Gary Stevens squeaks out win in Republican primary

A man in a black suit and red tied looks pensively into the camera
Sen. Gary Stevens (R-Kodiak) in 2017. (Photo by Skip Gray/360 North)

In the final round of absentee ballot counting in the August Primary, Sen. Gary Stevens is headed to win his Republican primary election with 51% of the vote. According to the Division of Election’s latest count, Stevens has 2,086 votes.

His challenger in the Republican Primary, John Cox has 1,854, giving Stevens a 232 vote margin. On election night, Cox, a businessman from the Kenai Peninsula, was in the lead with 69 votes.

Cox campaigned hard on cutting state spending, while at the same time supporting a higher Permanent Fund dividend, paid out under the traditional formula. At a campaign forum, he promised he would not hinder the work of the governor in distributing Permanent Fund Dividend checks.

Stevens emphasized the risk of hurting the earning potential of the Permanent Fund with a full PFD —  and the need to provide services that voters want. Duncan Fields, the Republican chairman for the GOP district which takes in some of the Kenai Peninsula and all of Kodiak Island, says this has been an interesting race to watch, because absentee ballots typically track with election night results.

“But this year, we have this curveball, which is COVID, and we have a disproportional amount of people that voted absentee,” Fields said.

On election night, between Districts 31 and 32, there were 2,895 absentee ballots to be counted. Senator Tom Begich, a Democrat from Anchorage and a Stevens supporter, followed this race closely — and the day after the primary predicted that Stevens would win by a 200 vote margin, once the absentee ballots were counted.

“Gary himself has been a strong proponent of mask-wearing and insuring that people vote safely, so my guess is his constituents took his advice,” Begich said.

The election results are not official yet, until they’re certified next week. Stevens will face Greg Madden, a chiropractor from Soldotna in the general election. Madden, who is running as an Alaskan Independence Party candidate, netted 2,263 votes in his primary race. Although the two candidates were running in different primaries, and Madden was unopposed, he gathered 177 more votes than Stevens.