Charlie Pierce and Linda Hutchings are headed to a runoff election in the race for Kenai Peninsula Borough mayor, according to unofficial results of Tuesday’s election.
Not counting absentee ballots, Pierce emerged in the lead after the polls closed Tuesday night, leading Hutchings and Dale Bagley for the seat. The unofficial rsults show Pierce taking about 39 percent of the vote, Hutchings with about 31 percent and Bagley with about 28 percent.
The runoff election will be Oct. 24.
Hutchings carried the majority in the city of Homer and the surrounding areas, while Pierce carried most of the central peninsula and the unincorporated communities. Bagley carried Soldotna, Seldovia and Seward and a few other areas.
Under borough code, the winner of the mayoral race has to receive at least 50 percent of the popular vote to win outright. Otherwise, the two top candidates will face off in a runoff election.
The winner of the runoff election will replace outgoing mayor Mike Navarre, who reached the two-term limit this fall. Navarre has been mayor since 2011 and previously served as borough mayor from 1996–1999.
Pierce said he was hoping to win more than 50 percent of the vote and avoid a runoff, but was happy with the support he’d received throughout the race. He said he was ready for a runoff.
“I’m very, very committed and my team is very, very committed to go out and to talk about the issues and to bring some focus to this election,” he said. “A lot of folks got out and voiced their wills tonight and that’s one of the wonderful things that we should never take for granted, the ability to vote.”
Bagley said he was still waiting for the absentee votes to be counted but that it wasn’t likely to make too much of a difference. A current member of the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly, he still has two years on his term representing District 4 and said there is still work to do.
Hutchings couldn’t be reached Tuesday night.
Kenai voter Greg Daniels said the borough mayoral race was the most important for him — he voted for Dale Bagley, he said.
“Charlie Pierce is a little too conservative, and Hutchings doesn’t have much experience, “ he said. “…Dale Bagley has been there twice — he knows how to run things. I think I lean toward experience, and I’m somewhat moderate.”
Political experience was also a factor for Kenai voter Arnold Wagaman, but in the opposite way.
“Dale Bagley had it once — let’s see what the other guy can do,” Wagaman said. “… I know he (Charlie Pierce) has good management skills, otherwise he wouldn’t be with the gas company. It’s one thing to have good ideas, but it’s another to be able to manage.”
Assembly President Kelly Cooper said she hoped the race would come out clear and avoid the cost of a runoff.
“If we have a runoff in the mayoral race, that’s a lot of money we have to spend — (about) $95,000,” she said.
Homer resident Floyd Seekins chose Pierce for borough mayor, citing his conservative values as well. He said he’s confident Pierce will be able to tackle the borough’s issues and come up with solutions for them.
Homer-area resident Elizabeth Harms chose Charlie Pierce for borough mayor, saying she’s liked what he’s had to say. She said there was a good slate of mayoral candidates this year.
“I thought there were enough choices,” she said. “May the best man (or) woman win.”
Clarion reporter Ben Boettger and Homer News reporters Michael Armstrong and Megan Pacer contributed reporting. Reach Elizabeth Earl at email@example.com.