Linda Hutchings (standing), a candidate for Kenai Peninsula Borough mayor, answers a question during a forum with fellow candidates Dale Bagley (center) and Charlie Pierce (right) at the Funny River Community Center on Aug. 16, 2017 in Funny River, Alaska. (Photo by Elizabeth Earl/Peninsula Clarion, file)

Absentee ballots counted; results unchanged

None of the Oct. 3 Kenai Peninsula Borough election results have changed after all the absentee ballots have been counted.

Kenai Peninsula Borough mayoral candidates Charlie Pierce and Linda Hutchings will still go head-to-head in the runoff election scheduled for Oct. 24. All three borough propositions still failed after absentee ballots were counted as well, according to the unofficial results.

More than 2,800 absentee and questioned ballots were cast, nearly 1,000 more than in the last borough mayoral election in 2014, according to borough election records. The total number of votes in the mayoral election was significantly up, from 11,036 in the October 2014 election to 15,165 in this year’s election. Final voter turnout, which differs from the total number of cards cast because voters in cities cast two ballots, one for the city and one for the borough, and both are counted in that total.

Absentee voters were split almost evenly among the three mayoral candidates, with about 35 percent choosing Hutchings, 33 percent opting for Pierce and 30 percent preferring candidate Dale Bagley. In the final results, Pierce carried about 38 percent of the vote, Hutchings carried about 31 percent and Bagley carried 29 percent.

The results of the three contested Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly seats stood as well. In District 1–Kalifornsky, Brent Hibbert will keep his seat on the assembly for another year, carrying about 46 percent of the vote. Challenge Dan Castimore took about 35 percent, and candidate Kate Veh — who announced publicly several weeks before the election that she was withdrawing from the race, though her name would still appear on the ballot — received about 16 percent. The absentee voters favored Hibbert, with about 48 percent of the voters choosing him for assembly and about 39 percent choosing Castimore, according to the unofficial results.

In District 2–Kenai, Hal Smalley will return to the assembly, with about 47 percent of voters supporting him. Candidate Duane Bannock trailed by about 100 votes, with about 40 percent of voters supporting him. Candidate Jill Schaefer — who, like Veh, announced publicly several weeks before the race that she intended to withdraw, though her name would still appear on the ballot — won about 11 percent of the vote.

In District 5–Sterling, Norm Blakeley will take the assembly seat, with about 56 percent of voters supporting him and Candidate Leslie Morton carrying about 42 percent of the vote. Absentee and questioned ballot voters favored Blakeley as well, with about 53 percent of them supporting him and about 44 percent supporting Morton, according to the unofficial results.

The other two assembly races, in District 8–Homer and District 6–East Peninsula, the candidates were unchallenged. Assembly President Kelly Cooper from Homer and assembly member Kenn Carpenter of Seward will keep their seats on the assembly, Cooper for three years and Carpenter for one.

The absentee voters also tracked with the election-day voters on the three propositions. With all votes tallied, about 65 percent of the voters in the borough outside the cities rejected Proposition 1, which asked whether commercial cannabis operations should be banned in the borough outside city limits.

Absentee and questioned ballot voters narrowly approved Proposition 2, which asked if the borough could issue up to $5 million in bonds to pay for repairs to the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system in the George A. Navarre Borough Administration Building in Soldotna. Overall, however, it still failed by about 10 percent, with about 55 percent of voters saying no.

The margin on Proposition 3 narrowed slightly after the inclusion of the absentee and questioned ballots, but it still failed — about 59 percent of voters said no. Proposition 3 would have raised the cap on taxable sales from $500 to $1,000.

The results don’t become official until the assembly approves them. A resolution formalizing the results of the election is included on the assembly’s agenda for its Tuesday meeting.

Reach Elizabeth Earl at elizabeth.earl@peninsulaclarion.com.

Charlie Pierce, a candidate for Kenai Peninsula Borough mayor, answers a question during a forum hosted by he Central Peninsula League of Women Voters on Sept. 13, 2017 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Elizabeth Earl/Peninsula Clarion)

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