Currently, four of the justices on the court were appointed by a Republican governor while one was appointed by an independent governor.
The governor appoints the five justices of the supreme court through a hybrid nominating commission where neither the governor nor the Alaska State Bar Association has majority control over the judicial nominating commission. The Alaska Judicial Council is made up of seven members: three lawyers (appointed by the board of governors of the Alaska Bar Association), three non-lawyer members (appointed by the governor and confirmed by a majority of the legislature in joint session), and is chaired by the chief justice of the supreme court.
New justices must face a retention election during the next general election after they serve at least three years on the bench. Justices then stand for retention every ten years with a mandatory retirement age of 70. Since 2008, justices facing retention elections have won 98% of the time. In Alaska, there has not been a single justice that lost retention during this same time frame.
Alaska, Florida, and Wyoming held statewide primaries on August 18, 2020. Candidates competed to advance to the general election scheduled for November 3.
There were 265 state legislative seats up for election, including 45 state Senate seats, and 220 state House seats.
The following information was current as of August 20. At that time, some races were still too close to call.
• Across the three states, 206 incumbents filed for re-election to the 265 seats. Preliminary results indicate at least nine incumbents were defeated.
• In the state Senate elections, 33 incumbents filed for 45 seats. At least two did not advance to the general election. In the state House elections, 173 incumbents competed for re-election to 220 seats. At least seven were defeated.
The next statewide primary will be held on September 1 in Massachusetts.
Congressional primary elections for two U.S. Senate seats and 29 U.S. House seats were held in Alaska, Florida, and Wyoming on August 18, 2020. Candidates competed to advance to the general election scheduled for November 3, 2020.
One U.S. Senate seat and the sole at-large U.S. House seat were on the ballot in Alaska. The incumbents in both races filed for re-election. Sen. Daniel S. Sullivan (R) was unopposed and advanced to the general election. Rep. Don Young (R) faced challengers in the primary. He advanced to the general election.
All 27 U.S. House seats in Florida were on the ballot. Twenty-five incumbents—13 Democrats and 12 Republicans—filed for re-election. Fifteen incumbents were unopposed and advanced automatically. Ten remaining incumbents faced challengers in the primary. One incumbent lost his bid for re-election, Rep. Ross Spano (R-15). Rep. Ted Yoho (R-3) did not file for re-election, and Rep. Francis Rooney (R-19) withdrew prior to the election. As of August 19, 2020, the results for the 3rd Congressional District Democratic primary and the 7th Congressional District Republican primary were too close to call.
One U.S. Senate seat and the one at-large U.S. House seat were on the ballot in Wyoming. Sen. Mike Enzi (R) did not file for re-election to the U.S. Senate. Rep. Liz Cheney (R) filed for re-election to the U.S. House. Cheney faced one challenger in the primary and advanced to the general election.
Entering the 2020 election, Alaska’s U.S. congressional delegation has two Republican senators and one Republican representative. Florida has two Republican senators, 14 Republican representatives, and 13 Democratic representatives. Wyoming has two Republican senators and one Republican representative. The U.S. Senate has 45 Democrats, 53 Republicans, and two independents who caucus with the Democratic Party. Only 33 out of 100 Senate seats are up for regular election, and two seats are up for special election. A majority in the chamber requires 51 seats. The U.S. House has 232 Democrats, 198 Republicans, one Libertarian, and four vacancies. All 435 seats are up for election. A majority in the chamber requires 218 seats.
A special election primary is being held on August 18 for District M of the Alaska State Senate. Anita Thorne and Nicholas Willie are running in the Democratic primary. Josh Revak, Harold Borbridge, and Ray Metcalfe are running in the Republican primary. The general election is being held on November 3.
The seat became vacant after Chris Birch (R) passed away on August 8, 2019. Birch had represented the district since January 2019. Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) appointed Josh Revak to the seat on September 27, 2019.
