Alaska municipal elections: Second chance for plastic bags but not for Vic Kohring

Homer liked Justin Arnold's plan to repeal the city's plastic shopping bag prohibition. But the voters bagged his attempt to get on the city council.

Municipal elections were held Tuesday night across Alaska as voters decided local issues ranging from Homer's flimsy bag ban to a booze tax in the Matanuska Valley, where voters in the city of Wasilla rejected Vic Kohring's appeal for a second chance on the public payroll

Kohring was among the many politicians running for school board and city council seats from Juneau to Fairbanks, where a race for city mayor was too close to call late Tuesday night.


In the Interior, Fairbanks, City Council member John Eberhart and former Council Member Vivian Stiver battled to replace Mayor Jerry Cleworth, a longtime city politician who opted not to run for re-election.

Stiver is a small business owner who worked most recently as an aide to Rep. Tammie Wilson, while Eberhart is a long-time Fairbanks attorney who works for the Tanana Chiefs Conferene.

With 11 of 15 precincts counted, Eberhart held a lead of 1,128 to 1,002 for Stiver.

Two bond issues on the Fairbanks ballot, to replace Ryan Middle School and perform a construction projects on five other schools throughout the Fairbanks North Star Borough, were winning easily, with more than 60 percent of the vote.


Vic Kohring, a former state legislator convicted of accepting a bribe, lost his attempt for a seat on the Wasilla City Council to incumbent Brandon Wall, who had more than two-to-one margin. Kohring had hoped it would be the start of a political comeback, but managed to get only about one-third of the vote.


The effort to slap a 5 percent tax on liquor in the Mat-Su failed, with 3,548 votes for the idea and 6,231 opposed.


Juneau's elections offered only one contested race. Kate Troll was leading former Juneau-Douglass School Board member Bill Peters by 10 points, late Tuesday, in a race to fill an area-wide Juneau Assembly seat. With backing from Bruce Botelho, a former Juneau mayor and Alaska attorney general, Troll's 54 percent to 46 percent edge was likely to carry her to victory over Peters, who was backed by current Mayor Merrill Sanford and Rep. Cathy Munoz, R-Juneau.

There are about 1,000 absentee and questioned ballots in the race.


At the southern tip of the Kenai Peninsula, plastic bags were poised to get a second chance at supermarkets and other stores as a referendum sponsored by Justin Arnold won, 56 percent to 44 percent.

The ban was passed by the city council last year, and went into effect in January, leaving Homer Safeway shoppers to choose between paper or reusables.

Despite Arnold's success with the referendum, Homer voters turned down his bid for a seat on the city council, giving him only 28 percent of the vote.

Leading the race for the two open seats on the council was Gus Van Dyke, with 62 percent, followed by Corbin Arno and Byran Zack with 52 percent each. Though Arno currently has a four-vote lead, out of more than 1,700 cast, absentee ballots will likely decide that race.

Alaska Dispatch staff writers Dermot Cole reporting from Fairbanks and Pat Forgey reporting from Juneau.

Dermot Cole

Former ADN columnist Dermot Cole is a longtime reporter, editor and author.