Too close to call Unalaska municipal ballots for mayor, marijuana after record voter turnout

The polls have closed, but it’s still too close to call for half of Unalaska’s municipal races.

Election Day at Unalaska City Hall. (Photo by Laura Kraegel, KUCB - Unalaska)
Election Day at Unalaska City Hall.
(Photo by Laura Kraegel, KUCB – Unalaska)

Tuesday’s election set a new record for voter turnout. But with about 80 absentee and questioned ballots outstanding, City Clerk Cat Hazen said several races could go to runoffs, including mayor and City Council Seat C.

“There’s a significant number of ballots that’ll be canvassed on Friday — certainly enough to make a difference in the final results,” said Hazen.

In the five-way race for mayor, incumbent Shirley Marquardt holds a strong lead with 39 percent of the vote. She needs more than 40 percent to win a fifth term in office, which means she could claim victory without a runoff if enough outstanding ballots go her way.

But if not, the race will come down to Marquardt and former mayor Frank Kelty, who earned second place with 29 percent of the vote. The runoff election, if necessary, would take place Nov. 1.

The other five-way contest for City Council Seat C could come down to a runoff as well. Incumbent Roger Rowland holds 38 percent of the vote. If he doesn’t earn more than 40 percent after canvassing, he’ll face second-place candidate Jeff Treannie, who took 25 percent of the vote.

Whether or not those highly contested seats go to runoffs, Unalaska resident Lori Gregory said she was glad to see so many names on the ballot.

“I’ve seen a lot of elections here and lot of uncontested races, so I’m very grateful there are actually contested races this time,” Gregory said. “I see more and more as the years go by, and I’m just grateful.”

Two other races were also too close to call.

In the ballot referendum, 53 percent of Unalaskans voted to repeal the city’s ban on marijuana businesses, while 47 percent voted to keep the ban in place. The initiative needs a simple majority to pass, so Unalaska’s stance on commercial pot will be decided Friday after canvassing is finished.

The race for School Board Seat D will also be decided then. Incumbent Denise Rankin earned 55 percent of the vote to hold off challenger Harriet Berikoff — at least, for now. Berikoff took 47 percent of the vote, but she could win if enough outstanding ballots come back in her favor.

Meanwhile, four races ended Tuesday when the polls closed. Killian Baker failed to upset incumbent David Gregory, who won City Council Seat D with 68 percent of the vote. John Waldron was also re-elected to the City Council after running unopposed, as were Cherry Tan and Frank Kelty on the school board.

In all, Hazen said the record turnout brought about 700 Unalaskans to the polls, or about 36 percent of registered voters.

The outstanding absentee and questioned ballots will be canvassed at City Hall on Friday at 10 a.m. Election results will be certified at a City Council meeting next week, with any necessary run-off elections set for Nov. 1.

Laura Kraegel covers Unalaska and the Aleutian Islands for KUCB . Originally from Chicago, she first came to Alaska to work at KNOM, reporting on Nome and the Bering Strait Region. ( / 907.581.6700)

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