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Bell wants recount; could uproot Kawasaki from committee seat

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Posted: Tuesday, November 27, 2012 12:14 am | Updated: 12:07 pm, Mon Jan 21, 2013.

Candidates for two state legislative seats remain separated by several dozen votes in ballot counts certified last week, and one of those close races continues to create uncertainty about a Fairbanks Democrat’s assignment to the House Finance Committee.

Wednesday is the deadline to request a recount. That could occur in the contest between Rep. Bill Thomas, R-Haines, and political newcomer Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, a Democrat from Sitka. Kreiss-Tomkins was up by 34 votes when the race was certified Friday, 4,125 to 4,091.

While Republicans have a majority in the House, Kreiss-Tomkins’ victory would give Democrats a Finance Committee seat that has tentatively been assigned to Rep. Scott Kawasaki of Fairbanks. However, if a recount names Thomas the winner, Republicans would end up with a larger majority and legislative rules would grant that committee seat to a Republican.

Kreiss-Tomkins, on his Facebook page Wednesday, said he considers himself “a representative-elect,” and praised Thomas for his service, saying he had left an “impressive legacy for our communities.” Thomas did not immediately return a message left at his office Monday.

In the other close legislative contest, Republican Bob Bell said Monday that he will seek a recount in his race against Anchorage Democratic Sen. Hollis French.

When the race was certified Friday, it showed French with a 51-vote advantage, 7,593 to 7,542.

“If 26 people voted the other way, it changes the election,” Bell told The Associated Press on Monday. “So we think that’s close enough. A lot of people spent a lot of time and effort on this campaign, and I think we have an obligation to make sure.”

French said Bell was well within his rights to request a recount, and he said he’d probably request one, too, if he were in Bell’s position.

But French said he doesn’t think the results will change much once the recount is complete.

The race was one of the most expensive and contentious Alaska Senate races this year, with French among the incumbents targeted for defeat by Republicans who wanted to break up the Senate’s bipartisan majority, of which he was a part.

Republicans picked up seats in the Senate and, the day after the election, announced they would seize control of the chamber when the session opens in January.

Division of Elections Director Gail Fenumiai said a recount must take place within five days of receipt of the recount request. She expected any recount in the race to take a day.

The difference in votes cast for each candidate falls within the margin under which the state pays for the cost of the recount.

Associated Press reporter Becky Bohrer in Juneau and Daily News-Miner staff in Fairbanks contributed to this report.

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