The race for House District 34 came to an end Monday with a four-term legislator losing his seat to a political newcomer.
After a recount in Juneau on Monday, Republican Rep. Bill Thomas of Haines lost his state House seat to Sitka Democrat Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins. Only 32 votes out of more than 8,000 separate the two candidates.
Kreiss-Tomkins was in Juneau to observe the recount and said it was tedious.
“It was watching 8,232 pieces of paper being fed into optical scanner machines,” he said.
But the Democrat wasn’t nervous. It seemed apparent a couple weeks after the election when the bulk of the absentee ballots were counted that Kreiss-Tomkins would maintain a lead. A final vote count of overseas ballots solidified his win, followed by certification of the election.
But the difference of votes between the candidates was still less than half a percentage point, within the range for a state funded recount. Thomas waited until the deadline on Nov. 28 to officially ask for the recount.
Both candidates picked up a handful of votes during Monday’s count, but the final tally did not change the outcome. Kreiss-Tomkins final vote count is 4,130 to Thomas’ 4,098.
The winner said the recount finally closes the book on the drawn out election.
“This is the point of punctuation on the election,” he said. “It’s a relief to have a sense of finality with the whole episode.”
Thomas said he was not surprised by the outcome of the recount.
“It’s good to have it resolved and be done with it,” he said.
Thomas signaled in recent weeks that he knew a recount would not likely change the election outcome. Staff was already packing up his legislative office on Main Street in Haines, although it won’t officially close until mid-January.
But despite Thomas’s first reaction the day after the election when he said he would not run for office again, he said Monday he will leave that possibility open. He said he’s interested in getting into fish politics, and will see where that leads.
And unlike some of his off the cuff remarks toward Kreiss-Tomkins the day after the final vote count, Thomas offered more practical advice to his opponent on Monday.
“I wish him good luck,” he said. “He’s going to need it, and I want to know how he’s going to fund all these projects. Campaign promises are hard to keep.”
Kreiss-Tomkins said he’s been hiring staff and gearing up for his move to Juneau. He said while the recount is the end of the election, he’s still anxiously waiting his swearing in on Jan. 15 to begin his term as representative for House District 34.