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Primaries for governor, US House top Alaska ballot

  • Alaska-Primary

    Alaska Gov. Bill Walker, left, and Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott sign forms at the Division of Elections office in Anchorage, Alaska, Monday, after the two men submitted signatures to get their ticket on the November general election ballot. Walker is an independent and Mallott is a Democrat, and they decided to gather signatures to advance to the November election instead of taking part in the primary election on Aug. 21.

    MARK THIESSEN / AP

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Primaries for governor and U.S. House top the ticket in Alaska Tuesday.

Voters will choose a Republican nominee to advance to what is expected to be a hard-fought battle for governor this fall. They'll also choose the latest contender to try to unseat Republican U.S. Rep. Don Young, the longest-serving member of the U.S. House.

Former state Sen. Mike Dunleavy and former Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell are the highest-profile candidates seeking the GOP nod for governor, with the winner advancing to November's general election.

Gov. Bill Walker, an independent, skipped Tuesday's primaries, while former U.S. Sen. Mark Begich is unopposed in the Democratic primary. Libertarian William “Billy” Toien also is running.

In the Democratic U.S. House primary, independent Alyse Galvin and Democrat Dimitri Shein are among those vying for a shot to challenge Young, 85, who has served in the House for 45 years and is expected to win his primary.

The Alaska Democratic party changed its rules to let independents run in its primaries if they want the party's backing.

Party primaries determine who runs as a ticket in November. Candidates who bypass the primaries and instead gather signatures to appear on the general election ballot — as Walker opted to do — have a say in their running mates.

Walker flirted with running in the Democratic primary but decided not to when it appeared that Begich would run. Walker wanted to run with Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott, a Democrat. Walker changed his party affiliation from Republican to undeclared in 2014 in forming a so-called unity ticket with Mallott, which was backed by Democrats.

The next governor will face big issues, including crime and the economy, and decisions on the annual check that Alaskans receive from the state's oil-wealth fund, the Alaska Permanent Fund.

Dunleavy and Treadwell have positioned themselves as conservatives critical of a 2016 criminal justice overhaul and the state's approach to budgeting. Both support the formula in state law for calculating the oil-wealth check, which has been ignored, first by the governor and then by legislators, for the past three years amid a budget deficit.

Dunleavy, a former educator, left the Senate in January after five years to focus on the campaign. Treadwell, who was lieutenant governor under Parnell from 2010-2014 and most recently worked for a private equity firm, has cast himself as more experienced.

Of the candidates in the Democratic U.S. House race, Galvin, an education advocate, and Shein, a Russian immigrant who became involved in politics after President Donald Trump's election, have most actively campaigned.

Shein has pushed for Medicare for all. Galvin said she supports comprehensive health care for all Alaskans but says steps can be taken to improve the existing system in the meantime.

Shein said Galvin's ties to the oil and gas industry bother him; Galvin's husband is an executive with a petroleum company. Galvin said she's her own person.

The Democratic U.S. House primary also includes independent Christopher Cumings and Democrat Carol Hafner, who has never lived in or visited Alaska.

Young faces a primary challenge from Thomas “John” Nelson and Jed Whittaker, who have limited resources and little name recognition. The primaries also include a contested GOP race for lieutenant governor and state legislative races.

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