Juneau Assembly incumbents lead, new city hall trails in initial election results

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Odin Brunie drops off his ballot at City Hall on Oct. 3, 2023. (Anna Canny/KTOO)

Preliminary results in Juneau’s municipal election show incumbents on the Assembly holding healthy leads and a few of the 10 candidates in the areawide race separating themselves from the pack. 

The race for two Juneau School Board seats does not appear to be close, with David Noon and Britteny Cioni-Haywood each getting nearly twice as many votes as Paige Sipniewski.

But the ballot measure to fund a new city hall was much closer, with votes against the bond measure leading by just 112 votes.

Voters may not know the races’ outcomes for up to two weeks. Tonight’s tally only includes ballots sent in or dropped off before Election Day, and there are likely thousands more left to count. 

Officials had counted 5,198 ballots by Wednesday morning, and 27,767 people are registered to vote in Juneau. Voters cast 9,137 ballots in Juneau’s 2022 municipal election.

Election officials will post updated results a few times until they’re certified on Oct. 17.

‘Democracy only works when people have choices’

At the Mendenhall Valley Public Library on Tuesday morning, election workers set up booths as voters trickled in. Some were there to vote in person. Others swapped completed ballots for “I voted” stickers. 

Last year, five incumbents ran unopposed for reelection to the Juneau Assembly and school board. This time, 14 people ran for four Assembly seats, and three people ran for two school board seats.

Voter Sylvia Madaras said she hadn’t seen this many candidates in a Juneau municipal election before. 

“I thought it was a sign that civic engagement was really high,” Madaras said.

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Areawide Assembly candidate Dorene Lorenz waves a campaign sign on Oct. 3, 2023. (Katie Anastas/KTOO)

Bill Oatman stopped by the library to drop off his ballot. He had filled out his ballot on Tuesday morning, and he was happy to see new names.

“I don’t consider politics a career thing,” he said. “So I like to see new people come in.”

Deputy Municipal Clerk Andi Hirsch said having so many candidates is better for an election.

“I love when there’s a contested race, or all races are contested,” she said. “I really think that helps drive conversation and turnout, because democracy only works when people have choices.”

Hirsch said Tuesday morning that turnout seemed to be about the same as last year, which was also the state’s first-ever ranked choice general election

Two school board candidates hold large leads

Three candidates vied for two seats on the Juneau School Board. Preliminary votes showed David Noon and Britteny Cioni-Haywood leading. Noon had 3,216 votes, Cioni-Haywood had 2,993, and Paige Sipniewski trailed with 1,646. 

Each of the top two vote-getters will serve a three-year term.

Incumbent Assembly members lead in Districts 1 and 2

Assembly members Alicia Hughes-Skandijs and Christine Woll ran for reelection against one opponent each. 

As of Wednesday morning, Hughes-Skandijs led challenger Joe Geldhof by 839 votes in the race for District 1 assembly seat. In the District 2 race, Woll led David Morris by 1,391 votes. 

Hughes-Skandijs has been on the Assembly since 2019. On Tuesday morning, she stood by the Juneau-Douglas Bridge holding her campaign sign in one hand and Woll’s in the other. 

She said voters told her the number of candidates pushed them to do their research.

“There’s been a lot more doing the step-by-step homework of, ‘I better go back and watch that forum,’” Hughes-Skandijs said. “My biggest hope today is that turnout is decent.”

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Juneau Assembly member Alicia Hughes-Skandijs waves to drivers on Oct. 3, 2023. Hughes-Skandijs is running for the District 1 seat. (Katie Anastas/KTOO)

Woll said this election felt different than her last one for a few reasons. For one, her last election was in 2020, so she couldn’t do the door knocking and in-person events she did this year.

Another difference was how often cruise ship tourism came up in her conversations with voters.

“Everyone wants to talk about cruise ships,” Woll said. “I was amazed at how consistently people across the political spectrum wanted to talk about how to manage tourism better.”

She said new Assembly members should talk to as many city staff and community members as possible about different topics.

“You’re not going to get another opportunity to be like, ‘Hey, I’m new, I don’t really know exactly what’s going on, tell me everything that you think,’” she said. “I had a few of those conversations when I started, and they were so valuable.”

In areawide race, early results winnow down large field

Ten people ran for two areawide Assembly seats. Preliminary results show Paul Kelly and Ella Adkison leading with 1,946 and 1,698 votes, respectively. 

Close behind were Nathaniel “Nano” Brooks (1,489 votes), JoAnn Wallace (1,340 votes) and Laura Martinson McDonnell (1,316 votes).

The five remaining candidates got fewer than 500 votes each.

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Areawide Assembly candidate Paul Kelly waves to drivers on Oct. 3, 2023. (Katie Anastas/KTOO)

Kelly turned out to wave signs at the Juneau-Douglas bridge on Tuesday morning, too. He was on the Juneau school board from 2018 to 2021 and ran for the District 1 Assembly seat in 2021. He said this year, voters were eager to talk about city hall, tourism, homelessness and other issues.

“I think there was a lot more engagement,” he said. “There were a lot more people who I had the chance to listen to, and a lot more people who wanted to listen to what I had to say.”

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Areawide Assembly candidate Ella Adkison holds a campaign sign on Oct. 3, 2023. (Katie Anastas/KTOO)

On the same street corner, Adkison waved to drivers. She said the many forums held this year helped the candidates build relationships with each other.

“Because there’s two seats, it’s been really great getting to know all the candidates, because if I win, I’m going to serve with one of them,” Adkison said. “In a sense, it makes the race more challenging, but I’m so happy to see the community buying in and being ready to serve.”

Across the street, Martinson McDonnell said she hopes this level of engagement continues after the election. She said voters talked to her about property taxes and the cost of living in Juneau. Others brought up topics like public safety and the graveyards on Douglas.

“I’ve learned so much about things that I had no idea were on people’s minds,” she said. “There’s a few really good things about election season, and one of them is that everybody gets to talk. Community priorities start coming up to the surface in a different way.”

KTOO’s Anna Canny and Yvonne Krumrey contributed reporting.

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