PALMER -- Unofficial results from Tuesday’s local elections are in, but candidates in one Mat-Su assembly race are separated by just two votes with hundreds of ballots left to count.
When polls closed, Brian Endle led Tim Hale by a count of 983 to 981 for the District 1 borough assembly seat that covers a wide swath of ground from Butte north to Glacier View, according to preliminary results posted by the Matanuska-Susitna Borough late Tuesday.
That count, however, does not include absentee or questioned ballots, according to borough clerk Lonnie McKechnie. There are more than 360 such ballots in District 1, according to unofficial election results.
Endle, who ran as a conservative in the nonpartisan borough election, was endorsed by Gov. Mike Dunleavy. His campaign support included donations from Republican organizations and several Mat-Su legislators. He lost a 2016 bid for the seat against then-incumbent Jim Sykes, who could not run again due to term limits.
Hale, who ran as a “working Alaskan,” was endorsed by former state agriculture director Arthur Keyes. His campaign contributions included support from unions and cannabis business owners. Two other candidates in the race, former assembly member Bruce Bush and Ryan Miller, dropped out and made statements supporting Endle, but their names remained on the ballot. Together they drew more than 130 votes in the unofficial tally Tuesday.
Hale received $33,000 in campaign contributions including his own money, double the amount Endle raised, according to Alaska Public Offices Commission filings.
There were a total of 686 absentee ballots and 164 questioned ballots issued, McKechnie said. The borough canvass board was scheduled to meet Wednesday to verify the results spreadsheet, then review ballot accountability reports. Then the board will start to canvass absentee and special needs ballots.
It wasn’t immediately clear when the board would start counting ballots, she said.
Other races included another assembly race for District 2, which covers the Palmer area. Incumbent Matthew Beck was also term-limited out. Stephanie Nowers was leading LaMarr Anderson by a fairly wide margin of 610 to 511 votes, according to unofficial results.
In two contested school board seats, Jim Hart held a narrow lead over incumbent Ray Michaelson, and Ryan Ponder had a significant lead over Alma Hartley.
The Mat-Su assembly is scheduled to certify elections results on Nov. 19.