When Kenai City Council member Duane Bannock announced in June his intention to run for mayor against 15-year incumbent John Williams, the mayor welcomed the challenge.
"This will give the citizens of the city of Kenai the chance to grade me. They haven't done that in a while because I've had no competition," said Williams, who last faced an opponent six years ago in mid-June. "We'll see if the citizens agree with the direction I'm running in."
Judging by the election results Tuesday, Williams got an A-plus and a gold star from his citizens.
The mayor defended himself for the fifth time, winning with 1,201 votes to Bannock's 550, or a margin of 69 percent to 31.
"It all goes back to who runs this community: the people in the neighborhoods," Williams said Tuesday night at the Old Town Village Restaurant, where he and the opposition to the prison issue set up their own "election central."
"I'll have to reserve more comment until tomorrow when I examine the results and put the whole picture together."
The election was a de facto endorsement of the mayor's course to attract projects large and small -- with the attendant state and federal money to build them -- into the city. Bannock ran on a platform of building on the current infrastructure and attracting small business.
Kenai City Council member Duane Bannock campaigns on the corner of Bridge Access and the Kenai Spur Highway Tuesday morning.
Photo by M. SCOTT MOON
Williams came out strongly against Proposition 1, the private prison issue, which failed by a margin inverse to his victory.
His challenger came out strongly for the prison.
"Maybe my support for the prison contributed to the prison's loss," Bannock said. "It's an easy comparison to make, but it's a sad one."
Bannock pointed out that he and Williams agree on a wide variety of other issues, and he will continue to support the mayor at least for the next year. Bannock's current city council term ends a year from now. He did not say he would seek re-election.
He did say he hopes this loss will not derail his political future. He has stated he would eventually like to represent Kenai in the state House or Senate.
"I hope it doesn't alter my future, perhaps just delay it," he said. "I lost my first election to the council and I learned lessons from it. I hope I can l learn lessons from this.
"But Kenai will go on. I'll wake up tomorrow, maybe wipe a few tears away, and continue."
The prison issue may have influenced the lone contested Kenai City Council race as well. The only candidate who did not come out for the prison, Amy Jackman, won. The candidate who came out most vociferously for it, Randy Daly, co-chair of the pro-prison lobby group Concerned Citizens for Respon-sible Economic Development, came in last.
Jackman received 481 votes for the open two-year seat. Barry Eldridge, in his second campaign, received 408; John "Ozzie" Osborne, 354; and Daly, 339.
The 30-year-old Jackman was gracious in victory.
"I owe it all to my campaign manager, Kristine Holdridge," she said. "We did everything together. I leaned on her for everything."
Jackman said she was surprised to win.
"I ran a very open campaign and didn't take any position to be self-serving," she said. "I had no agenda, except serving the constituents."
Likewise, Eldridge was gracious in defeat, though he held out for the possibility of absentee votes swinging the outcome.
"But if it doesn't, then that's fine," he said.
Osborne, who has run for council eight times, had no answer as to what else he could do to get elected.
"I always run against really good people," Osborne said. "I'll be back next year. We'll see what happens."
Daly could not be reached for comment.
In the other two Kenai City Council races, incumbents Joe Moore and Jim Bookey ran unopposed. Moore hauled in 1,053 votes, Bookey 965. The pair ran unopposed three years ago and will serve another three years.
Soldotna City Council
In Soldotna, incumbent Jane Stein received 567 votes, easily outdistancing challenger Fred Sturman's 269 votes. Stein received 68 percent of the 836 votes cast for Seat D.
"I feel really very good about that, I really do," Stein said. "I'm glad (Sturman) and I got a chance to voice our opinions, and I think the people are saying they like what I'm doing."
Like Kenai, there were two uncontested city council seats up for grabs. Unlike Kenai, there were no incumbents running. Steve Horn and Mike Tarr declined to seek re-election.
Sharon Moock received 737 votes, running for Seat C. Audrey Porter ran unopposed for Seat E, receiving 716 votes.
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