The race for the state House seat representing Ketchikan, Wrangell, Metlakatla and Coffman Cove is separated by fewer than 200 votes. Neither candidate has conceded the race as hundreds of absentee ballots remain to be counted.
Independent Rep. Dan Ortiz holds a 187-vote lead over Republican challenger Jeremy Bynum in the race for House District 1. That gives Ortiz a roughly 3-percentage point lead with just over 51% of the vote.
That tally includes 821 absentee votes. As of the day before Election Day, the Division of Elections had received more than 1,100 absentee ballots, and as many as 350 more could arrive in the coming days. Another 95 online ballots hadn’t yet been returned by Monday.
Though they must be postmarked by Election Day, mailed ballots have 10 days to arrive from within the U.S. and 15 days to arrive from overseas.
That means 750-plus votes could be added to the tally in the coming days. So, with more than half of the potential absentee vote outstanding, the race is too close to call.
[2022 ELECTION: Southeast Alaska election results from KRBD and NPR]
In an interview shortly after 1 a.m. Wednesday, Ortiz said he was glad to be leading in early results.
“I’m not declaring anything yet — long ways from that — but certainly happy to be up 187 versus down 187,” he said.
He congratulated Bynum on a well-run race.
“He got out there in a lot of different ways and certainly worked hard at it and ran an overall good campaign, I felt, and ran a clean campaign as well. So hats off to him. He was a very worthy opponent,” he said.
Absentees counted so far favor Ortiz by a roughly 60-40 margin. Bynum would have to flip that and win at least 62% of the remaining vote to pull ahead.
Even so, in an interview Wednesday afternoon, Bynum said he’s still hoping to eke out a victory.
“We are behind, but, you know, you can always be hopeful. A little bit of hope never hurts,” he said.
Bynum said he’s proud of the race he ran. He thanked his supporters.
“We put hard work into it, and the results are what the results are. We’re just going to continue working in the community and advocating for the things and the reasons why I decided to run,” he said.
Ortiz did the best in Metlakatla, where he won 75% of the vote. He also did well in Downtown and Newtown Ketchikan precincts, as well as Saxman, where he won almost 60% of the vote.
Bynum’s strongest supporters were in the Prince of Wales Island community of Coffman Cove and two precincts north of Ketchikan city limits. He got more than 60% of the vote in those three precincts.
Election officials will run a ranked choice tabulation on Nov. 23 once all valid ballots are counted. But in this two-way race, ranked choice voting is not expected to have an effect on the results.
The election is expected to be certified on Nov. 29.
This story has been updated throughout with additional reporting.