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Republican party backing newcomer Weatherby in House District 37 race

William Weatherby (R) from Naknek will face incumbent Bryce Edgmon (D) in November. Edgmon collected 20 votes more than his challenger in the primary election, but the tea leaves are hard to read.

KDLG: The Alaska Republican Party will be backing newcomer William Weatherby (R) from Naknek against incumbent Bryce Edgmon (D) for the district 37 seat in Alaska’s House of Representatives.

Weatherby has spoken with KDLG News by email, but not yet by phone for a full interview.

“Well I think William Weatherby is out working hard, making a living. He said he was out at a remote lodge with intermittent contact, so that might be one reason," said Tuckerman Babcock, the chairman of the state's Republican party.

The party and some voters say they don't know a lot about Weatherby. Even so, the candidate can count on party support through the November election, according to Babcock.

"He’s the Republican candidate, he won the primary as the only Republican, and we will be supporting him and working to help get him elected," Babcok said by phone this week. "We’re glad to see someone local file as Republican and run. And we’re also very grateful that fifty-five percent of the voters in the primary in district 37 selected the Republican ballot.”

While more district 37 primary voters pulled the Republican ballot, incumbent Democrat Bryce Edgmon collected 20 more votes than Weatherby, with unofficial results showing the 637 to 617 split. As elsewhere in the state, voter turnout was low: of the 9841 registered voters in the district, 1625 cards were cast (16.5 percent).

Across the 35 precincts, at last count there were 1741 voters who say they are Democrats and 1651 who say they are Republicans, a difference of just 90 voters. There are more than 1400 non-partisan and more than 4400 undecided registered voters in the district.

Edgmon is a Democrat but is a member of the House Majority caucus, meaning he votes with Republicans on some key issues like the budget. But Babcock says the caucus membership is not enough to get backing of the Republican party.

“That did not play into our perspective. If Mr. Edgmon wants the support from the Alaska Republican Party, he needs to become a Republican," he said. "Otherwise each election that rolls around we’ll be supporting any member of our team and we have a lot of scrappy individuals, part of the Republican team, and if someone steps forward to run that’s who we’re going to be behind.”

2016 is shaping up to be a strange election year as Alaska wrestles with the pressing tough choices to solve its multi-billion dollar deficit. Gov. Bill Walker, an independent, has led with politically unpopular solutions such as steep spending cuts, proposed new taxes including on income, and using earnings from the Permanent Fund to pay for government operations rather than just pay out large dividend checks to all qualified residents.

Whether it was the lack of legislative action or the drift in Republican support towards taxes and lowered PFDs, several Republicans were ousted by primary challenges. Bethel Democrat Bob Herron and Barrow Democrat Ben Nageak, who are both members of the majority caucus like Edgmon, appear to have lost out to Democrat challengers.

(Both Rep. Bryce Edgmon and challenger William Weatherby have agreed to a series interviews and possible debates on KDLG ahead of the November election. Do you have questions for them? Issues you'd like to hear discussed in more detail? Thoughts about what are the most pressing problems in the state and how they should be dealt with? Email anytime.)

The district 37 primary results contain some other interesting results. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) received 722 votes, and her nearest competitor was Edgar Blatchford (D) who received 279 votes.  Longtime incumbent Don Young (R) received the most support for the state’s lone seat in the House, collecting 667 votes. Behind Young was Democrat Steve Lindbeck, who picked up 263 votes in district 37.

Reach the author at or 907.842.5281.