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Fifteen short months ago, Alaska Republicans were celebrating decisive victories up and down the ballot: Mike Dunleavy soundly defeated former U.S. Senator Mark Begich in the race for governor; Paul Seaton and Jason Grenn – key members of the previous Democratic-led House Majority – were upset by newcomers Sarah Vance and Sara Rasmussen, respectively.
Though the final result was not evident on election night, the lone bright spot for Democrats was Scott Kawasaki’s narrow victory over then-Senate President Pete Kelly for a Fairbanks Senate seat. The victory proved bittersweet when Kawasaki’s vacated House seat was snatched by Republican Bart LeBon by a single vote over his Democratic rival. Blunting Kawasaki’s win was the fact that Republicans went into the 2018 election holding an outsized 70 percent of the State Senate seats. Losing one meant Republicans still held a strong majority.
On paper, Republicans should have controlled the Governor’s Mansion and both legislative chambers. Why then weren’t they able to convert electoral success to a governing agenda?