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Municipal elections underway on the Kenai Peninsula

Hunter Morrison
Campaigners hold signs for Kenai City Council candidates on election day afternoon, Oct. 3, 2023.

Municipal elections kicked off this morning in the Kenai Peninsula, with races in every city and across the borough. Polls opened at 7 a.m., and campaigners took to the streets to advocate for city council and assembly races.

There are a mix of contested and uncontested seats on the central peninsula. Borough Mayor Peter Micciche is running unopposed for his first full term, after winning a special election in February.

There are four borough assembly seats up for election: in Kenai, Alaska Marijuana Industry Association President Ryan Tunseth is running unopposed. Two candidates are vying for the Sterling/Funny River seat, including incumbent Bill Elam and Nissa Savage, an accountant. In Nikiski, current appointed member Peter Ribbens is running for a full term against paramedic Adam Bertoldo.

Former Assembly Member Kelly Cooper and former Homer City Council Member Heath Smith are on the ballot for the Homer seat.

The Kenai Peninsula School District Board of Education also has four open seats. Jason Tauriainen is running for another term in the board’s Nikiski seat against Lyndsey Bertoldo, and appointed member Beverly Romanin is running for a full term in the Sterling seat against Kelley Cizek. Debbie Cary is running to keep her seat for the Central district against Dianne MacCrae, and Penny Vadla is running unopposed for the Soldotna seat.

In Kenai, four candidates are running for two seats on the city council. Incumbents Teea Winger and Henry Knackstedt are running, along with former council member Glenese Pettey and newcomer Phil Daniel.

In Soldotna, Mayor Paul Whitney is unopposed in his re-election bid, as is Seat F candidate Chera Wackler. The Seat D race is between incumbent Dan Nelson and Garrett Dominick.

There are also contested races for the Homer and Seward city councils.

Seward voters will also vote again on the fate of their city-owned electric utility, which the city council chose to put back on the ballot in July. In the past, a sale of the utility has required a 60% threshold, and came up short by just seven votes in May. On the ballot today is also a measure to change the threshold to a simple majority.

Those two ballot measures are facing pushback from a petition, which tried to get them removed from the ballot before election day. The city says it will reevaluate those referendums next month, after the election.

Throughout the month of September, KDLL hosted candidate forums in partnership with The Peninsula Clarion and the League of Women Voters. You can find all of those forums here.

Polls close at 8 p.m. tonight. Check KDLL for updated election results all evening.

Riley Board is a Report For America participant and senior reporter at KDLL covering rural communities on the central Kenai Peninsula.
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