Incumbency should not ever mean automatic re-election to any office. In this year's Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly and school board races, however, incumbents hold an edge over their opponents.
That edge is experience, and it does matter.
That's not to say previous elected office is the only qualification that should be considered when voters study their choices. It is to say that this year's incumbents have a far superior record in community involvement and service than their opponents do and that includes their time on the assembly and school board.
Another difference is incumbents have based their campaigns "for" something. They don't have any axes to grind. In general, they have focused on ways to keep bettering the quality of life in the borough by continued improvement in such areas as education, roads and budget matters. They have convincing evidence that they've done a good job. The borough is in good shape -- financially and otherwise. There's always room for improvement, and incumbents have outlined specific areas they'd like to work on.
On the other hand, most of the challengers in the assembly races are running "against" things. They are running against more government, more taxes, more rules and regulations. Who isn't against a bloated bureaucracy? Describing borough government that way indicates a lack of knowledge about what local government looks like and what services it performs. When candidates run "against" things, it's very difficult to know what they will support when they get to office. Will they vote "no" on everything? It's easy to oppose more taxes, but how will the nay-sayers create more revenue when faced with a budget gap? What services will they cut? How does a community become more livable if its leaders are against everything?
The good thing about this year's assembly races is that voters do have options. If they don't like the direction the borough is headed, they have a choices for change. From our perspective, the borough is headed in good directions. To keep it moving forward, our assembly votes are with:
In District 3, Nikiski: Gary Superman.
In District 4, Soldotna: Pete Sprague.
In District 7, Central: Paul Fischer.
While three seats also are open on the school board, incumbents Sandy Wassilie of District 6, Seward, and Sunni Hilts of District 9, South Peninsula, are running unopposed.
For District 1, Kalifornsky, our vote goes to Sammy Crawford, a longtime educator who has been on the board since 1998.
Times are changing in Kenai. After almost two decades as the city's mayor, John Williams is stepping down. Whoever replaces him, has big shoes to fill. Williams has devoted much of the past 18 years into shaping Kenai into the city it is today. He has been a tireless advocate for the city and its residents and has worked hard to make sure the future of the city is on solid ground -- when it comes to both finances and livability. His commitment and concern for the city he has led for so many years is unquestionable. His vision and leadership will be missed.
The good news is that two longtime residents -- Jim Bookey and Pat Porter -- have been brave enough to step up and run for mayor. Both currently sit on the city council and know what's involved in the business of running a city and in being the voice and face for the city. Kenai residents are fortunate to have such a choice as Porter and Bookey.
The same is true for those running for two seats on the council: incumbent Joe Moore, teacher Mike Boyle and retired teacher Cliff Massie.
In Soldotna, Jane Stein and Ed Sleater are running unopposed for the two open seats.
Regardless of the outcome of Tuesday's election, all the candidates are appreciated. Their participation -- and yours -- makes the political process stronger. Having choices improves the debate.
It's not important whether voters agree with our picks for office. What is important is that they go to the polls and make their own decision Tuesday. Anyone who has questions of any of the candidates is encouraged to seek them out and talk to them about where they stand on a particular issue. Don't take our word, don't take your neighbor's word. Ask the candidates.
And then vote on Tuesday.
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