Unalaskans Split from State on Oil Tax Repeal

Wednesday, August 20 2014

Three hundred and thirty-one people voted at Unalaska City Hall on Tuesday. (Annie Ropeik/KUCB)

The fight to repeal the state’s oil tax structure brought Unalaskans to the polls during Tuesday's primary -- but as of Wednesday, it looks like the system may be here to stay.

The ‘no’ side, which supports keeping the current tax breaks system, was up by about 7,000 votes Wednesday morning. Nearly 20,000 absentee and early ballots still have to be counted.

Plenty of Unalaskans were hoping things would turn out differently. One hundred and eighteen voted against the repeal -- but 177 voted for it, and many said it was their biggest reason to come out to the polls:

Cyri Thompson: "I voted 'yes' on one, because ... I don’t think they should get tax breaks for the oil."
Andrew Warner: "I believe that Alaska needs its own way of taxing its natural resources. ... I think it’s something that really ought to be left up to Alaskans to decide."
Tammy Pound: "The resources belong to the state of Alaska, the citizens, and not the oil companies. And we need funding for essential services."

Another major fishing port, Kodiak, also voted 'yes' on the repeal -- by an even wider margin than Unalaska.

And all the interest in the ballot measure made for surprisingly good turnout, says Unalaska city clerk Cat Hazen.

Hazen: "With the road construction and everything, I was afraid we might not have a lot of people show up, but it’s been a great day."

Three hundred and eight locals cast ballots, along with 23 people registered in other districts. Many were Anchorage-area residents who were in Unalaska on business. Hazen says they couldn’t weigh in on the races from their home precincts -- but they did get to vote on the ballot question and the state and federal contests.

And for those races, Unalaskans were in line with the rest of the state.

Dan Sullivan won the Republican U.S. Senate primary with 40 percent of the state vote, and 40 votes in Unalaska. He’ll face incumbent Sen. Mark Begich in the general election. Second place went to Joe Miller -- he got 34 votes in Unalaska. Mead Treadwell came in a distant third.

For state governor, Unalaskans went with the winners, too -- that’s Byron Mallott for the democratic ticket, and former state senator Hollis French as his running mate. Mallott and French will try to unseat Gov. Sean Parnell, with former Anchorage mayor Dan Sullivan as his lieutenant.

Unalaska’s state legislators ran unopposed on Tuesday. Incumbent state Sen. Lyman Hoffman and incoming state Rep. Bryce Edgmon still both got about 160 votes apiece in Unalaska.

And in the U.S. House race, Unalaskans helped pick democratic challenger Forrest Dunbar to run against Rep. Don Young.

Around the region, the picture was pretty much the same -- voters on the Pribilof Islands picked Dan Sullivan in the GOP Senate race, and voted ‘yes’ on the oil tax repeal by a narrow margin.

In the Eastern Aleutians, Sand Point voted for the repeal, while King Cove and Cold Bay voted against it.

On the other side of the chain, Adak and the Western Aleutians district also voted ‘no’ on question one. The island was the very last in the state to do it, since they’re in a different timezone. City manager Layton Lockett says that’s ”more fun” in presidential election years -- but on Tuesday, it was still an honor.

CLARIFICATION: This story has been updated to clarify the scope of ballot question one. It aimed to repeal a system of taxes and tax breaks for oil producers. 

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