Newcomers ahead in Kenai elections, Pierce leads mayoral race

Oct 7, 2020

Newcomer Teea Winger is ahead in the Kenai City Council race so far, with 562 election day votes.
Credit Sabine Poux/KDLL

Municipal election results are in … kind of.

Only votes that were cast in person have been counted as of now. The borough is still counting absentee ballots — 4,574 and counting — and residents will have to wait until Oct. 13 to see how those results impact the existing totals.

Some candidates are behind by just enough that those uncounted absentee votes might boost them to victory.

Others are ahead by large enough margins that they’re calling the elections now, like Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce.

Pierce is leading Linda Farnsworth-Hutchings 59.53 percent to 36.39 percent, a difference of over 2,000 votes. Troy Nightingale received 3.74 percent of votes.

The mayor called his victory in a video he posted to Facebook last night entitled, “Three more year’s [sic].”

“I’ll quickly mention how proud I am of this peninsula and the voters who went out tonight and expressed their views," he said in the video. "You exercised your right tonight, you picked your mayor for the next three years, and I’m honored to serve as that person.”

Borough Assembly District 2

For Borough Assembly District 2, Kenai, challenger Richard Derkevorkian is leading incumbent Hal Smalley 48.67 to 37.75 percent, a difference of just over 100 votes. 

Jim Duffield, who pulled out of the race but not in time to be taken off the ballot, is at 12.94 percent.

There are still a few hundred Kenai absentee ballots to sort through. Kenai City Clerk Jamie Heinz said Wednesday she has already received 200 of the 314 by-mail ballots she sent out. Ballots that were postmarked on or before yesterday will count toward the final totals.

Derkevorkian said he ran in part because he did not approve of sending out those ballots.

“What really drove me to run for assembly and challenge my opponent Hal was his stance on a few of the recent issues — the biggest one being Prop 2, the mail-in ballot voting," he said. "My wife helped gather signatures to get that repealed and I was really against the mass mail-out voting.”

The borough mailed out applications to all registered voters asking if they wanted to recieve their ballot by mail.

Derkevorkian is hopeful he will maintain his lead.

Smalley said he’s hopeful he could still pull ahead and win.

“Yeah, there’s still hope," he said. "’Cause I’m down 103.”

Kenai City Council

For the two open seats on the Kenai City Council, newcomer Teea Winger is at 37.77 percent, followed by incumbents Henry Knackstedt at 31.72 and Tim Navarre at 28.63 percent. Winger has 562 votes, Knackstedt has 472 and Navarre has 426.

This is Winger’s second attempt at a council seat and she was feeling positive Wednesday.

“It’s still so surreal today. Honestly, probably — I’ve got a major headache, so my head’s still spinning from everything," she said, laughing. "I’ve been working hard. I know that we’re still waiting on absentee ballots. I did reach out to a lot of those so I’m hoping for good feedback and numbers from the absentee ballots, as well.”

If elected, Winger said her first priority will be to sit down and go through the budget.

Knackstedt said he is “reasonably confident” that the official results will resemble the unofficial results.

“But, also, I feel that whoever the two winners are, that the council will be well-represented," he said.

He said he thinks it is too early to celebrate. If re-elected, his first priorities will be working with the city on the bluff erosion project and upcoming land use plan.

Navarre has served on the council for nine years. Prior, he was a member of the borough assembly.

“I think even though there are a lot of absentees, I think it will stay the way it is," Navarre said. "Since the real change will be between me and Henry, I’m excited about Henry continuing on. He does a good job. I've been there for nine years so I don't have any problem, and I wish Teea the best of luck as she starts her term on the city council.”

Navarre said he’s excited to see the work the council does on the bluff erosion project. He said he’ll continue to work on bettering the city through public service and nonprofit work.

Proposition 2

Most voters so far have supported Proposition 2, to repeal the hybrid vote-by-mail system: 66.98 percent (6,431 votes) to repeal to 33.02 percent (3,171 votes) to retain.

Other races

The District 6 Eastern Peninsula School Board seat is leaning toward incumbent Virginia Morgan over Katie Hamilton, 54.88 to 43.95 percent — a difference of 93 votes.

Other races are uncontested. Bill Elam will be the next representative for Assembly District 5 Sterling-Funny River, Paul Whitney will be the mayor of Soldotna and Pamela Parker and Justin Ruffridge will maintain their seats on the Soldotna City Council.

Debbie Cary will be the Board of Education District 7 Central representative, Penny Vadla will serve the board from District 4 Soldotna and Jason Taurianen will be the representative from District 3 Nikiski.