Tuesday’s election for two Kenai Peninsula Borough races saw two incumbents re-elected, although in the race for the District 8 School Board seat, board member Liz Downing held a slim lead of 13 votes over challenger Mike Illg. Absentee ballots could change the results.
In an unofficial tally, Downing has 451 votes or 50.67 percent of the vote and Illg has 438 votes or 49.21 percent. Results show Downing leading in two precincts, Homer No. 2 and Kachemak City-Fritz Creek, and Illg also leading in two, Diamond Ridge and Homer No. 1. In the Tyonek precinct, neither candidate received votes.
“We’ll have to wait for the final results,” said Downing, who has served on the school board since 2005. “Mike’s a good guy. I think I’ve done a good job and certainly care about what I do and we’ll see who is certified on Oct. 9.”
In the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly District 9 race, incumbent Mako Haggerty easily won re-election to a second term, defeating challenger Jesse Clutts by about 24 percentage points. With seven out of eight precincts reporting, Haggerty had 429 votes or 61.82 percent to 263 or 37.90 percent for Clutts. Clutts, owner of the Anchor River Inn, won his hometown precinct by a 9-percent margin, but lost all other precincts.
“We gave it our best chance. We gave people what I thought was a clear choice, a different option, a different candidate, a different ideology,” Clutts said. “They chose to stick with Mako. That’s the way it goes.”
“I am pleased that I have the opportunity to exercise what I learn over the last three years for another three years,” Haggerty said.
The District 9 race was one of the few races on the lower Kenai Peninsula where candidates distinguished themselves in political philosophy. Clutts campaigned on a platform of minimal government, saying the assembly should stick to providing core services of schools and roads. Clutts also had criticized Haggerty for backing the anadromous stream protection ordinance, what Clutts called an overreaching of borough authority.
Haggerty said he was pleased to be re-elected so he could keep working on that ordinance.
“I’m glad I’m going to be around while we resolve some of the issues on the anadromous streams ordinance,” he said.
In the school board race, Illg, the community recreation-schools coordinator for the city of Homer, was encouraged by the narrow gap separating him from Downing.
“This tells me a lot of people were really supportive of my ideas and concepts for improving community communication, involvement and connection with local schools. Most importantly, taking care of our kids in our community,” Illg said.
He noted at a meeting he’d attended earlier in the week, “a community member said, ‘Look, my kids are grown up, but I’m here because I care about all the kids in the community.’ For me, that’s exactly the message I’m trying to portray. To strengthen our community, to make it healthy, to overcome negative things that come our way, we need to do it as a community, not as an academic institution.”
A low voter turnout of 18 percent in the Homer area concerned Downing.
“But I don’t control how they do elections and it does seem odd that there’s such important elections that are so separated from the others,” she said, referring to the Aug. 28 primary election and the Nov. 6 general election.
Redistricting moved some voters who had been in District 9 into District 8, the assembly area represented by Assembly member Bill Smith and by Downing for the school board seat. Redistricting didn’t seem to have a major effect on the District 9 assembly race.
Haggerty said he had no expectations about how the race would turn out. He said he had been concerned that his supporters might have been less motivated.
“I did know Jesse’s support was motivated,” Haggerty said. “I was really happy to see the percentage turn out the way it did.”
Clutts, who also ran with Tom Clark against Haggerty three years ago, said it’s too soon to tell if he will run again after Haggerty finishes his term and can no longer run again because of term limits.
“I can’t say I wouldn’t run again, but its not on the top of my to-do list,” Clutts said. “I had a lot of fun with it. … I’m glad it’s over. It’s now back to things that pay money.”
Of Downing, Illg said, “I think she has done a great job. I think she will continue to do a great job. Win or lose, this was a great experience. I’m glad people had a choice.”
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