Alaska elections roundup: Mat-Su Assembly incumbent trails; runoffs likely in North Slope and Kenai mayor races

Voters across Alaska went to the polls Tuesday to decide on new taxes, borough mayors and Assembly members, city council seats and school board representatives.

In the Matanuska-Susitna Borough's unofficial results, a conservative challenger, Clayton "Mokie" Tew, was narrowly leading incumbent Dan Mayfield for the Assembly seat representing Big Lake, 608-588. Ted Leonard was leading Pat Hogan, 481-281, to fill an Assembly seat representing greater Wasilla that's currently held by Steve Colligan.

In Wasilla, voters re-elected Mayor Bert Cottle and approved a 1 percent sales tax increase, to 3 percent — the proceeds of which will initially go toward a new police building.

[RelatedVoters decisively reject cannabis industry bans in local Alaska elections]

In Talkeetna, residents appeared to approve a 3 percent sales tax to pay for water and sewer improvements, 42 votes to 30, though there were 22 absentee ballots issued, according to KTNA.

In Fairbanks, city voters rejected, 56 percent to 44 percent, a proposed property tax increase that was supposed to raise $1.7 million to make up for lost state revenue.

In Unalaska, all three City Council incumbents on the ballot – half the council – were unseated, according to preliminary city results. Shari Coleman unseated Rachelle Hatfield, James Fitch beat out Yudelka Leclere and Dennis Robinson – a former council member – won over the third ousted incumbent, John Waldron.


In the North Slope Borough, incumbent Mayor Harry Brower had 39 percent of the vote in the field of six candidates, with a nephew, Frederick Brower, the closest challenger with 25 percent. That could mean the two Browers will face off in a runoff election, since candidates need at least 40 percent of votes to win, but as of Wednesday morning there were still uncounted ballots from the village of Nuiqsut, where the Accuvote counting machine wasn't working.

In the Kenai Peninsula Borough, none of the mayoral candidates got enough votes to avoid a runoff, so Charlie Pierce and Linda Hutchings will go head-to-head in an election Oct. 24, according to the Peninsula Clarion.

In Homer, voters picked two city council candidates, Caroline Venuti and Rachel Lord, seen as replacements for the retiring members targeted in a recall election earlier this year. One of the recall's organizers, conservative Sarah Vance, was a distant third.

In Ketchikan, voters broadly rejected a proposed ban on ride-hailing companies like Uber, according to KRBD.

In Juneau, incumbent conservative Assembly member Debbie White lost her seat to a challenger endorsed by the Alaska Democratic Party, Rob Edwardson, while incumbents Jesse Kiehl and Maria Gladziszewski were re-elected.

Juneau voters also re-authorized a temporary 1 percent sales tax, leaving the total sales tax rate at 5 percent.

Voters also decisively rejected proposed bans on the marijuana industry in the Kenai Peninsula Borough and the city and borough of Fairbanks.

In Bethel, the main hub of the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, six of seven seats on the City Council went before voters in Tuesday's municipal election. All four incumbents were returned to office along with a 22-year-old running for his first time and a former council member.

Also in the low-turnout election, voters agreed by a wide margin, 58 percent, to raise the city alcohol tax from 12 percent to 15 percent. Under the ordinance approved by voters, the money will go to community organizations that deal with the effects of alcohol abuse, including the Tundra Women's Coalition and Bethel Search and Rescue.

According to the unofficial vote tally, Mitchell Forbes, who is Bethel-raised and the only first-timer elected, was the top vote-getter followed by Raymond "Thor" Williams, a former council member and mayor, a position chosen by council members.

Re-elected were Leif Albertson and Richard Robb, the current mayor, who came in sixth of eight candidates. Two appointed council members – Kusko Cab co-owner Naim Shabani and former council member Mark Springer – were voted in, under the unofficial results.

Bethel's council will be all men. Member Alisha Welch didn't run again. Vice Mayor Fred Watson wasn't up for re-election.

Absentee and questioned ballots still have to be counted.

Based on election day voting, fewer than 20 percent of Bethel's registered voters cast a ballot. The City Council will meet Tuesday to certify the results.

Nathaniel Herz

Anchorage-based independent journalist Nathaniel Herz has been a reporter in Alaska for nearly a decade, with stints at the Anchorage Daily News and Alaska Public Media. Read his newsletter, Northern Journal, at natherz.substack.com

Lisa Demer

Lisa Demer was a longtime reporter for the Anchorage Daily News and Alaska Dispatch News. Among her many assignments, she spent three years based in Bethel as the newspaper's western Alaska correspondent. She left the ADN in 2018.