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Just two Alaska lieutenant governor candidates say 2020 presidential vote was fair

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Just two Alaska lieutenant governor candidates say 2020 presidential vote was fair

Aug 12, 2022 | 9:31 pm ET
By James Brooks
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Just two Alaska lieutenant governor candidates say 2020 presidential vote was fair
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Alaska Division of Elections director Gail Fenumiai talks to reporters on March 22 as Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer prepares to answer questions. (Photo by Yereth Rosen/Alaska Beacon)

Several of Alaska’s 10 candidates for lieutenant governor either say they believe former President Donald Trump’s unfounded claims of 2020 election fraud or have not answered questions about the topic.

This year, governor and lieutenant governor candidates are running on a single ticket, and the ticket that wins in November will be in charge of Alaska’s elections during the 2024 presidential campaign.

In other states, a willingness to accept Trump’s claims has led officials to reject election results, and it isn’t clear whether that would happen here. In New Mexico, Trump-aligned election officials declined to certify election primary election results this year until ordered to do so by the state’s supreme court.

Current Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer has repeatedly defended Alaska’s elections process and ordered a hand-count in 2020 that confirmed the accuracy of the state’s voting machines, which were provided by a contractor, Dominion Voting Systems. 

Incumbent Gov. Mike Dunleavy has replaced Meyer with Nancy Dahlstrom, who has said that she believes Alaska’s election system is being run with integrity.

“I think that the Division of Elections has been run with integrity, yes. They’ve done an incredible job,” she said. “I just think we can always do everything a little bit better.”

To date, Dahlstrom has refused to answer questions about whether she believes Trump’s claims, and a campaign spokesman declined to arrange an interview to clarify her position.

“As you know,” said Dunleavy campaign spokesperson Andrew Jensen, “she was commissioner of Corrections during 2020 and won’t be commenting on questions related to Alaska’s or the national election.”

He went on to say that she doesn’t have inside knowledge and it would be inappropriate to speculate or prejudge possible future actions.

Wasilla Republican Rep. Christopher Kurka, a candidate challenging Dunleavy, has said he believes Trump’s claims. His running mate is Paul Hueper, who attended the pro-Trump protests preceding the Jan. 6, 2021 riots at the U.S. Capitol.

Hueper said he watched hours of recorded testimony from state legislatures investigating the 2020 election, “and so in watching the state legislatures, there’s an immense amount of evidence that the fraud was there,” he said. “Yeah, there was definitely reason to suspect the election.”

When it comes to Alaska in particular, he said, “I guess we really don’t have evidence of any election fraud going on, so to say that there was would definitely be an overstatement.”

He then clarified that statement by recalling a hack that exposed the personal identification of more than 100,000 Alaska voters, saying that it’s evidence the state Division of Elections needs to improve its security.

Bruce Walden and Tanya Lange are running as a Republican governor-lieutenant governor ticket in Tuesday’s primary election.

“Clearly, the 2020 election was stolen,” they state on their website.

Alaskan Independence Party lieutenant governor candidate Shellie Wyatt is running with governor candidate John Wayne Howe. A military veteran with a background in computer security, Wyatt said she would like to trust the election system but her experience has shown her how easily computer code and digital information can be changed.

“In my heart of hearts, I want so much to believe that it was legitimate, but it’s hard,” she said of the 2020 election results.

Republican governor candidate Charlie Pierce has said that he believes Trump is the rightful winner of the 2020 election and has previously said he doubts the results of Alaska’s 2020 election as well.

His running mate, Edie Grunwald, unsuccessfully ran for lieutenant governor in 2018 and said she believes the state should abolish the voter registration system linked to Permanent Fund dividend applications, which was approved by voters in a 2016 ballot measure.

The state has far more people registered to vote than eligible voters living within the state, and Grunwald said she would like to see the Division of Elections become more aggressive about purging inactive voters from the rolls. State officials have said they are complying with federal law in how they purge the rolls.

In the 2020 election, many voters participated by mail, causing their ballots to be counted later.

Grunwald said “it just didn’t make much sense” to go to sleep thinking that Trump was ahead, only to wake up and see him behind.

“I think Alaska was pretty straightforward,” she said, explaining that she doesn’t believe there was significant fraud here, “but yeah, I just think that there’s some things that were pretty suspicious in the 2020 presidential election.”

Only two candidates for lieutenant governor have offered definitive rejections of Trump’s 2020 election claims.

Heidi Drygas, running for lieutenant governor alongside independent governor candidate Bill Walker, responded directly when asked about the election.

“Joe Biden won the 2020 election,” she said.

Is there any merit to what Trump is saying about it?

“No,” she said.

Was Alaska’s 2020 election held fairly?

“Yes,” she said.

Jessica Cook, the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, running alongside governor candidate Les Gara, responded similarly but with longer explanations.

“I absolutely do believe it was conducted fairly and properly,” she said of the 2020 election.

 “I think that all the questions that needed to be asked or asked, and all of the things that needed to be investigated, have been investigated, to call it a fair election,” she said, “and that it’s been certified and verified and called correctly, and that all the unrest and division that has separated our country can be called to an end. We need to come together as a nation and move on.”