Previewing Alaska’s ranked-choice gubernatorial election

Incumbent Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R), Les Gara (D), Charlie Pierce (R), and Bill Walker (I) are running for governor of Alaska on Nov. 8, 2022. They advanced from the top-four primary on Aug. 16, 2022.

Dunleavy was first elected in 2018, succeeding Walker, who had served as governor since 2014. Walker withdrew from the 2018 gubernatorial race in October and endorsed Democrat Mark Begich, saying, “Alaskans deserve a competitive race, and Alaskans deserve a choice other than Mike Dunleavy.” Gara served in the Alaska House of Representatives from 2003 to 2018. Pierce has served as mayor of Kenai Peninsula Borough since 2017.

Permanent Fund dividends (PFD) are a major issue in the race. The state invests oil and gas revenues and distributes a portion of the investment earnings to residents annually. The statutory formula for calculating the dividend was last followed in 2015. Starting in 2016, a portion each year went toward funding government services.

Dunleavy says he’s working to guarantee the PFD in the state constitution and is calling for a 50-50 split between payments to residents and funds for government services.

Gara said Dunleavy changed his promises regarding the PFD. Gara said he pushed in the state House to return to the statutory formula with revenue gained from ending what he called an “oil tax giveaway.”

Pierce said he would restore the statutory funding formula.

Walker said Dunleavy had made unrealistic promises regarding the PFD. Walker said he would support “the largest dividend the state can afford but not at the expense of high taxes and weakened government services such as education and public safety.”

This is the first gubernatorial election in Alaska to use top-four primaries and ranked-choice voting for the general election, a system voters voters approved in 2020.

A state government trifecta refers to a situation where one party controls a state’s governorship and majorities in both chambers of the state legislature. Alaska has a divided government, with a Republican governor and Republican numerical majorities in both chambers of the legislature but a power-sharing agreement in the state House that splits control between parties.

As of Sept. 9, there were 23 Republican trifectas, 14 Democratic trifectas, and 13 divided governments where neither party holds trifecta control.

This is one of 36 gubernatorial elections taking place in 2022. The governor serves as a state’s top executive official and is the only executive office that is elected in all 50 states. There are currently 28 Republican governors and 22 Democratic governors. Click here for an overview of all 36 gubernatorial elections taking place in 2022.