Heading into the special election, Republicans have a 13-7 majority in the Alaska Senate. Alaska has a divided government, and no political party holds a state government trifecta. A trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and majorities in both state legislative chambers.
As of August, 56 state legislative special elections have been scheduled for 2020 in 26 states. Between 2011 and 2019, an average of 77 special elections took place each year.
On August 18, Alaska, Florida, and Wyoming are holding statewide primaries. Between these three states, 31 congressional seats are up for election, and three of those seats are open, meaning the incumbent did not run for re-election.
Alaska has one U.S. Senate seat and one at-large U.S. House seat up for election. Incumbent Sen. Daniel Sullivan (R) is running for re-election to his Class II Senate seat and is uncontested in the August 18 Republican primary. Four candidates are on the ballot in the Democratic and Independence Parties primary for the seat; the winner will advance to the November general election. Incumbent Rep. Don Young (R) is running for re-election to Alaska’s at-large House seat, and he will face two challengers in the Republican primary. Three candidates are running in the Democratic and Independence Parties primary for the seat.
Florida does not have a U.S. Senate seat up for election in 2020. All 27 of the state’s U.S. House seats are up for election, and 25 of the 27 congressional incumbents filed for re-election. District 3 Rep. Ted Yoho (R) and District 19 Rep. Francis Rooney (R) are the two incumbents who did not file to run. Three Democrats and 10 Republicans are on the primary ballot for Yoho’s District 3 seat, and two Democrats and nine Republicans are on the primary ballot for Rooney’s District 19 seat.
Wyoming is holding elections for one U.S. Senate seat and one at-large U.S. House seat. A field of six Democrats and 10 Republicans are competing in the August 18 primaries for retiring incumbent Mike Enzi’s (R) open Class II Senate seat. The winner of each primary will advance to the November general election. Incumbent Rep. Liz Cheney (R) faces one challenger in the Republican primary for Wyoming’s at-large House seat. Three candidates are on the ballot in the Democratic primary to advance to the general election.
These primaries are the 43rd through the 45th primaries to take place in the 2020 election cycle. The next statewide primary will be held on September 1 in Massachusetts.
Alaska House of Representatives District 30 member Gary Knopp (R) died in a plane crash near the city of Soldatna, Alaska, on August 1. The Juneau Empire reported that a plane piloted by Knopp collided with another plane just outside of the Soldatna airport.
Knopp was running for re-election in 2020, and his name will still appear on the ballot in the Republican primary on August 18. According to the Anchorage Daily News, if Knopp wins the primary election, Alaska Republican Party officials will name a replacement candidate in the general election scheduled on November 3, 2020. Knopp was first elected to represent District 30 in 2016.
Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) appointed Dario Borghesan to the Alaska Supreme Court on July 1, 2020. Borghesan succeeded Justice Craig Stowers, who retired on June 1, 2020. Borghesan is Dunleavy’s first nominee to the five-member supreme court.
Under Alaska law, state supreme court justices are appointed by the governor from a list of two or more nominees compiled by the Alaska Judicial Council. Newly appointed judges serve an initial term of at least three years, after which the justice must stand for retention in an uncontested yes-no election to remain on the bench. Subsequent terms last ten years. To remain on the bench, Borghesan must run for retention in 2024.
Before his appointment to the Alaska Supreme Court, Borghesan was the supervising attorney of the Alaska Department of Law’s civil appeals section. He previously served as special assistant to the attorney general (2009-2010) and assistant attorney general handling civil appeals (2010-2018). He was a law clerk to Justice Daniel Winfree on the state supreme court from 2008 to 2009.
Borghesan obtained a B.A., magna cum laude, from Amherst College in 2002. He received his J.D., magna cum laude, from the University of Michigan Law School, where he was Order of the Coif, in 2008. From 2002 to 2004, Borghesan served in the Peace Corps in Togo, Africa.
The Alaska Supreme Court is the court of last resort in Alaska. As of July 2020, three justices were appointed by a Republican governor and one justice was appointed by an independent governor.
