Claiming ballots were lost and votes were improperly counted, among other miscues, North Slope Borough mayoral candidate George Ahmaogak Sr. is challenging the runoff election.
Charlotte Brower was sworn in Tuesday afternoon as borough mayor. The North Slope Borough assembly, convened as the canvassing board, certified the results, showing Brower with 1,022 votes and Ahmaogak with 960, said Elaine Solomon, borough deputy clerk.
Ahmaogak's claims will be investigated by borough officials to determine their merit, said Bessie O'Rourke, borough attorney.
"This isn't, strictly speaking, a recount," O'Rourke said. "This is an investigation."
Six candidates originally vied for the mayoral seat in a historic election that nearly included an upset from write-in candidate Fenton Rexford from Kaktovik village. The mayor will have an outsized voice in potential oil and gas development in the Arctic Ocean and on the North Slope, which still provides much of America's domestically produced oil.
Brower, a former assembly member, and Ahmaogak, a former five-term mayor, met in a runoff Nov. 8. The race had turned nasty in its closing days, with both sides highlighting past misdeeds that put the candidates' spouses, and sometimes the candidates themselves, in a negative light.
On Tuesday evening, Brower went to her new mayoral digs shortly after the swearing in. Mobbed by supporters in a tradition that includes photo opportunities and congratulations, Brower could not be reached for comment.
"It's a press of humanity," said Karla Kolash, who works in the mayor's office.
But today's results were clouded after George Ahmaogak produced a letter contesting the count. He cited flaws by the borough clerk's office that included ballot counting irregularities, missing ballots, recording discrepancies as well as changing tallies and returns, Solomon said.
The investigation into those claims could involve a team that includes the borough attorney and the borough clerk.
"My goal is to get this moving sooner rather than later. It all just happened," said O'Rourke. "I'll talk to clerk tomorrow about how it will proceed."
Contact Alex DeMarban at alex(at)alaskadispatch.com