Municipal elections

For our second set of election 2021 interviews, we spoke with James Baisden, Deborah Sounart and Alex Douthit, three of the five candidates for Kenai City Council. There are two seats open on the council this election.

We spoke with the other two candidates, Jim Duffield and Victoria Askin, last week. You can listen to those interviews here and read more about all five candidates here.

For our first set of election 2021 interviews, we spoke with Victoria Askin and Jim Duffield, two of the five candidates for Kenai City Council. There are two seats open on the council this election.

Later in the program, we talked to Sammy Crawford from the Central Peninsula League of Women Voters about why it’s so important to vote in local elections. She also remembered her own first time voting.

Sabine Poux/KDLL

Voter turnout was comparatively high in this year’s municipal election, due in part to to more than double the amount of absentee ballots usually cast in an October election. The Kenai Peninsula Borough sent out absentee applications to every registered voter this year.

The borough counted over 4,500 absentee ballots this weekend, yielding an overall voter turnout rate of 28 percent. The last two municipal elections saw voting rates around 18 percent.

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.

Election results as of 9:30 p.m., with 29 of 29 precincts reporting:

Mayor Charlie Pierce leads Linda Farnsworth-Hutchings 59.53 percent to 36.39 percent, with Troy Nightengale garnering 3.74 percent.

For Borough Assembly District 2 Kenai, challenger Richard Derkevorkian is leading incumbent Hal Smalley 48.67 to 37.75 percent, with Jim Duffield at 12.94 percent.

Sabine Poux/KDLL

You could not ask for a better, more bluebird afternoon for some election-day sign-waving. Around noon today, a dozen or so Kenai candidates and supporters were doing just that.

“There’s been honking. I think positive honking,” said Henry Knackstedt, a candidate for Kenai City Council. He was stationed out on the intersection of the Kenai Spur and Bridge Access Road today, encouraging passersby to hit the polls. He already voted absentee.


Sabine Poux/KDLL

Tomorrow is municipal election day. But many Kenai Peninsula Borough residents have already voted.

In a typical year, around 300 to 500 people vote in borough elections by mail, said borough Clerk Johni Blankenship. This year, the borough sent out absentee ballot applications to every registered voter in the borough — about 3,000 — in mid-August. Blankenship says they have received about 2,000 back.

As of this morning, another 1,200 residents had voted early in person. That’s consistent with prior years.

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Kenai Peninsula Borough mayoral candidate Linda Farnsworth-Hutchings raised more for her campaign than Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce this election, according to most-recent campaign donation reports from the Alaska Public Offices Commission. As of today, Farnsworth-Hutchings has a total reported income of nearly $34,000, with Pierce around $26,000.

Farnsworth-Hutchings also out-spent Pierce, with expenditures coming in at around $21,000. Pierce has reported spending closer to $20,000.

Voters on Oct. 6 have a rematch to settle for Kenai Peninsula Borough mayor — incumbent Charlie Pierce or challenger Linda Farnsworth-Hutchings.

Sabine Poux/KDLL

The last time Charlie Pierce and Linda Farnsworth-Hutchings campaigned for the position of Kenai Peninsula Borough mayor, in 2017, voters were buzzing about the borough’s stance on cannabis legislation and the Pebble Partnership.

The center of attention this round, unsurprisingly, has been COVID-19. At today’s 2020 mayoral candidate forum, moderator Merrill Sikorski asked the candidates about their strategies for handling coronavirus and what they thought about funding for schools and deferred maintenance projects.

The forum was part of a luncheon held by the Kenai Chamber of Commerce at the visitors’ center. Around 50 people attended.

Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce was an early proponent of opening Kenai back up following state-mandated coronavirus closures, and he spoke proudly of his position at the forum.

“I was the individual that took the lead in Marchm” Pierce said. “Following the very next day, after the governor reduced some of his mandates, I was out on the streets the very next day saying that I believe we’re all essential. I believe we’re open for business and I believe that’s the best way to save our businesses is to continue to keep government out and off of the backs of individuals in the way of taxation and the growth of government.”

