Spotlight: John Coghill

Sen. John Coghill Wednesday morning, December 4, 2019.

North Pole Republican Sen. John Coghill will not be returning to Juneau in January for the first time in 22 years.

Coghill lost his primary to conservative newcomer Robert Myers by 14 votes, the confirmation of which Coghill said he wasn’t surprised to hear. The Alaska Division of Elections concluded its official recount for the Senate District B Republican primary election Wednesday afternoon.

“I had a lot of confidence in our Division of Elections,” Coghill said Wednesday. “I just had to raise the question. But the voters spoke, and that’s a system I agree with. I’m disappointed but also not totally saddened.”

Coghill said he doesn’t know what his next adventure will be. 

“I’m a man of faith, so even though the voters spoke, I count on it as God’s leading,” Coghill added. “He shut one door, and now I’m waiting to see what new door he opens up.”

Coghill will serve as a senator until the next session begins and his term expires. He plans to clean out his office in November after the general election and provide mentorship to the new Senate District B lawmaker if desired. 

“You do feel a little responsible for what you know. In the political arena, I’ve gotten to know a lot of good people and a lot of important issues,” Coghill said. “You do feel responsible for that but it’s also true that when other people get elected, they get the drivers seat and they don’t need me tugging at the wheel. If I am wanted as a mentor, I will happily help.”

The November race is far from decided. Myers will face two nonaffiliated candidates on the November ballot, Fairbanks business owner Evan Eads and Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly member Marna Sanford. 

Coghill said he will watch the race closely. 

“I am a Republican so I will lean to a Republican seat (as a voter),” Coghill said. “But I am also going to give a fair hearing to the other candidates.”

Myers, who will be the only Republican on the November ballot, said Wednesday he was relieved to have the recount process concluded. 

“This is a strange year with all the absentee (ballots). But ultimately, I’m just relieved and happy at the result, of course. It was good to see the process behind the scenes. The division has been very open and helpful explaining the process,” he said. 

With his securing of the Republican bid for the race, Myers will gain the backing of the Alaska Republican Party, an addition he says will help relieve some of the pressures that come with campaigning. 

“I just ran this primary basically by myself with the help of my family,” Myers said. “So, it’s gratifying to know that I’ll have some people in my corner.”

With two other candidates to face though, Myers acknowledged it will be a tough race.

Sanford told the Daily News-miner Wednesday afternoon she as relatively unsurprised by the confirmation of the primary results. 

“But to be honest, I was planning on beating Coghill. I don’t have to campaign against Coghill now, which is both easier and harder. There’s not an incumbent I’m going against but there are two other candidates,” Sanford said. 

She is the only one of the three candidates who has held public office before and noted Wednesday she is the only one with campaign experience. 

“I was in the only head-to-head race for the assembly that year, and a third person can really influence things,” Sanford said. “This is a tough district, and the far right is doing their best to paint me as a Democrat. So we’ll see, but I’m feeling confident.”

Sanford is certified as a nonaffiliated candidate and registered as an undeclared voter. 

Eads was unable to be reached for comment on the recount results. 

The general election is Nov. 3. 

Contact staff writer Erin McGroarty at 459-7544. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMpolitics.