2022 gubernatorial candidate Charlie Pierce walks in the 65th annual Soldotna Progress Days Parade on Saturday, July 23, 2022 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

2022 gubernatorial candidate Charlie Pierce walks in the 65th annual Soldotna Progress Days Parade on Saturday, July 23, 2022 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Pierce resigns as borough mayor, will focus on gubernatorial bid

Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce is stepping down as mayor, effective Sept. 30, citing plans to focus on his 2022 gubernatorial bid, the Pierce for Governor campaign announced Friday morning.

Pierce, who announced his candidacy for governor in late January, is a former manager at ENSTAR Natural Gas Company. He has served as mayor of the Kenai Peninsula Borough since 2017 and was reelected to the position in 2020.

“It has been a pleasure and great honor to serve the residents of the Kenai Peninsula Borough these past five years,” Pierce wrote in a statement, highlighting his work on borough finances and leadership throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Clarion tried contacting Pierce via text message early Friday and he did not respond.

The statement says Pierce “had earlier committed to stepping down” as mayor after the Aug. 16 primary election. He’s touted a “Results not Rhetoric” slogan throughout his run for governor and secured an endorsement from the Alaska Republican Party earlier this year.

Unofficial, preliminary elections results from the Alaska Division of Elections show Pierce and running mate Edie Grunwald set to advance to the November general election. Their ticket has received about 6.7% of the more than 183,000 votes counted, as of 6:45 p.m. on Aug. 25.

That’s significantly behind where other governor and lieutenant governor tickets stand. Incumbent Gov. Mike Dunleavy and Nancy Dahlstrom are leading with 40.69% of votes, followed by Bill Walker and Heidi Drygas with 22.73% of votes and Les Gara and Jessica Cook with 22.71% of votes.

Under Alaska’s new ranked choice general election system, the top four gubernatorial vote-getters advance to the state general election.

If a mayoral vacancy occurs more than six months before the next regular election, the governing body shall call a special election to finish out the term, per Alaska State Statute 29.20.280. In the case of the Kenai Peninsula Borough, that governing body is the assembly.

There are multiple reasons why a governing body could declare a vacancy in the office, including when the person elected resigns and that resignation is accepted. Pierce’s current term is set to expire next year. He was most recently elected borough mayor in 2020 and terms are three years long.

Kenai Peninsula Borough Clerk Johni Blankenship said Friday that the timeline for getting a new mayor in to replace Pierce will ultimately come down to the assembly. It’s too late for the vacancy to appear on the borough’s Oct. 4 ballot, she said.

“We will be working on the transition plan over the next few days,” Blankenship said.

Kenai Peninsula Borough Attorney Sean Kelley said in a message shared Friday with local media outlets that Pierce’s resignation was tendered on Aug. 26 and is effective on Sept. 30. Kelley said the department will publish a memo next week addressing the succession process, as outlined by state statute.

“Operations at the borough are not impacted,” Kelley wrote. “Operations will continue as normal and all public services remain open for business.”

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly is expected to address the vacancy at their next regular meeting on Sept. 6.

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at ashlyn.ohara@peninsulaclarion.com.

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