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Unofficial results give Vance commanding lead in House District 31 race

Renee Gross, KBBI News

With the preliminary results in, House District 31 will most likely be represented by a political newcomer in the upcoming legislative session. Unofficial results put Republican nominee Sarah Vance in the lead over former Republican and non-partisan incumbent Paul Seaton.

At the end of the night Tuesday, Vance led Seaton by about 1,350 votes. Vance maintained her lead throughout the evening, and it was a festive scene at local Homer hotel Land’s End Resort where Vance and the District 31 Republican Party held an election night viewing party. Supporters chanted as the first batch of results gave Vance a commanding lead.

Vance is a homeschooling mother of four who became a somewhat divisive figure in Homer in the summer of 2017 when she served as the spokesperson for a political action committee pushing for the recall of three Homer City Council members. She went on to run for a seat on the council, but lost the election.

Before results began rolling in Tuesday, Vance said she was ready to serve in the Legislature.

“My family is ready for it and just to be a lot more active and visible in the community,” she said. “We’ve been to ourselves for a while. But we love our home and our people here. It’s going to be a good change.”

Vance attributed her victory to voters’ focus on two mainstay issues in the race, Permanent Fund dividends and SB91, the controversial criminal justice reform bill, Vance said she wants to repeal.

“They want to keep their PFDs,” she said. “They want to feel safe again and be able to thrive in their communities.”

There are enough absentee and early votes to technically swing the unofficial results, but Seaton acknowledged over the phone Tuesday evening that is unlikely. When asked if there were particular issues that led to Vance’s victory, Seaton focused more on his fears about the state’s fiscal future.

“I think that with the proposals that have been made by the people who have won the election this time,” he said. “I think that the savings will be spent down from the earnings reserve. At some point in time, I’m afraid the Permanent Fund dividend will go away, but that’s a long-term problem, not a short-term problem.”

Seaton doesn’t have any direct plans for life after serving in the Legislature. He served eight terms, all of them under the Republican banner. However, he ran as a non-partisan candidate this election cycle.

Seaton became a target of state and local Republican Party leaders after he joined a bi-partisan coalition along with two-other House Republicans. The move took House control away from the Republican party in 2016. Seaton served as House Finance Committee Chair under the bipartisan group’s leadership.

However, unofficial results indicate Republicans are poised to take back control of the House.

KBBI’s Renee Gross contributed to this report.

Aaron Bolton has moved on to a new position in Montana; he is no longer KBBI News Director. KBBI is currently seeking a News Director, and Kathleen Gustafson is filling in for the time being.
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