Initial election results show Peter Micciche, of Soldotna, with a commanding lead in Tuesday’s special election for Kenai Peninsula Borough mayor. But it’s too soon to say whether it’s enough for him to win the race outright.
As of late Tuesday, Micciche had nearly 50.5% of the vote, with ballots counted at all precincts but Tyonek. The results also don’t yet include all absentee votes — which officials say could come in at a higher rate than usual, due to the timing of the special election. The borough will be counting absentee ballots through next Tuesday.
If Micciche’s lead stays above 50%, as more ballots are tallied, he wins. If it falls below, the borough will hold a run-off election between the top two vote-getters next month. Micciche is holding his majority by just 24 votes and Acting Borough Clerk Michele Turner said the borough has received 1,700 absentee ballots, so far.
Micciche, who previously served as mayor of the City of Soldotna and was most recently president of the Alaska State Senate, was one of four candidates on the ballot.
Linda Farnsworth-Hutchings is in second place so far, with 17.4% of the vote. Farnsworth-Hutchings sits on the Soldotna City Council and is the accountant at Hutchings Auto Group.
David Carey, a retired teacher who also sits on Soldotna City Council and was previously borough mayor, has 11.1% of the vote.
Zachary Hamilton, an Air Force veteran and co-owner of Brothers’ Cafe in Kenai, has 4.8%.
Robert Wall, of Sterling, is running a write-in campaign for the mayor’s seat. About 16.1% of votes so far were cast as “unresolved write-in,” according to the borough.
The winner of Tuesday’s election will serve through the next regularly scheduled municipal election, in October. The seat has been vacant since the resignation of former Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce last summer and is currently filled by interim Mayor Mike Navarre.
Micciche said regardless of whether the election goes to a runoff or not, he has been grateful to see the solid base of support from precincts across the Kenai Peninsula. He said he thinks it helped that he spent time in communities that sometimes feel voiceless at the borough level.
And he said, if he wins, he’d like to follow-up on plans for a borough-wide working group, which would get feedback from constituents on borough services.
“That’s my final message, is for folks to get ready to volunteer and engage,” he said. “Because I think it’s important. They’re the key to our success — it’s not someone sitting in a borough building somewhere, it’s the constituents being willing to take part in their government to make it better.”
Voter turnout borough-wide is just over 9%, so far. That’s low, compared with 18% turnout in the municipal election back in October.
If no runoff is necessary, the borough will certify results of the election next week, on Feb. 21.