Leading up to the Oct. 3 municipal election, we were impressed with the overall tenor of the campaigns for borough mayor, assembly, city council and city mayoral races. In general, discussion at candidate forums had good substance to it. The borough’s budget emerged as a top issue, and approaches to addressing a $4 million difference between revenue and expenditures defined candidates.
Unfortunately, as the race for borough mayor heads toward Tuesday’s run-off election, some of the rhetoric has turned negative. Charlie Pierce has accused his opponent, Linda Farnsworth Hutchings, of digging up a 2000 court case; Hutchings insists that comments about the case did not come from her or her campaign. For her part, Hutchings is dealing with insinuations of mismanagement of her family’s business, something she says couldn’t be further from the truth.
For better or for worse, we live in a small community where everybody knows — or thinks they know — everyone else’s business. And as longtime residents, both candidates have established relationships, good and bad, with many people in the community. Certainly, candidates for elected office should not be surprised by the scrutiny that comes with it.
When borough voters return to the polls on Tuesday to choose between Pierce and Hutchings, we hope they will make an informed decision when they cast their ballots, one based on what the candidates have actually done and said, and not the rumors, insinuations or innuendos that, with the advent of social media, seem to gain more traction than they should.
As we noted, the biggest issue in the election has been the borough’s budget. The candidates have outlined their approach to the issue; questionnaire answers they shared with the Clarion last month may be found here: http://peninsulaclarion.com/opinion/2017-09-26/qa-candidates-mayor-share-view-management-budget.
Voters should remember that not only will the next borough mayor need to address a budget gap and manage the borough’s 100 or so employees, he or she also will need to work with borough assembly members to get that done, and as we’ve seen recently, assembly members are not always on the same page as the borough mayor on many issues.
In the Oct. 3 municipal election, Pierce garnered approximately 38 percent of the vote to 32 percent for Hutchings. (Dale Bagley finished third with 29 percent of the vote.) Judging by many of the comments we heard from voters, the marijuana ballot measure was a major draw; it’s hard to predict whether those same voters will turn out for the run-off, or how those who cast a ballot for Bagley will vote on Tuesday.
We mention all that to make this point: in any election, every vote counts. The last time the borough mayor’s race went to a runoff in 2011, voter turnout was 23.4 percent, and just 525 votes separated the candidates.
The Kenai Peninsula has a big decision coming on Tuesday. Please, do your part in making it. Polls will be open from 7 a.m.-8 p.m.