In 2020, there have been 16 supreme court vacancies across 13 of the 29 states where replacement justices are appointed instead of elected. Of those 16 vacancies, 11 are in states where a Democratic governor appoints the replacement. Four vacancies occurred in a state where a Republican governor fills vacancies. One vacancy is in a state where the state supreme court votes to appoint the replacement.
At the general election on November 3, 2020, Alaskans will decide at least two citizen-initiated ballot measures.
The campaign Alaskans for Better Elections is supporting a ballot initiative that would make changes to Alaska’s election policies, including (a) requiring additional disclosures for campaign finance contributions, (b) replacing partisan primaries with open top-four primaries for state executive, state legislative, and congressional offices, and (c) establishing ranked-choice voting for general elections, in which voters would rank the four candidates that advanced from the primaries. Former Rep. Jason Grenn (I-22), who is chairperson of the campaign, described the ballot initiative as “kind of a three-pronged attack on making our elections better.” The campaign has received financial backing from the nonprofits Unite America, Action Now Initiative, and Represent.Us
The ballot initiative is the first citizen-initiated measure to establish top-four primaries, as well as the first to couple top-four primaries with ranked-choice voting. Voters in one state—Maine—approved a ranked-choice voting ballot initiative in 2016. Massachusetts and North Dakota could join Alaska in voting on ranked-choice voting in 2020.
Vote Yes for Alaska’s Fair Share is leading the campaign in support of a ballot initiative to increase taxes on oil production fields located in Alaska’s North Slope that have a lifetime output of at least 400 million barrels of oil and an output of at least 40,000 barrels per day in the preceding calendar year. According to Robin Brena, chairperson of the campaign behind the ballot initiative, three oil production fields—Alpine, Kuparuk, and Prudhoe Bay—meet those criteria. The ballot initiative would tax oil production using an alternative gross minimum tax or an additional production tax, whichever is greater, for each month and each field. Brena, the campaign’s chairperson, was chairperson of former Gov. Bill Walker’s (I) Transition Subcommittee on Oil and Gas.
With the support of the Alaska Oil and Gas Association, ConocoPhillips Alaska, and ExxonMobil, the campaign OneAlaska launched to oppose the ballot initiative.
Both of the Alaska ballot initiatives face lawsuits that could stop them from appearing on the ballot or change their ballot language. Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer (R) and the Alaska Division of Elections (DOE), which oversee state ballot initiatives, argued that the elections-related ballot initiative addressed multiple issues and violated the state’s single-subject rule. In October, Judge Yvonne Lamoureux ruled that the ballot initiative was designed with a single subject—election reform. Meyer and DOE appealed to the Alaska Supreme Court. Vote Yes for Alaska’s Fair Share is challenging language that Meyer and DOE wrote for the ballot initiative, arguing that some of the wording “was not true and impartial” as required.
In Alaska, the ballot can also feature veto referendums, for which campaigns have 90 days to collect signatures following the legislature’s adjournment. The Alaska State Legislature adjourned on May 20, 2020, and no veto referendums have been filed as of May 29. The legislature also had the option to place constitutional amendments on the ballot, but no legislative proposals were voted on or approved by the legislature.
On Friday, May 15, Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) extended the state’s restrictions on out-of-state visitors and residents returning to Alaska through June 2. The Health Mandate requires all people entering Alaska to complete a travel declaration form and self-quarantine for 14 days.
Although the mandate does not apply to individuals working in industries that support critical infrastructure, businesses outside of Alaska whose employees enter the state to support critical infrastructure are required to submit a plan to health authorities for minimizing the spread of the coronavirus.
The travel restrictions went into effect on March 25 and were originally set to expire on April 21. On April 21, Gov. Dunleavy extended the restrictions through May 19.
Ballotpedia is tracking states that have implemented at least one travel restriction through executive orders issued by governors or state agencies. To date, 20 states have placed restrictions on out-of-state travelers.