Three contested races for borough assembly seats

  • By Rashah McChesney
  • Tuesday, August 25, 2015 11:36pm
  • News
Three contested races for borough assembly seats

Editor’s note: Due to an editing error, Gary Knopp’s name was misspelled in a previous version of this story. 

By the close of the filing period, eight people registered to run for three open seats on the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly.

In District 1, or Kalifornsky, incumbent Kelly Wolf will face off against Robin Davis, David Wartinbee and Gary Knopp.

Wolf said he takes the number of challengers for his seat as a sign that he has been successful in challenging the overreach of borough government in people’s live.

“I’ve realized that there’s individuals, like the administration, that I’ve — to put it politely — made upset at me,” Wolf said. “If just a little old guy like me can upset the apple cart in this administration, I look at it and say ‘O.K’ what am I doing to upset this apple cart of this administration that my constituency appreciates,” he said.

Wolf said he looks forward to dealing with issues that impact the people in his district including the potential for annexation and fallout from flooding.

in 2013. In addition, Wolf said he believes the assembly needs conservative members.

“We’re going to need to make conservative decisions in the next couple of years,” he said.

Wolf’s challengers come with a wide range of experience. Davis is currently the Borough Capital Projects — though he said he would resign that position if elected. Davis said the borough assembly members do a thankless job, but an important one.

Davis said it was a personal goal of his to serve in public office, one that hit home for him when he was living in Washington D.C. and visited the Capitol building.

“I was standing on the steps … and it was just as the sun was coming up and I thought, this is the greatest country in the world,” he said. “If I ever get the chance to be a public servant, I’m going to work my tail off, as many hours as I can to serve the people of this great country.”

Davis said he believed he could help the borough face its tough finances.

“In the Air Force, I went through three major reorganizations and I know what it’s like to live in times of plenty, have lots of money and I know what it’s like to spend it well,” he said. “I know what it’s like to live in lean times and the prioritization.”

David Wartinbee is a recently retired biology professor with a wide range of professional experience. Wartinbee said he had taught medicine, had training as a stream ecologist and is an attorney.

“With that broad skill set, I have the ability to solve and work with complex problems. I think I bring a lot to the table that can be of use,” he said.

Wartinbee said he decided to run for office after several people suggested that he should be on the assembly. He referenced his participation in borough meetings and on the borough’s anadromous fish habitat task force and believed the task force had been a good model for how local government should work.

“We heard testimony, we heard about problems and tried to fix the problems going forward,” he said.

Wartinbee said he would like to help the spread of misinformation that happens when the assembly is taking up contentious issues.

“There’s a lot of disinformation out there, a lot of people jump to conclusions that are wrong and then people get bent out of shape about things and get upset about things they seriously don’t need to worry about,” Wartinbee said. “I think that it’s an important part of the job…letting people know what is really going on and what things are really happening.”

Gary Knopp, a former two-term assembly member, is returning to the assembly because he wants to provide continuity during turbulent economic times.

Knopp said the borough mayor would be term limited out soon — in 2017 after his second term ends — and the borough would loose a lot of institutional knowledge when that happened.

“I served with 2 prior administrations and a portion of this administration,” Knopp wrote in his candidate statement. “I am familiar with past and current issues. It’s important to be familiar with and carry on the work of this current administration to the new administration as issues evolve in the Borough.”

Knopp said he considered himself an issues-drive candidate and was looking forward to tackling the AKLNG proposed natural gas pipeline project, the borough’s potential revamp of its sales tax code and the hospital service areas.

In the South Peninsula District 9, Willy Dunne and Dawson Slaughter will face off.

Dunne, a fisheries biologist from Fritz Creek near Homer, said he decided to run in part to give back for nearly 30 years of services that he has received from the borough.

He said the two previous assembly members who have held the seat — Milli Martin and Mako Haggerty — did impressive work and he wanted the chance to continue that work.

Dunne said he is not running on any particular issues and did not have an agenda, but knows there are some things that need to be addressed in the coming years, including the borough’s property tax structure.

“I know that borough finances are always an issue,” he said.

He said he would prioritize schools and the borough’s hospitals as well.

Dunne’s opponent is hoping to inject a different perspective to the borough assembly than what it typically has. At 24-years-old, Dawson Slaughter is the youngest of the candidates for borough assembly.

He’s not held public office before, but said he has been helping with political campaigns for six years and is currently the Vice President for the Anchor Point Chamber of Commerce.

Slaughter said he has been politically involved since he was 18 and old enough to vote.

“There’s always something to talk about at the dinner table,” he said.

Slaughter said he was approached by groups who wanted a challenged race for the assembly seat.

“I’m thinking with my age, maybe some fresh perspective on things and common sense thinking — I’m hoping we can turn things around and realize that we have a spending problem and try to solve that,” Slaughter said.

He also hopes his age will help interest a younger demographic in issues the borough faces.

“We get a lot of middle-aged and older people doing public service and we don’t see a lot of people our age out and doing it,” he said. “I want to get the younger people excited and more involved and too realize that it’s their community as well.”

On the East Peninsula in District 6, two candidates are vying for the seat currently held by Sue McClure.

Kenn Carpenter, of Seward, wrote in his candidate profile that he believes that communities should be more involved in government.

“Taxes, property taxes, right-of-ways and property ownership are all issues that I believe need to be addressed,” Carpenter wrote.

His opponent, Brandii Holmdahl wrote in her candidate profile that she understands issues important to the Kenai Peninsula, including the “ebb and flow of oil, tourism and salmon” on local communities.

Holmdahl wrote that she hoped to be a voice on issues that people who live on the east side of the Kenai Peninsula face, including flooding, expansion of the Seward harbor, road maintenance, schools and access to health care.

Polls will open on October 6. The last day to register to vote is Sept. 6 and absentee ballots will be available beginning Sept. 21.


Reach Rashah McChesney at or follow her on Twitter @litmuslens




Three contested races for borough assembly seats
Three contested races for borough assembly seats
Three contested races for borough assembly seats
Three contested races for borough assembly seats
Three contested races for borough assembly seats
Three contested races for borough assembly seats
Three contested races for borough assembly seats

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