Democrat Mark Begich takes lead in mayoral race, faces runoff

Posted: Wednesday, April 05, 2000

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Democrat Mark Begich took a strong lead in the mayoral race Tuesday over Republican George Wuerch, who was fighting Republican Jack Frost for second place and a spot in a likely runoff election.

With 90 percent of the vote counted, Begich had 40 percent of the vote to Wuerch's 20 percent. Frost was in third place with 19 percent.

The outcome of the Wuerch-Frost contest probably won't be known until absentee and challenged ballots are counted within the next ten days.

Because no one received 50 percent of the vote a runoff will be held May 2.

''We're going to put on a full-court press for the next four weeks,'' Begich said.

Begich lost in a runoff in 1994 to Rick Mystrom. Mystrom is not running for re-election.

Begich, 38, a real estate investor and small business owner, served as an Anchorage assemblyman from 1988 to 1999 and was voted chairman three times. He is the son of former Congressman Nick Begich, a Democrat who vanished with U.S. House Speaker Hale Boggs in a plane crash in 1972.

Begich said if elected he would improve the city's economy by upgrading infrastructure and increasing air cargo business at Anchorage International Airport.

Wuerch, a second-tern assemblyman, said it was too early to tell if he or Frost would come in second.

''I'd like to be the one who is in the runoff,'' he said.

If elected, Wuerch said he would reduce the size and cost of municipal government. If a property tax cap initiative succeeds in the fall, Wuerch, 64, wants to offset a possible loss in the city's budget by selling utilities and opening city services to competition. He said he also would improve roads, make snow removal a top priority and support programs for more low-income housing.

Frost, a radio advertising executive, has never held political office. He served two years as chairman of the municipal Ethics Board. If elected, Frost, 61, said he'd improve the look of the city by instituting design standards for downtown buildings and would improve traffic flow.

Frost said he was encouraged by the early results, particularly given that precincts reporting were the ones where Wuerch was expected to do well. He said he would come on strong in the remaining precincts.

''I think we're going to win,'' Frost said.

Voters also approved a tax on rental cars, expansion of the Hillside ski area and a nearly $78 million school bond proposal.

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