In unofficial Homer City Council results, Donna Aderhold has emerged as the apparent top vote getter, taking 46 percent of votes cast. To avoid a run-off, candidates had to receive at least 20 percent of the total votes cast for two seats, said City Clerk Jo Johnson.
Aderhold easily overcame that bar.
That also means there won’t be a run-off for the second council seat, but at press time the race is too close to call, with incumbent council member Beauregard Burgess facing a tough fight to win re-election.
Heath Smith is in second place with 37 percent of the vote, Joni Wise in third with 35 percent and Burgess in third with 34 percent.
Still to be counted are 191 absentee ballots, 12 questioned ballots, 13 special needs ballots and 10 by mail absentee ballots, for a total of 226 ballots.
Smith has 344 votes, Wise 325 and Burgess 319, a 25-vote gap between Smith and Burgess that could cause the slate to shift. Ballots will be counted at 10 a.m. Friday when the Election Canvass Board meets at Homer City Hall.
“Honestly, I was surprised,” Aderhold said Tuesday night at an election party at Alice’s Champagne Palace. “Incumbents usually do well. We had several really strong candidates, I thought, so I was surprised I was that far ahead. I was definitely not expecting that.”
“I think Donna ran a really good campaign,” Burgess said late Tuesday night after he had finished picking up his yard signs. “She’s very well known in the community. Even though she struggled at the debates, people know she’s a thoughtful, thorough person. People trust her to do a good job.”
Smith said he remained optimistic that he would hold on to the second-place slot, “but cautiously,” he said. Smith has a 19-vote lead over Wise.
“Anything can happen between now and then,” he said.
Wise said she was glad to see Smith in second place and said she voted for him as well as herself. Aderhold’s lead also was a surprise to her.
“I thought Beau had it,” Wise said. “I was shocked to not see him beat Donna, honestly.”
Burgess had said earlier he ran for re-election only because many people, including other council members and city workers, encouraged him to run.
“I got into politics not to win a popularity contest or get re-elected,” Burgess said.
“My goal always has been to do a good job of governing. I see now I could have spent more time cultivating a constituency instead of being clear about how I made a decision. I’m sure that cost me a few votes,” said Burgess.
In the bottom of the ballot, Tom Stroozas took 25 percent of the vote for fifth place and Bob Howard took 18 percent. Micheal Neace’s name was on the ballot, but he’d said earlier he had withdrawn. Neace got 4 percent of the votes and there were write-in ballots totaling 1 percent.
“I think for my first time running for public office in this community, getting 25 percent of the vote was not bad for a first effort,” Stroozas said. “Who knows? I may give it a shot in the future.”
At a private party at Alice’s, Howard was philosophical about his loss.
“I’m not losing any sleep over it. The public doesn’t need my service. I know what I’ll do with my time,” Howard said. “I get to go fishing on council days.”
Howard said he would continue to serve on city commissions. He was a past member of the Sewer and Water Rate Task Force and is on the Port and Harbor Commission.
“I will continue serving my city because I care,” Howard said.
Burgess said that if he’s not re-elected, “I’ll be able to work a more normal schedule again — make money, do fun stuff on my Monday nights, go to EMT class,” he said.
Whoever wins also faces a tough challenge: figuring out how to close a projected $1 million gap in city revenues for 2016 compared to 2015. On Monday, City Manager Katie Koester introduces two possible budgets, including what she calls a “bare bones budget” that will make steep cuts in all departments.
“That task for whoever gets elected will not be an enviable one and will be a tough one,” Burgess said.
The process for calculating candidate percentages is complicated. In unofficial results, 1,863 total votes for all candidates were cast, with voters able to vote for two candidates. Not counting untallied ballots, 1,022 citizens voted in both Homer precincts. Stroozas noted that meant some voters only voted for one candidate — 861 who cast only one vote in the two-seat race.
“Who knows? Maybe that is why Donna did so well,” he said.
Aderhold said some of her supporters suggested a single-vote strategy. “I didn’t advocate one way or the other,” she said. “I told people it was their choice, their vote.”
Johnson said the vote percentages were calculated by dividing 1,863 by two seats, or 931.5. That number was then used to calculate percentages per candidate. Using that method, percentages add up to 200 percent. City code says to avoid a run-off, a candidate must receive 40 percent of the votes. Since there are two seats, each candidate must receive 20 percent of the votes, Johnson said.
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