Mayoral candidates ready for runoff

Posted: Wednesday, March 21, 2001

With less than one week to go before the special runoff election to determine who will be Soldotna's next mayor, both A. Kearlee Wright and David Carey have stepped up their campaigns.

The election will be held on Tuesday, with polls open at Soldotna City Hall from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Wright, a former Soldotna mayor and council member, has been running a large advertisement in the Clarion and a reader board outside the King Salmon Restaurant, which he owns, both with a humorous slant.

The sign reads "Vote Often and Early -- Kearlee for Soldotna Mayor," while his newspaper ad has a close-up photograph of a moose with the caption, "Elvira (the moose) and all her friends support Kearlee for Mayor."

"I've been getting a lot of comments about Elvira," Wright said.

He said there was quite a story behind his friendship with the moose.

"I found her when she was a calf, I guess she'd been hit by a car and was pretty well starved to death, and one leg was in terrible shape," Wright said. "So I got some antibiotics and hand-fed her and watered her through the winter, and in May she took off into the woods. That was 15 years ago.

"But every year at Thanksgiv-ing she shows up again. I can tell it's her because of her ear," he added. "I can call her and she'll walk right up to me and lay her head on my chest."

In addition to advertising, Wright said, he's meeting with business people and talking with residents about his platform, which revolves around making and keeping Soldotna a good place for families.

"A strong family unit makes for a strong community," he said. "We've got to maintain a family atmosphere."

However, he pointed out that single people are part of the community as well, and he's not saying they aren't welcome.

He also said Soldotna's growth should be managed so that there is enough room in the schools and that public safety and other support services keep pace.

"And we need to enhance the beauty of the town," he said.

Carey, a teacher at Skyview High School, is a Soldotna City Council member and former Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly member. He's taking a more low-key approach, with advertisements not much bigger than postage stamps. But while the ads are small, there are 11 of them, each with a word or two about Carey's platform.

Some of them read "Guiding Our City," "Diversify Soldotna," "Positive Attitude," "Fishing for Leadership?," "Wrestling with Taxes?," "Lower Taxes" and "NO PRISON!"

"My sister and I thought these up," Carey said. "We knew we wanted to make them short and to the point to spark discussion."

In addition to the ads, Carey is pounding the pavement and pressing the flesh quite a bit in the days leading up to the election.

"Having lived here for almost forever, I know a lot of people and have been having a great dialogue on the whole process," he said.

He's also put up about 40 signs, though they have not eaten into his $1,200 budget, as they were left over from his unsuccessful 1988 campaign bid for the state Senate.

"When I worked for (U.S. Rep.) Nick Begich, he taught me to make my signs just generic enough to reuse," Carey said. "So my buttons say 'Carey,' and my signs and bumper-stickers say 'Vote Carey.'

"I'm just recycling my '88 campaign."

Carey and Wright are in a runoff election because neither one carried 40 percent of the popular vote during the Feb. 27 regular election, which attracted five candidates, but only 289 voters, or 10 percent of the 2,830 registered in the city.

Carey received 105 votes to Wright's 95.

"I want to make it clear that I support Kearlee as a person," Carey said. "It's been a very nice campaign, and we both like and respect each other and are working with each other.

"It makes it an awful lot nicer when both candidates respect each other."

Wright reciprocated.

"I'm not running against Dave Carey. I filed for the seat of mayor," he said. "I have no ego and no issues. My issues will be what the people want. I'll represent them."

The need to look for a new mayor arose in November, when then-mayor Ken Lancaster was elected to the Alaska House of Representatives. Vice Mayor Jim Stogsdill has presided at council meetings and led the city since Lancaster left for Juneau in January. He did not run in February's election, saying he had no interest in keeping the job full-time.

Tuesday's runoff election will be certified at the Soldotna City Council's next meeting, on April 4, which is a different day than usual. While the council usually meets on the second and fourth Wednesdays of a month, the council will meet April 4 because several council members are scheduled to be out of town on March 28.

The winning candidate can be sworn in as early as April 9, but City Clerk Pat Burdick said most new mayors wait until the next meeting to take office, which would be April 11.

Once seated, Soldotna's new mayor will serve until October 2002, the date Lancaster's term would have ended.

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