining $520.54 came from Vazquez’s own pocketbook.
Two other candidates are in the race—Republican Joel McKinney and Constitution Party candidate Rick Beckes. Beckes filed a very late report indicating he hadn’t raised any money and McKinney didn’t file a report.