Soldotna election decided by less than 1 percent

Posted: Friday, October 13, 2006

Only three one-hundredths of a percent of the vote made the difference in the municipal election in Soldotna where candidates for city offices must receive more than 40 percent to be elected.

Official results, which were certified Wednesday night, showed Betty Obendorf winning City Council Seat C with 40.03 percent, or 281 votes.

Sharon Hale received 259 votes for 36.89 percent; Shea Hutchings got 97 votes for 13.82 percent; John Smallwood got 60 votes for 8.55 percent; and five write-in votes were cast representing 0.71 percent.

In Kenai, a count of absentee and questioned ballots reversed the result for the one-year city council seat, which pitted Barry Eldridge against Tony Lewis.

On election night, Lewis held a four-vote margin over Eldridge, 533 to 529. Eldridge, however, garnered 75 absentee or questioned ballots, compared to Lewis’ 65, putting Eldridge in office by six votes.

Kenai election totals have been tabulated by the canvass board, but will not be certified until the next city council meeting, which will be Tuesday instead of Wednesday — Alaska Day.

When contacted by phone Thursday morning, neither Hale nor Lewis said they had plans to ask for a recount.

“I’m not unhappy with the election,” said Hale. “I think Betty will do a good job.”

“I’m not sure if I will (run) again, but I’m glad I did,” she said. “I learned a lot about the city and some things about myself.”

Following the Soldotna City Council meeting Wednesday, newly elected Council member Obendorf said, “I’m excited about working with this group.

“I know I have a lot to learn; I’m ready,” she said.

Obendorf also said she is “grateful for the one person who put me over the top.”

Soldotna Mayor Dave Carey said the closeness of the result again shows the importance of each and every vote.

“If just one person had voted the other way, we would have had to have a runoff election,” Carey said.

In Kenai, Lewis said he thought running for city council was “a great experience.”

“I got to go around and meet a lot of people,” he said.

“I think I will stay involved ... maybe on the Planning and Zoning Commission. The result shows that in a democracy, every vote counts,” Lewis said.

Phil Hermanek can be reached at

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