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Election results show school board upsets and failed utility sale

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

Unofficial results in the Kenai Peninsula’s Oct. 3 municipal election show several incumbent victories on city councils, some upsets on the school board and a lack of support for the Seward utility sale. As of an Oct. 9 update, all votes have been counted, but elections have not yet been certified.

Polls were open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. last Tuesday, and absentee voting opened on Sept. 18. Turnout is at 15.6% borough-wide.

Assembly Nikiski Seat

In Nikiski, incumbent Peter Ribbens, who was appointed to the seat earlier this year, leads by 23 votes: he has 51.4%, or 419 votes. Challenger Adam Bertoldo has 48.6%, or 396 votes.

Assembly Homer Seat

With all districts reporting, former Borough Assembly Member Kelly Cooper leads with 60.5%, or 764 votes. Former Homer City Council Member Heath Smith has 39.5%, or 498 votes.

Assembly Sterling Seat

Incumbent Bill Elam has a huge lead in the race for the Sterling assembly seat, with 73%, or 416 votes. Nissa Savage has 27% of votes, or 155 of 571 votes cast.

Board of Education Nikiski Seat

Incumbent Jason Tauriainen leads with 57% of the vote for Nikiski’s board of education seat, with 471 votes out of 820 cast. Challenger Lyndsey Bertoldo has 43%, or 394 votes.

Board of Education Sterling Seat

In Sterling, Kelly Cizek has a major lead over incumbent Beverly Romanin, who was appointed to the position last October. Cizek holds 64% of the vote, while Romanin has 36%.

Board of Education Central Seat 

In the school board’s central district, which includes Kasilof and Ninilchik, Board of Education President Debbie Cary has fallen behind challenger Dianne MacRae by 12 votes. MacRae holds 51%, or 308 votes, while Cary has 49%, at 296 votes.

Uncontested Races

Borough Mayor Peter Micciche is running unopposed for his first full term, after winning a special election in February. Ryan Tunseth is unopposed in his race for the borough assembly’s Kenai seat, after incumbent Richard Derkevorkian chose not to run for reelection. Incumbent Penny Vadla is the sole candidate for the Board of Education’s Soldotna seat.

Kenai City Council 

The latest update of results in the City of Kenai shows an upset on the city council. Four candidates have been vying for two open seats; with absentee votes now counted, incumbent Councilmember Henry Knackstedt stiil leads with 31%, or 437 votes. But newcomer Phil Daniel is next, with 23% or 326 votes. Teea Winger, who led Daniel before absentee votes were counted, now tails him by just five votes. Glenese Pettey follows with 22% of the vote.

Soldotna City Council & Mayor

Incumbent Dan Nelson is ahead in the race for Seat D, with 69% to Garrett Dominick’s 31%. Mayor Paul Whitney and Councilmember Chera Wackler are running uncontested.

Seward City Council

In Seward, three candidates are running for two open seats on the city council. Incumbent Robert Barnwell currently leads the pack with 225 votes, or 47.1%. Julie Crites is following closely with 223 votes, 46.8%. Brad Snowden has 6%.

Seward Ballot Propositions 

In Seward, unofficial results suggest another attempt to sell the city-run utility has failed, garnering just 46% in a vote that would have required 60% to pass. Another ballot proposition — to reduce that threshold to 50% — also failed, with just 39% yeses.

What’s next

The borough will certify its elections on Tuesday, Oct. 10. The City of Kenai will certify its results on Oct. 19. The City of Homer will certify its results on Oct. 6, and the City of Seward will on Oct. 9.

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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