Most Alaska municipalities held their local elections last month. But candidates in the Denali Borough are just now heading into the final stretch, as voters go to the polls next Tuesday, Nov. 7 to elect a new mayor, school board and Assembly.
“We’ve always held ours on that traditional first Tuesday after the first Monday Election Day,” said Borough Clerk Amber Renshaw.
Renshaw said this year’s election will be unlike any other, because voters will elect all seven members of the school board and all seven Assembly members.
“All of our districts, every seat, is up for election,” she said.
All those seats are vacant because borough voters last year approved a ballot measure to reduce the size of both governing bodies from nine members to seven, effective this year.
Voters also passed a measure reconfiguring the seven voter districts, to reflect borough population shifts revealed by the 2020 census. The new school board and Assembly members will represent their own districts, but be elected by all the voters who turn out.
“We have a somewhat unique system set up where members run by district, but as a borough, we vote at-large,” Renshaw said.
Denali Borough voters also will choose a new mayor in next week’s election, because Clay Walker, who’s served for more than 11 years now, has run into a three-term limit. Seven candidates are vying to succeed Walker, all of them expected to attend a 6 p.m. Wednesday mayoral candidate forum at the Tri-Valley School.
“The high school students at Tri-Valley organized three different candidate forums,” Renshaw said. “One for the Assembly members, one for school board members and then for the mayoral candidates.”
She says the students may ask tough questions, like they did last week when they grilled school board candidate about such thorny issues as banning transgender athletes from competing in girls’ sports and LGBTQ-themed books from school libraries.
“Sometimes,” she said, “it makes you squirm a little, especially for some of the school board members, answering what some of us look at as, like, more grown-up questions.”