Thirteen candidates, including several incumbents, will vie for seven open seats on the newly redistricted Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly in Tuesday's municipal election.
Following the 2000 census, new assembly district boundaries were drawn reflecting changes in population. A court-approved statewide redistricting plan also means altered precinct boundaries and polling center locations. Seven of the nine assembly districts changed enough to require a new election. Some of those seats will be one- and two-year terms rather than the normal three in order to set up a rotation of seats in future elections.
Redistricting did not affect Districts 3 and 6, the Nikiski and Seward districts, enough to require a new election, so Gary Superman of Nikiski and Ron Long of Seward will serve out their current terms, which expire in 2004 and 2003, respectively.
Assembly member Pete Sprague of Soldotna is running unopposed for the District 4 (Soldotna) seat.
Likewise, assembly member Chris Moss faces no challengers in his bid for re-election to the assembly from the new Homer district, District 8.
The races for District 1 (Kalifornsky), District 2 (Kenai), District 5 (Sterling-Funny River), District 7 (Central), and District 9 (South Peninsula), drew multiple candidates and have become real political contests.
John C. Davis and Ronald J. Johnson face off in the District 1 race for a one-year term. The race in this newly formed district includes no incumbent.
Assembly member Betty Glick, appointed earlier this year to fill a seat vacated by Bill Popp, is challenging current assembly president Tim Navarre in the District 2 race for a three-year term. Redistricting put Navarre and Glick in the same district.
Assembly member Grace Merkes is pitted against Marty Anderson in the District 5 race, another three-year term.
The District 7 race drew the most candidates. Doug Ruzicka of Anchor Point and Paul Zimmerman of Kasilof face each other as well as incumbent assembly member Paul Fischer of Kasilof. The race is for a two-year term.
Finally, the District 9 contest includes incumbent Milli Martin who faces a challenge from Faith L. Schade for a one-year term.
The issues in the assembly races generally center on the future of the borough economy and perceptions of the responsiveness of borough government and the assembly.
All the candidates have called for continued efforts to bring new business to the peninsula and would consider varying degrees of incentives, such as tax breaks, on a case-by-case basis to accomplish that goal.
The candidates expressed concern over the possibility of a statewide sales tax because of what it might mean for municipalities, such as the borough and its cities, which depend on their own sales tax levies for revenue.
Incumbents generally said the assembly has been responsive to the public, while some challengers disputed that assertion. However, assembly members Merkes and Glick also said they don't believe the assembly listens enough to the public and often proceeds through public hearings as if members' minds already are made up on issues.
Most candidates said they think the borough has done a fairly good job at funding its mandates -- education, roads and solid waste disposal. But money issues remain central to the overall debate about the future of borough finances.
Also, part of that equation is whether the borough should lower its property tax mill rate again. Some candidates expressed concern at the size of the borough's savings account and have called for its reduction.
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