New assembly members sworn in, other races wrap

Oct 14, 2021

Workers with the canvass board tested the borough's new voting machines in September.
Credit Sabine Poux/KDLL

The last of the absentee ballots are in and all votes have now been tabulated for this year’s Kenai Peninsula elections.

Voter turnout across the borough was about 12 percent this year. In recent election years, turnout hovered around 18 percent. In 2020, a national election year, the borough had 28 percent turnout.

Sammy Crawford, with the Central Peninsula League of Women Voters, said she’s concerned about that low turnout.

“It was quite disappointing," she said. "And I don’t think people realize the importance of local elections.”

She said she’s particularly concerned with the low turnout in the cities — about 12 percent for Kenai and Soldotna races.

“But hopefully next time we’ll be better," she said.

Borough assembly

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly officially has two new members, after Cindy Ecklund unseated Kenn Carpenter for the eastern peninsula seat. Ecklund, a retired teacher from Seward, won with 573 votes over Carpenter’s 350.

Ecklund was sworn in at the assembly meeting Tuesday night. She said it was good to see all her fellow members in person.

“I’m feeling good about the new makeup of the assembly," she said.

She said she is in touch with the Resilience and Security Advisory Commission about becoming the new assembly liaison after the former liaison, Willy Dunne, termed out.

Mike Tupper, of Anchor Point, is taking Dunne’s place on the assembly, representing the southern peninsula. Tupper is a quality support specialist at Southern Peninsula Hospital and won the seat by a comfortable margin, with 615 votes total.

Brent Hibbert ran unopposed and will keep his assembly seat, representing Kalifornsky. Hibbert is a business owner based out of Soldotna and currently serves as assembly president.

Soldotna

Soldotna’s nail-biter election for council Seat C ended with a win for incumbent Jordan Chilson. The race was just one vote apart after Election Day. But with absentee and question ballots counted, Chilson pulled ahead with 236 votes to Micah Shields’ 200.

Chilson said his number-one goal for the city is to focus on developing the riverfront in town.

“I love our town," he said. "I’m very much looking forward to getting back to business as normal and being able to focus on improving it where I think we can. And I think that starts next year with hopefully the planning process for that riverfront development and really trying to maximize what I think is the city’s greatest asset."

Dan Nelson pulled ahead in the Seat B election to beat incumbent Erick Hugarte, 258 votes to 169.

Nelson, who runs an emergency response business, said he’s interested in looking at how the city will distribute its next round of federal COVID-19 relief and preparing for the city’s upcoming budget process.

“Looking at some of those projects, and of course some of the funding priorities as the capital improvement plans and some of those are beginning to be put together for the next year," he said. "So all of those are really routine things but really important to the infrastructure and the residents.”

Linda Farnsworth-Hutchings, an accountant and business owner who ran unopposed, will keep her Seat A spot.

Kenai

Deborah Sounart and James Baisden took the lead in a field of five for the two Keani City Council seats, Sounart with 342 votes and Baisden with 326 votes.

Basiden, a retired fire chief and borough chief of staff, said he’s looking forward to talking about the city’s budget, as well as Soldotna’s suggestion that Kenai and Soldotna partner to offer dispatch services. He said he doesn’t think that would be a good idea for Kenai.

"I’ve got a lot of opinions on that," he said. "So that’s probably going to be at the top of my list.”

School board

There were also three school board seats up for grabs. Jennifer Waller beat out Benjamin Miller for the Sterling-Funny River seat, with almost 300 votes total. Waller runs Freedom House, a faith-based recovery home in Soldotna.

Matt Morse ran unopposed and is keeping his seat representing Kenai. Morse works at his family business, a recruiting and staffing firm in Soldotna. 

Retired teacher Tim Daugharty beat Britny Bradshaw for the seat representing Homer.

You can see the results in full at kpb.us.