My Turn: In Alaska elections, your vote counts

In Alaska, we like our elections razor-thin — particularly in the primary, when most of the electorate stays home.

Four years ago was a particularly good year for close elections. Despite a white-hot U.S. Senate race and an important abortion ballot measure, only a third of the electorate bothered to vote in the primary. That was the primary that saw Dan Sadler beat Bill Cook by four votes, Eric Feige downed Don Haase by 12 votes and Pete Fellman by 19, and Joe Miller outdid Sen. Lisa Murkowski by a mere four and a half votes per precinct.

Both Sadler and Feige sailed to easy victory in the 2010 general election when 52 percent of the electorate opted to vote: — Sadler by 55 percent and Feige by 59 percent. Murkowski waged her historic write-in campaign that fall, besting Miller by just over 11,000 votes, or 26 votes per precinct.

This tradition dates back to 1867 when the Senate ratified the treaty that approved the Alaska purchase by a single vote (it required a two-thirds majority). One was also the margin of victory for Ann Spohnholz in the Democratic District 1 primary in 1996 when 30 percent of the electorate made it to the polls.

With 32 percent of voters bothering to participate in the 2006 primary, Bryce Edgmon and Carl Moses ended up tied after a recount, with 765 votes each. Edgmon won on a coin toss.

With so many elections too close for comfort, it’s vitally important that Alaskans make a real effort to vote on August 19. In addition to the hotly contested U.S. Senate race, there’s Ballot Measure 1, which will determine if we continue to stem the decline in oil production — as we have under tax reform — or return to the failed policy of ACES.

Under ACES, North Slope production plummeted by more than 200,000 barrels a day, which meant that Alaska missed out on the great oil boom that swept the nation. Every oil and gas-producing state except Alaska managed to increase production during the years ACES was law: North Dakota up 58 percent, Texas up 36 percent, Colorado up 25 percent.

In 1989, Alaska’s oil production accounted for 25 percent of U.S. production. Today that number has slipped to 7 percent even though Alaska’s oil and natural gas deposits account for almost 30 percent of the nation’s energy reserves. The reason is ACES.

In a state where oil funds 90 percent of the General Fund, declining production is a threat we cannot afford. But to keep tax reform working for Alaska, Alaskans need to vote.

Alaska gives its voters lots of ways to vote: by absentee, early voting, at the airport or in-person at your local precinct on Election Day. You can find all the options online at

Whatever voting method is most convenient for you, just be sure to vote — because your vote could be the deciding one — like the 1990 mayor’s race in Cordova where Margy Johnson won by a single vote, but whose margin of victory rose to two after a recount.

• Gail Phillips is a former Alaska Legislator and Speaker of the House from 1995 to 1999.


Wed, 02/22/2017 - 11:53

Stand with Alaskans and stand with Planned Parenthood

I appreciate Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s recent decision to support repealing the Trump administration’s global gag rule. The global gag rule bans federal money for overseas family planning programs if the programs also provide abortion, or provide information about abortion. The global gag rule puts thousands of lives at risk, and Murkowski has rightly recognized that. I praise Murkowski, and want her to know that Alaskans stand with her in supporting access to family planning services. This means that we support Planned Parenthood, and we hope she will stand with us in the coming weeks by refusing to vote for any changes to the Affordable Care Act that include defunding Planned Parenthood. Read more

Wed, 02/22/2017 - 08:42

Alaska editorial: The opioid issue

This editorial first appeared in the Ketchikan Daily News:

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Wed, 02/22/2017 - 08:41

Expanding apprenticeship in rural Alaska

We are proud to announce a new statewide training initiative: the Alaska Maritime Apprenticeship Program. Over the past year, the Calista Corporation, in partnership with the state and federal government, has built a Registered Apprenticeship program to train Alaskans for careers on deck, in the engine room, and in the galley, earning both a salary and an industry-recognized credential. Working with a group of companies including Brice Marine and Yukon River Towing, we are expanding career and training opportunities for Alaskans in the maritime industry.

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Wed, 02/22/2017 - 08:40

Transboundary mining: Defending Alaska’s interests

It is a big week for Alaska’s capital city. Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan are in town to address the Alaska State Legislature, the United Fishermen of Alaska (UFA) Board of Directors, and all Alaskans. There are a number of issues on which the state of Alaska, including our elected decision makers at both the state and federal levels, can show unity. One of those critical issues is asking the U.S. federal government to defend Alaskan interests in the Alaska-British Columbia (B.C.) transboundary mining issue.

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