With eight of 10 precincts reporting by midnight, House District 36 Rep. Dan Ortiz has apparently won his bid for re-election over challenger Trevor Shaw. Ortiz didn’t declare victory, though, and said he’d wait until all 10 precincts had reported in.
In those eight precincts, Ortiz, who is unaffiliated with a party, took 57 percent of the vote over Republican Shaw’s 41 percent.
According to unofficial state election results, Ortiz, a retired Ketchikan High School teacher, apparently will have a third term representing the communities of Ketchikan, Metlakatla , Hydaburg and Wrangell.
Ortiz said he campaigned hard, and was pleased with the results of the House District 36 election. His previous elections were closer races. In 2016, he had 52 percent of the vote.
In his first bid for the Legislature in 2014, though, Ortiz and then-challenger Chere Klein had to wait nearly two weeks for all the absentee and questioned ballots to be counted before a winner could be declared. Ortiz squeaked out that first victory with 50.57 percent.
Ortiz said he likes to think he’s doing better because more voters know him and what he can do.
“I’m expecting I did a little better in Wrangell and that’s just because of the fact that they’re just more familiar with me now, and they’ve seen some things I’ve been able to accomplish for the community of Wrangell and there’s a growing comfort level with me there,” he said.
A breakdown by precinct is not available from the Alaska Division of Elections until later.
This legislative session, Ortiz will be headed into a different political mix.
Ortiz has supported some of outgoing Gov. Bill Walker’s proposals to balance the state budget, including using a portion of the Permanent Fund earnings and capping individual dividends. The apparent governor-elect, Mike Dunleavy, ran on a campaign of restoring full PFDs.
Ortiz said he worked with Dunleavy before when he was in the state Senate.
“I feel like we do have a working relationship and one that I’ll be able to – it’s already established now – but I’ll be able to use to work effectively for the goals of District 36 and what I see as the priorities of District 36,” he said. “That’s one of the advantages of being independent. You can make adjustments and work with both sides.”
For the past two years, Ortiz caucused with the House Majority coalition, which comprised mostly Democrats but included some independent and Republican lawmakers.
Ortiz said he doesn’t know whether he’ll remain in that caucus in this new Legislature. With some election races still unclear late Tuesday night, he said the balance in the House could change.
“I think there’s some really close races that could change in the direction of the Democrats, but it appears that the Republicans are at least going to pick up a couple of seats from what they had before,” he said. “So that’s why the whole question about caucusing is in flux right now.”
No matter what, though, Ortiz said before he heads to the Legislature’s 31st session on Jan. 15th, he plans to check in with all the communities in the district to hear their goals and priorities.