Soldotna resident and Kenai Peninsula Borough mayoral candidate Fred Sturman used one phrase to describe how he felt about the results of Tuesday's election.
"I'm shocked," he said with a laugh.
With all but the absentee ballots counted, Sturman gathered enough votes to place in a runoff election for the borough mayor's seat - currently held by David Carey - with former borough mayor and state legislator Mike Navarre.
"They have all been in politics all their lives," Sturman said of four of the other five candidates who competed for the seat. "I never really have, and I speak my piece, but I never thought I would get this far."
With 26 of 27 precincts reporting, Navarre nabbed 38.61 percent, or 3,187 votes, in Tuesday's election, which was more than 1,232 votes than Sturman, but not enough to win the seat outright. Sturman gathered 1,955 votes, or 23.69 percent.
Former borough mayor Dale Bagley came in third with 15.53 percent, or 1,282 votes; former assembly member Debbie Brown gathered 12.27 percent, or 1,013; former assembly member Gary Superman gathered 7.80 percent, or 644 votes; Nikiski resident Tim O'Brien received 148 votes, or 1.79 percent.
"It's definitely a good portion of the vote, but it's not over, obviously," Navarre said.
Navarre said he was expecting to pull about 40 percent of the borough vote and was confident heading into the day Tuesday.
He said he is "cautiously optimistic, but (it's) something that's in voters' hands."
"I am very pleased with the votes I got today and I am very pleased with the reception around the borough as I have traveled around," he said. "It is really up to the voters and it really is going to be determined by the turnout in the runoff. It's whose voters get out to vote and in a runoff that's just critically important."
Navarre said he wasn't surprised to see Sturman come in second. He thought the vote had been "split up" between Brown, Sturman and Bagley.
"I thought Fred was kind of surging at the right time," he said. "He ran a good campaign and he has definitely had the anti-tax message."
"I'm going to work hard at it for the next couple of weeks and hopefully get a good turnout," he said.
Sturman said getting into a runoff election was what he had hoped for when he decided to run and he wasn't surprised by his competition, even though he thought Bagley would be his closest competition.
"I'm overwhelmed that the community started listening to my message that I've been preaching for a long time, but we are spending more money than we can afford to spend and I am just overwhelmed," he said.
Coming into the day Tuesday, Sturman said he wasn't nervous.
"I was just hoping that the people would take my message and I believe that they did that we can't keep spending this money, this is a great place to live and if we all work together, we can do more with less and we must to survive," he said.
Bagley said he was disappointed and thought the "conservative vote" was broken up among himself, Brown and Sturman.
"I thought I was going to be able to put together a big enough group of people to get into the runoff, but obviously not and we'll just have to watch and see how it all pans out," he said.
Brown said she finished "respectfully" in the results. She said she "may have misgauged" her support, "but that's what a race is." However, she thinks voters haven't yet "grasped" her "urgent messages."
However, she said she would remain active in the political process because "it would not be kind of me" to not.
"This is not going to take the smile off my face," she said.
O'Brien and Superman could not be reached for comment Tuesday evening.
Borough clerk Johni Blankenship said the results of the election would be certified by Tuesday and the runoff election will be held on Oct. 25.
Brian Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.