Generally, Pierce said he thinks he’s done a pretty good job over the last three years. But when asked about what she would have done differently, Farnsworth-Hutchings said she would have handled borough issues “in a completely different way” than her opponent.

“I work very well one on one with everybody,” she said. “I believe in having management meetings once a week so that you can deal with all of your department heads, [seeing] what’s going on in their departments, and making sure that your employees feel like they are appreciated and are doing the most that they can do.”

Voter participation in the Kenai Peninsula Borough is not, usually, real impressive. In the past 10 years, voter turnout in municipal elections has ranged from a low of 13.35 percent to a high of 26.02 percent.

This year, COVID-19 could keep even more people away from the polls. For the municipal election coming up Oct. 6, the borough is taking an extra step to make it easier to vote in advance. 

The borough assembly directed the clerk’s office to mail absentee ballot applications to all registered voters in the borough. You should have gotten yours by now. They were sent Aug. 14.

Absentee voting is nothing new — it’s already allowed in the borough and state. You don’t even have to have a particular reason why you want to vote absentee. The only new thing this year is preemptively sending absentee applications in the mail. Borough Clerk Johni Blankenship said that, so far, the response has been good. 

“It’s very successful, let me say that. That’s why I’m so busy. In an average year, we have between 300 and 500 applications. We are at the 2,000-application mark and we still have three weeks to go,” she said.

Municipal elections are coming up Oct. 6. Depending on where you live, you’ll find candidates for Kenai Peninsula Borough mayor, assembly, city council and service areas, as well as a ballot proposition or two.

And you might see a candidate for the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Board of Education.

There are four seats up for election — District 7, central; District 6, East Peninsula; District 4, Soldotna; and District 3, Nikiski. Only the eastern peninsula race is contested.

In the middle of a year with a hotly contested state legislature election, congressional election, and presidential election, it can be easy to forget about municipal elections. But the Kenai Peninsula has those this year, too, with some major seats up for grabs.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough’s municipal candidate filing period opened today and runs through noon on August 17. The borough mayor’s office and three assembly seats, including the ones from Kenai, Sterling/Funny River, and Homer are up for election. The Board of Education has four seats up for election, including those representing Nikiski, Soldotna, East Peninsula, and Central. All of those are three-year terms.

Municipal elections are Oct. 1. We spoke with candidates for the District 1, Kalifornsky seat on the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Board of Education. Incumbent Dan Castimore and challenger Patty Truesdell were in the studio. Susan Lockwood was not able to make the live show so we connected with her earlier in the week.

Assembly narrowly supports election group work

Sep 5, 2019

 

A fairly routine piece of legislation got a lengthy discussion at Tuesday’s borough assembly meeting. The assembly was less than enthusiastic about supporting the recommendations made by an elections work group, aimed at expanding access to the polls and increasing voter turnout.

Municipal Election Day

Oct 2, 2018
Kenai Peninsula Borough

It's municipal election day in the Central Kenai Peninsula, and there are plenty of choices on the ballot.

Or not as many, depending on where you live.

For example, both Kenai Peninsula Borough Assemblymen Brent Hibbert and Kenn Carpenter, representing Districts 1 and 6 respectively, are running for reelection unopposed.

Willy Dunne is the only one of the three assemblymen with a challenger -- the Homer assemblyman faces Troy Jones in District 9.

Municipal elections are coming up Tuesday, and in the run-up to Oct. 2, KDLL has been bringing you conversations with candidates seeking office from the various jurisdictions. Wednesday on the Kenai Conversation, the three candidates for the Kenai City Council’s two open seats joined host Jay Barrett for an hourlong talk about the city’s future and their role in it.

In this excerpt, the three, incumbent Councilman Bob Molloy and challengers Teea Winger and Robert Peterkin II discuss the business environment in the city.

 

Municipal election season begins today

Aug 1, 2018

The filing window for residents interested in serving on local city councils, assemblys, and boards has opened. Candidate filing and nomination packets are available now until August 15 for those interested in running for office.

There are two seats available on the Kenai City Council and three on the Soldotna Council.