1990 Alaska gubernatorial election

← 1986 November 6, 1990 1994 →
Nominee Wally Hickel Tony Knowles Arliss Sturgulewski
Party Independence Democratic Republican
Running mate Jack Coghill Willie Hensley Jim Campbell
Popular vote 75,721 60,201 50,991
Percentage 38.9% 30.9% 26.2%

Governor before election

Steve Cowper

Elected Governor

Wally Hickel

The 1990 Alaska gubernatorial election took place on November 6, 1990, for the open seat of Governor of Alaska. In 1989, incumbent Governor Steve Cowper, a Democrat, had announced that he would not seek re-election for a second term.[1]

In a rare third-party win in American politics, former Republican Governor Wally Hickel, running on the ticket of the Alaskan Independence Party, defeated Democratic candidate Tony Knowles and Republican candidate Arliss Sturgulewski.


Democratic Party

The major Democratic candidates were Tony Knowles, former mayor of Anchorage (from 1981 to 1987) and future governor (from 1994 to 2002), and incumbent Lieutenant Governor Stephen McAlpine, who had served since 1982. Knowles defeated McAlpine in the Democratic primary.

1990 Alaska gubernatorial election (Democratic primary)[2]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Tony Knowles 36,019 56.05
Democratic Stephen McAlpine 27,656 43.07
Democratic Ryal White 586 0.91
Majority 8,363 12.98%
Total votes 64,261 100.00

Republican Party

In the Republican primary, state senator Arliss Sturgulewski, who was also the Republican nominee in 1986, defeated Jim Campbell, Rick Halford and Don Wright.

1990 Alaska gubernatorial election (Republican primary)[2]
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Arliss Sturgulewski 26,906 36.44
Republican Jim Campbell 23,442 31.75
Republican Rick Halford 22,466 30.43
Republican Don Wright 1,025 1.39
Majority 3,464 4.69%
Total votes 73,839 100.00

Alaskan Independence Party

The initial Alaskan Independence Party candidate was John Lindauer, who won the primary. However, many conservative Republicans, dissatisfied with Sturgulewski's positions on social issues such as abortion, persuaded former Republican Governor Wally Hickel to run on the Alaskan Independence ticket. The party pushed Lindauer aside to make way for Hickel and lieutenant gubernatorial candidate Jack Coghill.


Environmentalist and homeless rights activist Michael O'Callaghan ran as the candidate of The Political Party.[3][4]


Former Governor Wally Hickel defeated Knowles, Sturgulewski, and other minor candidates to return to the governor's office.

1990 Alaska gubernatorial election[5]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Independence Wally Hickel 75,721 38.88 +33.3
Democratic Tony Knowles 60,201 30.91 −16.4
Republican Arliss Sturgulewski 50,991 26.18 −16.4
Green Jim Sykes 6,563 3.37 N/A
The Political Party Michael O'Callaghan 942 0.48 N/A
Write-in votes 332 0.17 −3.8
Majority 15,520 7.97 +3.3
Turnout 194,750
Independence gain from Democratic Swing -49.70


  1. ^ Hanlon, Tegan (2015-10-27). "Former Alaska first lady Michael Margaret Stewart, ex-wife of Steve Cowper, dead at 62". Alaska Dispatch News. Retrieved 2015-11-21.
  2. ^ a b "1990 Gubernatorial Primary Election Results – Alaska" (PDF). Alaska Division of Elections. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 2, 2009. Retrieved 2009-08-31.
  3. ^ Reamer, David (March 8, 2020). "How Michael O'Callaghan went from Anchorage activist to Portland's homeless mayoral candidate". Anchorage Daily ews. Retrieved November 12, 2020.
  4. ^ Christiansen, Scott (June 17, 2009). "Alleyway activism". Anchorage Press. Retrieved November 12, 2020.
  5. ^ "1990 Gubernatorial General Election Results – Alaska" (PDF). Alaska Division of Elections. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 2, 2009. Retrieved 2009-08-31.