John Torgerson campaigns Tuesday night at the corner of the Sterling and Kenai Spur Highways in Soldotna.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
John Torgerson will face John Williams in a runoff election Oct. 25 after the two candidates emerged as the top vote-getters from Tuesday's municipal election for mayor of the Kenai Peninsula Borough.
Torgerson, a Kasilof resident, has experience on the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly, spent two terms in the Alaska Senate representing a portion of the peninsula and spent the past few years working for Gov. Frank Murkowski's administration. He garnered 3,133 votes, or just fewer than 36 percent of the total.
To win outright and avoid a runoff election, a candidate needed 50 percent plus one vote.
Williams, a Kenai resident who spent 18 years as mayor of the city of Kenai before stepping down last year, took in 2,227 votes, a bit over 25 percent.
John Williams campaigns at the corner of the Kenai Spur Highway and Bridge Access Road Tuesday evening.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
Gary Superman, of Nikiski, currently president of the borough assembly, ran third, garnering 1,355 votes, or about 15.4 percent.
Fred Sturman, of Soldotna, who had not served in public office before but who has been a frequent and public critic of borough spending habits, came in fourth, earning 1,143 votes, roughly 13 percent of the total.
Ed Oberts, of Soldotna, who has spent the past six years as deputy to Mayor Dale Bagley, ran fifth, earning 806 votes, just over 9 percent. Soldotna resident Raymond VinZant finished in sixth place with 81 votes, or .92 percent.
Absentee and questioned ballots still must be counted.
"We expected there would be a runoff. You hoped there wouldn't, but in your heart you knew," Torgerson said Tuesday night.
Torgerson credited his message and name recognition as contributing to his lead in Tuesday's balloting. His campaign, he said, focused on his experience with state government and that might help in dealing with issues facing the borough.
"A lot of our issues can't be solved locally," he said. "They have to be solved in cooperation with the state and federal governments. I'm more experienced in that area."
Williams said that approach was an example of the clear differences between the runoff candidates.
"The last thing I want to see is state bureaucracy at the local level," he said Tuesday evening. "I'm experienced at running local government. My competitor has not been in office in three years. He's been working for the governor. I don't think he understands grassroots problems as I do."
Williams said he, too, saw the mayor's race coming down to a probable runoff against Torgerson. Thus, Tuesday's results were no real surprise.
He did said the kicker in the equation is the results of Proposition 5, which will cap the borough sales tax at 2 percent and require approval of a 60-percent supermajority to increase that tax.
"The people have mandated something be done about government," he said. "But for me, it's dj vu. That's exactly what happened in the city three years ago and that's what it is going to be like this time. I'm looking forward to the runoff."
Torgerson said he was a bit surprised by the results of the propositions.
Both candidates said they would soon be out waving signs and knocking on doors drumming up support.
"You have to earn those votes," Torgerson said.
"This is where the fun begins," said Williams.
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