Kelly leads Kawasaki in close Fairbanks Senate race

State Senate President Pete Kelly held a razor-thin lead over Democratic challenger Scott Kawasaki late Tuesday night in what’s proven to be the hottest legislative race this year. But Kawasaki says it’s not over yet.

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“There’s still hundreds of ballots that are out there that are yet to be counted. Those are ballots that are questioned ballots – that’s folks who may have shown up at the wrong
precinct,” he said. “There’s also ballots that are absentee ballots, that have come in since last week. And there are absentee ballots that might be postmarked with today’s date that just haven’t gone through the mail process.”

Unofficial vote totals posted just before midnight by the Alaska Division of Elections showed Kelly leading Kawasaki by 11 votes, with all precincts in Fairbanks’ Senate District A reporting. The incumbent and challenger took turns leading the race throughout the evening, but the gap between the two never exceeded a couple of percentage points. Kawasaki says it shows the district’s 13 precincts are nearly equally divided between Republicans and Democrats.

“We worked really hard in the district,” Kawasaki said. “We talked to the people and I think we made inroads with people on both sides of the aisle, to get us as close as we have.”

Kelly reportedly was sick Tuesday night and unavailable for comment. Kawasaki says regardless of the outcome, he hopes the candidate who eventually is declared winner will work to heal divisions created by the often-contentious campaign.

“When it comes down to it, we all have to come together as Alaskans,” he said. “We all have to come together for whoever gets elected in the end to try and make this a better community. And I hope to be the person who does that, but we shall see in the next week or so.”

Kawasaki raised more than $207,000 for his campaign, about $20,000 more than Kelly’s contributions, making it by far the most expensive legislative race of 2018. If declared
the winner, Kelly will begin his sixth term as a senator when he returns when the next Legislature convenes in January.