Interior AK Democratic, Republican parties meet to discuss 2023 election results

Published: Oct. 14, 2023 at 12:26 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - On Friday, October 13 at noon, both Democrats and Republicans from the Interior met, one via Zoom, the other at the Westmark Fairbanks Hotel and Conference Center, to talk elections.

Despite the Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly and School Board officially being non-partisan bodies, each of the two major parties had encouraged their voters to support certain candidates.

Bobby Burgess, Winning Candidate for School Board Seat F, said, “We pulled off a pretty incredible victory. I’m pretty happy.”

In the races for borough assembly and school board, each candidate supported by the Democratic Party won their seat, four of these wins against incumbents. “The margins were pretty significant. I think it really shows that the community showed up,” Burgess added.

Tim Doran, Incumbent for School Board Seat E who also won his seat, explained, “What our community really said is they want moderation. They want people bringing different ideas to the table, and working to problem solve.”

Meanwhile, Assemblymember Aaron Lojewski gave a presentation to a meeting of the Interior Republicans, where he discussed the factors he feels played a part in the outcome. “It is a non-partisan election, but I did use the color red to indicate that someone tends to lean right of center in their branding and their messaging and on the donors that they’re attracting and blue for kind of left of center, again in their messaging, in the donors they’re attracting and just the sort of campaign they’re running.”

According to Lojewski, figures gathered from the Alaska Public Offices Commission indicate that as a whole, what he called “right of center” candidates were outspent by “left of center” candidates more than two to one. “Being correct on the issues and offering the better public policy is not enough to get elected,” he said.

There was an exception to this trend, however. “That was actually Tim Doran. He had substantially less money than Michael Humphrey, yet he still eked out a very comfortable election win by over 11 points.”

Money, Lojewski said, isn’t the only contributing factor. Among others, he mentioned, “The walrus was a big issue, especially on the school board. Why did the school board, why did the folks who are right of center do so much more poorly than the assembly candidates? The walrus.”

The walrus refers to a campaign icon used by Michael Humphrey, which opponents decried as being anti-trans. “They saw the walrus no differently than we would see a swastika,” Lojewski said, adding, “If you have a majority of the population that says ‘Oh, a walrus, whatever,’ and they forget about it a week later, and then you have even ten or twenty percent of the population that says, ‘That’s a hate symbol,’ they remember that, they get furious, and they go vote.”

“You have to go out and you have to raise money. You have to have effective messaging. You have to communicate well and you have to ask for votes,” he said.

Meanwhile, Burgess and Doran spoke to the work that went into campaign season. “It was a lot of people showing up and working behind the scenes, donating their time, their money, their contact lists and getting out there and really making sure the community understood what was at stake with these elections,” said Burgess.

Doran, meanwhile, stated the campaign season “pushed me to perhaps reach out in ways that I hadn’t in previous election runs, into new venues.”

Next year’s elections are already beginning to take shape, with multiple people announcing their candidacy for Borough Mayor.