Sen. Bert Stedman (l.) is likely to serve another four years in Senate District A. Newcomer Rebecca Himschoot will likely prevail in the race for House District 2. (KTOO Digital services/Rebecca Himschoot)

With about half of absentee and early ballots now in for some Alaska districts following Tuesday’s election, Rebecca Himschoot and Bert Stedman appear likely to represent Sitka and Petersburg and outlying communities in the new legislative session in Juneau this January. Stedman’s Senate District also includes Ketchikan and surrounding communities, and his lead over his challenger will almost certainly hold.

All election results are still unofficial, but Rebecca Himschoot’s combined total of election night votes and early/absentee votes has firmed up her lead over Kenny Karl Skaflestad, with 57% of the vote (3,053) to Skaflestad’s 43% (2,313).

While it’s mathematically possible for Skaflestad to win, the former Hoonah mayor would have to pick up nearly all of the outstanding advance votes to come out on top.

Himschoot, a Sitka Assembly member running for state office as an independent, is relieved the campaign is over.

“Obviously, I’m really pleased with the outcome that we’re seeing right now,” said Himschoot. “And I’m hesitating to make any bold statements, but certainly I’m very optimistic, and it looks like things are gonna go the way I want it to. And then I’m just really, really pleased with that outcome. And I’m really pleased with the campaign. And I think the biggest feeling I have right now is gratitude. I just feel really incredibly grateful to my team, to the voters.”

Himschoot says she’s also feeling exhausted. House District 2 is more than Sitka and Petersburg: there are about 15 communities scattered across the region, and Himschoot spent much of her campaign getting to know them.

That Bert Stedman is well-known is an understatement. He’s been representing all the communities of Senate A, which includes both House Districts 2 and 1, since he was appointed by then-Governor Frank Murkowski 19 years ago. With about half the outstanding absentee and early votes now counted, his election-night lead over Petersburg challenger – and fellow Republican – Mike Sheldon remains solid: over 68% (6,958) for Stedman, to 33% for Sheldon (3,197).

Stedman began visiting communities around the district the third week of July. He says it’s been a tiring campaign, but also gratifying.

“It’s been quite a long haul, covered a lot of a lot of communities, met a lot of people,” said Stedman. “But it is humbling and very appreciative that 70% of the district voted in favor of my reelection to represent them for another four years after 19 years of service. It’s it’s very nice.”

Stedman could return to the senate with significant clout, depending on the outcome of close races in Southcentral Alaska. Over his nearly two-decades in the legislature, he’s had ranking committee assignments in both bipartisan coalitions and Republican majorities. The strong nod from voters in Southeast could help him land another leadership assignment when the state senate organizes next January. 

“I’ve got a lot of experience in years,” he said. “So even if the vote count was substantially different than it is today, I’d still be in a very good position when it comes to organizational positioning, just due to knowledge of the of the inner workings of the legislature, and seniority.”

Although the legislative races for House 2 and Senate A may have settled, that’s because both only had two candidates. Other statewide races with three or more candidates – including governor, US Senator, and US Representative – won’t be decided until November 23, when ranked-choice ballots are tabulated for any race where no candidate has received over 50% of votes.