Candidate withdraws from borough assembly race

The three-way race to fill the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly’s District 1 seat — representing the Kalifornsky area — in the Oct. 3 election will drop to two contenders.

Candidate Kate Veh announced on Tuesday that she will leave the race to avoid the possibility of splitting the vote with candidate Dan Castimore, whom Veh said she agrees with on several issues.

“If we’d run this, I feel deeply that we would have split the vote and given it to the other side, and then I would not felt that I’m adequately represented,” Veh said.

In a letter to the editor, Veh wrote that she initially entered the race because she “was deeply concerned about the current invocation policy and the financial and emotional stress it was causing.” Veh favors dropping the assembly’s ongoing lawsuit against the American Civil Liberties Union over the constitutionality of its policy requiring those who give invocations at assembly meetings to belong to established religious groups.

Veh said that after reading Castimore’s candidate statement, she found they had similar positions on the invocation lawsuit, which Castimore called “an enormous waste of time and money,” as well as agreeing with him about supporting the local cannabis industry.

Veh — a full-time mother and former special education teacher who also ran unsuccessfully in this year’s Homer Electric Association board of directors election — said she called Castimore after learning of his positions. She said they also conversed about a third issue they agree on: opposing the city of Soldotna’s efforts to annex land currently outside its boundaries. While Veh said the two don’t agree on every matter, she thought they were close enough to create a danger of splitting the vote.

“This is such a short election, and with all the money in elections the resources are very limited,” Veh said. “So anything we could do to help each other out, get good people into influential positions, I feel that’s important.”

With Veh’s withdrawal, Castimore is now running against incumbent Brent Hibbert, the owner of Alaska Cab who assembly members appointed in January to fill the seat that then-member Gary Knopp left after winning a seat in the Alaska House of Representatives.

Hibbert did not include a written position on the marijuana industry or the invocation issue in his candidate statement, though in March he voted against a motion by assembly member Willie Dunne to end the assembly’s pre-meeting invocation practice, and against another Dunne motion in April to pattern the borough’s invocation policy after that used by the Alaska Legislature, which Hibbert said had never been tested in court and may still expose the borough to legal risk.

Reach Ben Boettger at ben.boettger@peninsulaclarion.com.

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