In the race for the Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor’s seat, unofficial results show incumbent Mike Navarre retaining his position with 53.52 percent of the vote.
“I’m really happy right now with the results of the election,” he said. “And I’m happy for our community. … We have a lot of issues in front of us and I think I’m the best person to work with all the residents to try to … plan for a bright future.”
Two candidates challenged Navarre for the job. Tom Bearup nabbed 36.51 percent of the vote and Carrol Martin captured 9.45 percent.
Bearup carried the Anchor Point, Nikiski, Ninilchik, Sterling No. 2, Funny River No. 1 and Salamatof districts.
“At this point it certainly looks good for (Navarre),” Bearup said. … “We’ve enjoyed the trip. We have worked hard and I congratulate (Navarre).”
Bearup said, win or lose, he will continue to try to help as many people as he can.
“I cannot lose,” Bearup said. “I might lose this race, but I know who I am as a man and I know who my wife is. I know these people who have given their life over the last several months to help me win this thing.”
Navarre said he is “thrilled” the communities rejected the “negative, under-handed” campaign run by the Bearup campaign.
“To those of you who were personally attacked for supporting me, I’m sorry, that’s not how it’s supposed to be,” he said to the large crowd at his election-night celebration in Soldotna.
While Martin said the results didn’t look good for him, he’s not too concerned. He said he probably could have run a different campaign, but he tried to run a nice campaign.
Voter turn out hit slightly more than 26 percent. Absentee ballots have yet to be counted.
Navarre said he watched reports come in at his campaign headquarters with about 60 people. Some high-fives were exchanged but there were also a few periods of anxiety.
“All in all it’s been a celebration, so (it has) been fun,” he said.
Janice See said she voted for the candidate that she knew.
“The Navarre family have always been public-minded,” she said. “They know the borough and the state. You can always vote for Navarre.”
Steve Kehl said he and his wife, Marie Kehl, considered all the candidates before making their decisions and the two were not impressed with Bearup’s credentials.
“We like what Mike (Navarre) has done,” Steve Kehl said. “Everything’s running smoothly, why mess it up?”
Georgia Poynor said she and her husband, Alan Poynor, read about the candidates — they find the voter information pamphlet informative — and have some personal knowledge about some of the candidates. They decided to vote for Navarre.
While they don’t agree with everything he has done, Georgia Poynor said Navarre was still their top choice for mayor.
Cathy Turner, of Sterling, voted for Navarre because she felt that he has done a good job as mayor.
Kenai resident Sue Carter said she voted for Navarre because she is concerned about business climate and he has a background in business.
Shawn Reynolds, of Kasilof, voted for Bearup because he made the effort to visit voters in person.
“Tom Bearup was the only one who talked to us,” he said, referring to a visit Bearup paid to the residents of the area.
Peg Snyder, a member of the Domestic Animal Protection League said her passion for animal rescue also affected how she voted in the borough mayor race. She said she voted for Bearup because he has rescued pets and Navarre “hasn’t done anything for the animals.”
“I have to vote my heart,” she said.
Ron Leonard, of Nikiski, said he thinks Navarre is a “crook,” so he voted for Bearup because it’s time for a change.
Les Wulf, a Kenai voter, chose Bearup because he thinks he will address the flooding in the Kalifornsky Beach Road area.
Corrections officer Micah Weeks voted for Bearup because he thinks Bearup is the “right man for the job” to handle borough crime issues.
Ed Witbeck, of Kenai, said Navarre has been in the mayor’s seat too long.
“I don’t care if (Bearup) is worse than (Navarre), just so it’s not (Navarre),” Witbeck said. “I don’t expect (Bearup) to be better.”
Penny Hallmark didn’t want to disclose who her choice for mayor was, but said she felt good about her decision.
“I know the candidates and their stances,” she said. “I know who I thought would be good.”
Navarre first served at borough mayor from 1996-1999 and voters elected him again in 2011.
He got his start in politics in the Alaska Legislature in 1984 and spent 12 years working in state level politics.
In the 1980s, Navarre became increasingly involved in his family’s business and worked to keep it afloat during trying economic times. Zan Inc. now runs eight RadioShacks and eight Arby’s in Alaska.
Bearup and his wife founded the Family Bible Fellowship Academy, a non-profit ministry corporation, which they continue to operate out of their home off of the Sterling Highway. He has previously worked in law enforcement.
Bearup, who was elected to serve as Soldotna mayor in 1979, ran for multiple offices in Arizona from 1984 to 2012. He first ran for House of Representatives, but he did not meet residency requirements. In the 2000s, he twice ran for Maricopa County Sheriff. Most recently he ran for Pinal County Sheriff. He was not elected to any of the seats he sought.
A Kenai Peninsula resident since the mid-1970s, Martin has experience ranching and teaching and working in the oil and gas, fishing and tourism industries.
Martin, who didn’t accept donations toward his campaign and spent less than $5,000 promoting himself, said, if elected, he would work on a 3-in-1 plan to seek a “safe secure food supply, wildfire remediation and green belt-parks and recreation.”