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Election roundup: Juneau, Nome mayoral incumbents fall in Alaska municipal voting

  • Author: Chris Klint
  • Updated: September 28, 2016
  • Published October 7, 2015

Tuesday's municipal elections across Alaska were marked by transitions in several mayoral seats, including incumbents in high-profile seats upset by challengers.

Juneau elected a new mayor Tuesday after political newcomer Greg Fisk ousted incumbent Merrill Sanford by a nearly 2-1 margin. Fisk won every precinct but did best in the city's most liberal areas.

Fisk, a fisheries consultant, campaigned aggressively in the unusually cordial race, in which both candidates praised each other frequently.

Sanford ran on his long record in city politics of opposing tax increases and supporting a road north out of Juneau, while Fisk talked of economic diversification and downtown revitalization.

In Nome, public radio station KNOM reported that 12-year mayoral incumbent Denise Michaels was unseated by challenger Richard Beneville. Beneville was out of town but said he was stunned by the news.

Fairbanks North Star Borough voters elected borough assembly member Karl Kassel as their next mayor, as unofficial results with 100 percent of precincts reporting showed 57 percent of votes cast in his favor in the four-way race. State Rep. Tammie Wilson, a former borough assembly member, received 39 percent of the vote, with Cory Jackman and Robert Shields each receiving less than 2 percent.

Voters in the North Slope Borough appeared Wednesday to have unseated their incumbent assembly president, Forrest Olemaun.

He was trailing challenger Roy Nageak, Sr., 333 to 280, with 117 uncounted absentee and questioned ballots, according to the borough's unofficial results.

In the Northwest Arctic Borough, unofficial results showed Wendie Schaeffer narrowly leading the mayoral election over Clement Richards Sr., 403 to 378. Martha Whiting was in third place with 241 votes.

The results were provided by local radio station KOTZ; the borough clerk didn't respond to messages Wednesday and it was unclear how many absentee or questioned ballots remained uncounted.

The winner of the mayoral race will replace Reggie Joule, who did not seek re-election.

Also in Nome, KNOM reported that city council incumbent Randy Pomeranz lost his Seat C to Lew Tobin, with Nancy Mendenhall fighting off John Tidwell to take open School Board Seat C and Keith Conger running unopposed for the board's Seat D.

Kenai Peninsula

Soldotna voters elected city council member Pete Sprague, running unopposed Tuesday, as their new mayor with 94 percent of the vote. The Peninsula Clarion newspaper reported current mayor Nels Anderson plans to step down this summer for a mission trip to West Africa and had invited council members to run for his job.

Some mayoral incumbents did well Tuesday. Seward Mayor Jean Bardarson overwhelmingly kept her seat, garnering more than 80 percent of the vote against challenger Tim McDonald, and North Pole Mayor Bryce Ward also handily won re-election Tuesday.

Three new candidates for the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly were leading unofficial results overnight. With nearly 97 percent of precincts reporting, Gary Knopp had 30.5 percent of the vote in the four-way race for Assembly District 1 covering the Kalifornsky area, closely followed by David Wartinbee with 28.7 percent. Incumbent Kelly Wolf was in third with 20.5 percent, followed up by Robin David with just under 20 percent of votes.

Brandii Holmdahl was leading the race for the East Peninsula's District 6 seat with almost 54.3 percent of the vote over Kenn Carpenter's 45.4 percent, while Willy Dunne had just under 56.3 percent of the vote for the South Peninsula's seat in District 9.

Voters across the borough also approved three of four propositions before them. Proposition 1, which would repeal a 2008 ordinance allowing Homer, Seldovia and Soldotna to collected city sales taxes on nonprepared food items, was ahead with almost 59 percent of the vote, while 69 percent of voters favored expanding Anchor Point's fire and medical service area to cover parts of Cook Inlet; about 57 percent of voters also favored a bond of up to $4.4 million to buy new emergency response vehicles.

Proposition 2, the only one to be voted down in the borough, would have established a law enforcement service area in Nikiski matching the community's current fire service area. More than 57 percent of voters were against the idea.

In a three-way race for a Seward city council seat, challenger Sue McClure's nearly 35 percent of the vote was about a point ahead of incumbent David Squires, followed by Deborah Altermatt with slightly over 27.3 percent of ballots cast.

Soldotna council incumbents Paul Whitney and Linda Murphy were on track to keep their jobs Wednesday, with Whitney garnering 59 percent of the vote over challenger Fred Sturman for Seat A and Murphy narrowly leading Dan Nelson for Seat C with just over 50 percent of the vote.

Southeast

Two incumbent Juneau assembly members were re-elected, with Loren Jones running unopposed and Jerry Nankervis winning with 42 percent of the vote in a three-way race.

Skagway voters easily re-elected Mayor Mark Schaefer with 65 percent of the vote, over a challenge from Roger Griffin, an opponent of a controversial port project deal that Schaefer supported.

At the same time, Skagway voters decisively rejected the port project deal itself, a long-term tidelands lease for a subsidiary of the White Pass & Yukon Railroad, the city's largest employer.

That lease deal would have allowed the railroad to continue to control most of the municipal waterfront, while also paving the way for a city-sponsored port development project.

Such leases require voter approval, but only 33 percent of Skagway voters supported the deal Schaefer and other assembly members asked them to approve.

Alaska Dispatch News reporters Dermot Cole and Pat Forgey contributed information to this story.

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