ELECTION 2018: Reinbold leads Senate race; Dahlstrom, Merrick ahead in House

Monday, September 17, 2018 - 13:38

With all area precincts reporting, it looks like Chugiak-Eagle River voters will be sending a quartet of Republican women through to the general election.

In Senate District G, Lora Reinbold picked up a convincing win over Dan Saddler, while District 13 House candidate and former legislator Nancy Dahlstrom won her three-way race and Kelly Merrick won hers in District 14. Reinbold, Merrick and Dahlstrom will join incumbent Cathy Tilton — who ran unoposed in the District 12 Republican primary — on the party’s ticket in November.

A political newcomer, District 14 candidate Jamie Allard said no matter the outcome, the election season didn’t put her off politics a bit.

“I’ve got the bug,” said Allard, one of numerous candidates gathered Tuesday night at the Aviator Hotel in Anchorage, where both the Republican Party of Alaska and Reinbold hosted election central events.

Despite the disappointing numbers, Allard said getting to meet her potential constituents was the best part of campaigning.

“I met so many people, and I’m in love with our community,” she said.

Reinbold celebrates

Downstairs one floor from the official party event, Reinbold hosted her own party. After a bruising campaign against fellow House member Dan Saddler for the District G Senate seat, Reinbold — who in 2015 was removed from the House Majority caucus for failing to vote for the caucus’s budget — said she wanted to host her own party as a way of thanking her supporters after a long campaign season.

“It’s a marathon, not a sprint,” she said. “And we made it to the finish line.”

Reinbold defended her independent streak, saying she was ahead of the curve when it came to opposing the SB 91 crime bill and voting against what she said was a bloated budget. She also said she opposes common core education and has long supported full Permanent Fund dividends.

“I hit a homerun on every issue,” she said.

Reinbold said she planned to stay at her party all evening as results came in.

“We’re going to have quite the party,” she said.

Reinbold won 58.4 percent of the vote to Saddler’s 41.6 percent. In District 13, Dahlstrom claimed 41.4 percent compared to 29.4 percent for Craig Christenson and 29.2 percent for Bill Cook. In District 14, Merrick got 42.6 percent, Allard picked up 36.2 percent and Eugene Harnett earned 21 percent.

Turnout across the area was a little over 20 percent. In statewide races, Chugiak-Eagle River area voters strongly supported Mike Dunleavy for governor over Mead Treadwell, with Dunleavy winning by 2-to-1 margins in Chugiak and Eagle River and by 4-to-1 margins in the Butte and Knik-Fairview. Area voters narrowly picked Kevin Meyer over Edie Grunwald for lieutenant governor, with Meyer

As the numbers showed her taking a strong lead over Saddler, Reinbold’s event turned ever more jubilant.

After getting onstage to thank her supporters and volunteers, Reinbold said her stance as an early voice against SB 91 helped sway voters.

“Public safety is government’s no. 1 mandate,” she said.

If elected, Reinbold said she’ll fight against the crime bill and work for limited budgets in the Senate.

“I am the bold conservative leader and that’s what Eagle River and Chugiak and JBER is looking for.”

While Reinbold’s opponent wasn’t ready to concede before all the votes were counted, Saddler said he was disappointed in the results.

“It’s a matter of turnout and who votes,” Saddler said. “I think bumper sticker slogans are easy, legislating is hard.”

Despite the apparent loss, Saddler said he respects the voters’ decision.

“Our system requires people to choose their leaders. While I may not agree with their choice, I certainly respect their choice.”

If the votes hold, Reinbold will face Democrat Oliver Schiess in the general election. Nonpartisan candidates Stephany Jeffers (District 12), Danyelle Kimp (District 13) and Joe Hackenmueller (District 14) won the Democratic primary nominations. None of the nonpartisan candidates faced opposition in their primaries.

Candidates make late push for votes

On Tuesday afternoon, a cluster of Eagle River candidates gathered at the Hiland Road exit to wave at commuters. At the scene were all three Republican candidates in District 14 as well as both Republicans fighting for the District G State Senate Seat.

Both of those — Reinbold and Saddler — said they’d been waving signs outdoors over the previous weekend and in the early morning hours Tuesday. On Tuesday afternoon, candidates donned Xtra-Tufs and rain jackets to make one last push for votes.

“We’re die-hards,” said Reinbold, who like Saddler stepped away from a State House seat to run for Senate.

A few hundred yards away, Saddler echoed Reinbold’s sentiments.

“We’re Alaskans, this is what we do,” he said.

The polls closed at 8 p.m.

The campaign to replace retiring Sen. Anna MacKinnon was a bruising one, with tough words spoken at times between the two Republicans. No matter who wins, both said they’ll be happy to have the primary season behind them.

“This has been a challenging primary,” Reinbold said.

Again, Saddler agreed.

“My first race was the toughest, but this has been the most challenging,” Saddler said.

This is a developing story; check back for updates after the polls close.

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