A memorandum on the status of the governor’s race and how Alaskans can vote strategically to replace Mike Dunleavy under ranked choice voting

With less than 14 days to go before the election, several factors that will impact the outcome of the Alaska governor’s race are now clear:

  1. This will be an extremely tight race. Defeating Dunleavy will require that an opposing candidate consolidate all possible votes and support from center, center right, and center left areas of the electorate.
  2. There are only two real challengers to Dunleavy: Bill Walker and Les Gara.
  3. Only one of those tickets has statistical data to support its ability to defeat Dunleavy.
  4. The only path to defeating Dunleavy is Walker taking second place in the first or second round, consolidating Gara votes in the next round, and clearing the field for a head-to-head race against Dunleavy in the final round.


This will be an extremely tight race. Defeating Dunleavy will require that an opposing candidate consolidate all possible voters and support from center, center right, and center left areas of the electorate.

Two years after his disastrous beginning, Mike Dunleavy is hoping voters will believe the moderate veneer he has draped himself in, while skipping debates, refusing to answer questionnaires, and rejecting meetings with voters in their communities. Dunleavy is hoping his far-right voters will forget his failed “full PFD promise,” and he’s hoping moderate voters will forget his attempts to destroy the university, ferries, and Alaska’s education system, or covering up sexual harassment by his Attorney General.

Mike Dunleavy is who he has always been, and his success depends on whether the electorate detects a liar when they see one. Dunleavy can only be stopped by a consolidation of support amongst Gara and Walker voters. Both polls and the August primary results (see figure one) reflect this reality. Consolidation amongst Walker and Gara voters in the primary alone puts the tickets ahead of Dunleavy’s individual performance, and just behind the consolidated Dunleavy/Pierce performance.

Increased progressive turnout due to the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision, and in response to Mary Peltola’s race during the general election mean that Dunleavy is more than beatable, but only if moderates and progressives unite.

Only Walker has a path to defeating Dunleavy

Polling information for the governor’s race is readily available through multiple firms from both in-state and Outside. No polls have shown Gara beating Dunleavy. At least four polls have shown Walker can beat Dunleavy.

Polls from Alaska Survey Research (ASR), going as far back as December 16, 2021, and as recently as September 30, 2022, consistently show no path to victory for Gara. That is, Gara is either eliminated in round 2, setting up a head-to-head between Walker and Dunleavy, or Gara beats Walker for second place and loses to Dunleavy in Round 3. Pollster Ivan Moore recently affirmed this fact in a public statement on the governor’s race.

ASR polling in a head-to-head between Dunleavy and Walker shows an extremely tight race within the margin of error. In early scenarios, where Walker consolidated support amongst progressives and moderates, he beat Dunleavy 50% to 49.5%. More recent polling shows, in a head-to-head race, Walker now trailing Dunleavy by 4 points (52%-48%).

Gara, in ASR’s simulated head-to-head against Dunleavy, loses 43.2% to 56.8% in earlier polls. His support has increased in recent polling to become more competitive at around 46.6% to Dunleavy’s 53.4%, but Gara still loses by almost 7 points.

The data indicate that Walker is still the only candidate that can beat Dunleavy and that Gara’s increase in support came only at the expense of Walker’s close margin with Dunleavy. Gara continues to lose to Dunleavy by a wider margin than Walker would if he were in second place, and consolidation of support behind Walker could close a 4-point gap easier than a 7-point gap.

On July 29, the Walker Drygas campaign released Hays Research polling which simulated a head-to-head race between Walker/Dunleavy and Gara/Dunleavy and found Gara losing to Dunleavy 44.6% to 55.4%. The same poll showed Walker within .4% of Mike Dunleavy at 49.8% to 50.2%.

On October 10, the Walker Drygas Campaign released polling from Schoen Cooperman showing a path to victory with one scenario showing Walker defeating Dunleavy 52% to 48% if he can consolidate support amongst Democrats and moderates. That same poll simulated head-to-head races and showed Gara losing to Dunleavy in a hypothetical Round 3 by 45% to 55%.

Several conclusions can be drawn from these data:

  • No statistical data exists that shows Gara can muster the votes from not just the left, but also the center and center right, to defeat Dunleavy.
  • Gara’s strong push during the summer months against Walker damaged Walker’s support and could mean Gara comes in second place.
  • If Gara takes second place after the November 8 election, Dunleavy will win.
  • If Walker takes second place after the November 8 election, the race remains competitive and within the margin of error.
  • The only ticket that can beat Dunleavy is the Walker Drygas ticket, but it must come in second place and clear the field for a head-to-head match up against Dunleavy, and increase its support amongst Democrats and left-leaning moderates.
  • Ranking Bill Walker and Heidi Drygas number one is the only way for Alaska moderates and progressives to protect a woman’s right to choose, and to promote policies that confront climate change instead of continuing to ignore science. A number one vote for Walker Drygas is a vote to invest in the University of Alaska rather than waiting for the incumbent to make 44% cuts again, to rebuild our education system instead of closing schools, and get our economy back on track. It is a vote to advance Tribal sovereignty and to create seats at the table for Alaska Native people instead of taking them to court. It is a vote to protect LGBTQ rights instead of creating division in our communities. It is a vote to rebuild Alaska.

Join the Walker Drygas team