Following the defeat of incumbent Representative Wes Keller in the District 10 Republican primary by David Eastman, both candidates believe that voter dissatisfaction with the legislature played a role in the shakeup.
Keller says he found the loss surprising, but recognizes that some voters were not happy with the legislature.
“I was surprised, but I also anticipated some level of backlash because of what they’re calling “throw the bums out,” the reaction against the incumbents….I didn’t think it would be as big as it was.”
David Eastman says he was optimistic going into Tuesday’s primary, and that dissatisfaction with the Alaska Legislature is part of what led him to pursue the Alaska House seat currently occupied by Keller. Part of Eastman’s primary campaign included attacking Keller for voting in favor of nine state budgets that Eastman says were unsustainable.
“It certainly contributed to my desire to run in the first place, so I’m certain there was a lot of that out there….There were a lot of things that I would have hoped would have been done in the Legislature that weren’t.”
Keller was far from the only incumbent to lose to a party challenger. In total, seven current members of the legislature will not be returning to Juneau after Tuesday’s primary. Two of those were trying to move from the House to the Senate, and five were defeated trying to retain their current seats. Among those in the latter group is Jim Colver, who lost his primary race to George Rauscher. In that race, the Republican Party sided with Rauscher over Colver, who had been a member of the “Musk Ox Coalition,” a group of moderate Republicans who broke the party on some budget votes earlier this year. Wes Keller doesn’t believe he lost the support of the Republican Party.
“Very, very strong local support. The Valley Republican Woman, I guess there are several groups of them, but they all worked really hard on my behalf, so I don’t think there’s a similar split, there.”
In addition to the number of defeated incumbents, this year’s primary is memorable for it’s extremely low voter turnout. Only about fifteen-and-a-half percent of eligible voters turned out, which is by far the lowest turnout since at least 1974.