Homer elections: 50 years of decision-making

In the 50 years of Homer News’ existence, stories about elections have figured large. From the local citizenry laying the groundwork for questions to be resolved to the actual voting, it has been the process through which issues big and small have been decided.
On page one of the very first Homer News, Jan. 7, 1964, one of the most significant elections was beginning to take shape, whether Homer should incorporate.
“The incorporation move has gained steam or at least more interest,” the front-page story read. “At the meeting of the Homer Civic Group last Thursday, there were a few new faces. The discussion started with the question of ‘Why such a big area?’ All finally agreed that the best way would be to ask the people which size they would prefer.” Three weeks later, the page one headline read, “Election date set.”
By mid-February, election coverage was gaining momentum, no longer just a question of incorporating. Twelve individuals, their names on the front page, had stepped up as council candidates to guide Homer through its early days.
“The Homer News is gratified to see the response of qualified candidates in the City Council race,” the Feb. 12 editorial read. “The election is still four weeks away, but there is already a slate which gives the voters a wide choice to choose from, and no doubt more will throw their hats in the ring before Election Day.”
Campaign ads soon followed, with candidates listing reasons for running that sound very similar to reasons identified by more recent candidates.
“We need better recreational facilities and job opportunities for our youth so they will want to live in Homer when they become adults,” G. G. Sewell said in his paid political advertisement.
Candidate Eugene V. Browning campaigned for development of the Spit.
“I am convinced the Homer Spit is the most valuable possession we have and if its potential is used it would cure a major ill — lack of employment,” Browning stated in his ad.
The incorporation vote was held March 10, polls were open 12 hours and the final vote was 258 supporting incorporation, 141 opposing it. Of 26 absentee ballots cast, one was voided because of no witness of signature and another because the voter lived outside the area. The election judges also challenged one voter’s motive for establishing residence.
“They felt that his permanent place of residence was outside of the area and that he had moved into the area 30 days before the election only for the purpose of voting in this election,” the Homer News reported.
In addition, after votes for and against incorporation were counted, the box containing ballots for the council election was opened and six more incorporation ballot were found.
Election night was apparently a busy one at the newspaper, with the phone ringing off the hook and slowing down the staff’s efforts to get the following day’s paper ready for publication.
“As midnight approached the Homer News was forced to take their phone off the hook in order to print this paper,” the following day’s coverage of the election said.
A special election in August 1964 officially set the terms of office and election dates for the newly incorporated city’s mayor and council. Adhering to that schedule, the city of Homer’s first regular election was held Oct. 6, 1964.
Clearly, the October election got voter’s attention. In addition to a slate of one mayor and six council candidates, each of them running unopposed, enthusiastic voters contributed six write-ins for mayor and 24 for council.
Elections have continued to be the process for making decisions. The municipal election this Oct. 7 is no exception. The ballot contains two candidates for Homer mayor, four for two openings on the Homer City Council, a proposition asking if Homer wants to write its own charter and become a home-rule city, and the names of seven candidates willing to be the ones to draft that charter.
In a seeming example of history repeating itself, this is the second time Homer voters have been faced with the decision of becoming a home-rule city. The idea first surfaced in 1975. A commission was selected, a charter was drafted and, in 1976, the proposed charter was turned down by voters.
The commission made a second attempt at writing a charter, as provided for by state law, however that second draft also was rejected by voters in 1977.
The one thing that has changed over the years is voter participation. It the October 2013 regular election, 20.78 percent of Kenai Peninsula Borough voters turned out, with 24.76 percent in Homer precinct 1 and 23.19 percent in precinct 2.
In Oct. 7, 1964, the Homer News reported a much different picture for that year’s mayoral and city council election.
“In a surprising turnout, the citizens of Homer showed an interest in their local government by giving approximately 75 percent of the possible votes in an unopposed election,” the Homer News reported.
“The first officially elected city council and mayor of the city of Homer thus have an enthusiastic send-off on their coming tour of duty.”
McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben.jackinsky@homernews.com.