KPB Mayor race goes to run off, voters keep cannabis industry

Oct 3, 2017

Mark your calendars for October 24th. That’s the date of the run off election for Borough mayor. Linda Farnsworth-Hutchings and Charlie Pierce were the top two vote getters in unofficial results Tuesday night.

“I’m very, very pleased that I’m holding a majority of the votes on the Peninsula. I would say that Team Charlie is ready for the race. We’re going to run to the finish line," Pierce said.

His strategy won’t change for the next round, and he’ll continue to stump with a conservative approach. Hutchings couldn’t be reached for comment Tuesday night. Pierce has 39 percent of the vote, Hutchings has 31 percent and former Borough mayor Dale Bagely is a close third with almost 29 percent.

On the Central Peninsula in District 1 covering the K-Beach area, Brent Hibbert will retain his seat with a roughly ten point win over Dan Castimore. The Assembly seat for Kenai will be filled once again by Hal Smalley, who was term limited off the Assembly in 2014. He won over Duane Bannock by about 70 votes. Smalley says he’s looking forward to working with any administration to solve the borough’s budget issues.

“It could be either administration and of course the assembly is the legislative body, it’s stand-alone. But the mayor and the assembly work together. That’s part of the team.”

Norm Blakely will represent the Sterling and Funny River areas in District 5 with his win over Leslie Morton.

Voters also weighed in on a trio of ballot propositions, saying No to all three. A measure to raise the borough’s sales tax cap failed, as did the question of issuing bonds for upgrades to the Borough building in Soldotna. The cannabis question on ballot proposition 1 was decided by a wide margin. Voters chose to keep the marijuana industry in the Borough by a vote of 64 percent to 36 percent.

Amy Jackman is co-chair of the Keep Cannabis Legal group. She says she hopes the results Tuesday will broaden the conversation about marijuana in the Borough.

“We continue to look forward to working with them and easing their fears and trying to ensure that their voice is heard and that we take their concerns to heart as we move forward.”

That issue may have drawn a large number of absentee ballots and early votes. Borough Clerk Johni Blankenship says the number of votes left to count is significantly higher than in previous years, perhaps as much as thirty percent more than usual.

“It means that we will not have results from the absentees or the in-questions until early next week," said Tuesday.

In the city of Kenai, Henry Knackstedt and Tim Navarre will keep their seats after edging out Bob McIntosh. One contested race for school board was settled Tuesday night. Voters in Nikiski chose Jason Tauriainen over long time board member Joe Arness.