Rapture, shock, ANWR: Alaskans react to Trump victory

Jerry Ward, a former state senator and Alaska state director for the Trump campaign, reacted to Fox News's official declaration that Donald Trump had won the 2016 presidential election. (Photo by Rachel Waldholz/Alaska's Energy Desk)
Jerry Ward, a former state senator and Alaska state director for the Trump campaign, reacted to Fox News’s official declaration that Donald Trump had won the 2016 presidential election. (Photo by Rachel Waldholz/Alaska’s Energy Desk)

By Liz Ruskin and Rachel Waldholz

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While Democrats have gained power in the Alaska legislature, Donald Trump’s upset victory in the presidential race left national Republicans in control of both the White House and Congress.

As that realization rippled through Anchorage Tuesday night, Trump supporters reacted with elation, Democrats with shock, and surprised Republican officials ticked off a wish list of priorities that suddenly seemed within reach.

Alaska voters went for Trump over Hillary Clinton, 51 to 37 percent, while Libertarian Gary Johnson took just under 6 percent. Incumbent Republicans U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Rep. Don Young also won their races by wide margins.

George LaMoureaux, statewide volunteer coordinator for the Trump campaign, celebrated with his daughter, Ashley LaMoureaux, at Flattop Pizza in downtown Anchorage. (Photo by Rachel Waldholz/Alaska's Energy Desk)
George LaMoureaux, statewide volunteer coordinator for the Trump campaign, celebrated with his daughter, Ashley LaMoureaux, at Flattop Pizza in downtown Anchorage. (Photo by Rachel Waldholz/Alaska’s Energy Desk)

At a campaign watch party at Flattop Pizza in downtown Anchorage, Trump supporters erupted in rapturous cheers when Fox News officially called the race at about 10:40 p.m.

George LaMoureaux was the statewide volunteer coordinator for the Trump campaign. Asked if he was expecting the win, LaMoureaux said, “Praying for it. I had high hopes the whole time.”

John MacKinnon took in the scene with his wife, Republican state Sen. Anna MacKinnon. He said the vote sent a clear message.

“I think we’re seeing America come out and say, ‘We’ve had enough,'” MacKinnon said. “Enough regulation. Enough government. Enough telling us what we have to do and not what we want to do.”

That sentiment was shared by Brady Huseby. Huseby, 30, is a member of the Carpenters’ Local 1281. He said the union supported Clinton.

“They post a union booklet on who we’re supposed to vote for, and it’s Democrat across the board,” Huseby said.  “And everybody threw it in the garbage.”

Meanwhile, Democrats gathered just across the street at the restaurant Williwaw were in shock. Many in the audience cried and consoled each other as the outcome became clear.

Maka Jinaatlaa Monture watches results come in toward the end of the night at the Democrats' event at Williwaw in downtown Anchorage. (Photo by Zachariah Hughes/Alaska Public Media)
Maka Jinaatlaa Monture watches results come in toward the end of the night at the Democrats’ event at Williwaw in downtown Anchorage. (Photo by Zachariah Hughes/Alaska Public Media)

James Primm is vice president of the Alaska Young Democrats. He said he was sure Trump’s values were out of sync with the majority of voters — until he saw the results.

“I think a lot of people really thought that they would reject Trump’s message,” Primm said. “And instead what you have is a lot of people who really seem to think that is the answer, instead.”

Democrats weren’t the only ones surprised by the outcome.

Lisa Murkowski celebrates on Election Night. Photo by Liz Ruskin, APRN.
Lisa Murkowski celebrates on Election Night. (Photo by Liz Ruskin, Alaska Public Media – Anchorage)

At Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s victory party, people congregated around the television screens, stunned by the presidential results.

Both Murkowski and Congressman Don Young trounced their nearest challengers. Murkowski beat Libertarian Joe Miller by about 14 points and Young defeated Democrat Steve Lindbeck by about the same margin.

The bigger surprise was Trump’s win.

Alaska Republican Party chairman Tuckerman Babcock was joyfully adjusting to the idea of a Trump presidency. Babcock said Trump appealed to a different segment of the party than his own.

“He speaks kind of right by me,” Babcock said. “He speaks to a group of people who feel disenfranchised and who really came out to vote for him in the upper Midwest and the South, and I am surprised. I’m happy. But I am surprised.”

Babcock said Trump will be good for Alaska on energy, and maybe federal land policy, too.

“That’s probably the biggest question, is how much the federal government will transfer management of lands to Alaska,” Babcock said. “It’s long been a goal of the Republican party in Alaska. I don’t know if Mr. Trump shares that goal. But he shares a lot of goals. Just (being) pro-oil and gas development and (for) the robust military are going to make a big difference.”

Murkowski told reporters that one of her first efforts will be a push to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling, a goal that has eluded Alaska’s congressional delegation for decades. She also spoke of finally getting a road through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge to help King Cove. And then she checked herself.

“This is not Christmas. This is governing and governing is hard work,” Murkowski said.

She said Republicans in the Senate will still need to work with the Democrats in Congress.

Congressman Don Young in front of the Alaska Public Media building. Young just won his congressional race and will be starting his 23rd term in Congress. (Photo by Wesley Early, Alaska Public Media - Anchorage)
Congressman Don Young won re-election to a 23rd term. (Photo by Wesley Early, Alaska Public Media – Anchorage)

“And we will. I will,” Murkowski said. “It doesn’t mean that you run them over. It means you still work to gain that consensus. And we’ll need that with ANWR. We’ll need that with other issues that always have been complicated in Alaska.”

Young said the House Republican leadership plans to make energy a top priority, and he thinks that could include developing the coastal plain of the Arctic Refuge.

“Oh, ANWR is possible and I think likely,” Young said.

Young said the leadership’s initial to-do list also includes repealing or reforming Obama’s healthcare law, deregulation and a transportation package.

And with complete control by a single party, Young and Murkowski acknowledged, the pressure will be on Republicans to deliver.

Zachariah Hughes contributed to this report. 

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Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent for Alaska Public Media. She reports from the U.S. Capitol and from Anchorage. Reach her at lruskin@alaskapublic.org.
Rachel Waldholz covers energy and the environment for Alaska's Energy Desk, a collaboration between Alaska Public Media, KTOO in Juneau and KUCB in Unalaska. Before coming to Anchorage, she spent two years reporting for Raven Radio in Sitka. Rachel studied documentary production at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, and her short film, A Confused War won several awards. Her work has appeared on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Marketplace, among other outlets. rwaldholz (at) alaskapublic (dot) org | 907.550.8432 | About Rachel

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