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Sanford elected mayor; sales tax extension succeeds

Jones, Nankervis win Assembly races; school board incumbents returned; bond too close to call

Posted: October 2, 2012 - 10:42pm  |  Updated: October 3, 2012 - 12:06am
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Mayor-elect Merrill Sanford gives an interview shortly after final returns came in at Election Central Tuesday night in the Assembly Chambers. There are still more than 1,000 absentee votes to be counted before the election is certified, and 400 challenged ballots.  JOHN R. MOSES / JUNEAU EMPIRE
JOHN R. MOSES / JUNEAU EMPIRE
Mayor-elect Merrill Sanford gives an interview shortly after final returns came in at Election Central Tuesday night in the Assembly Chambers. There are still more than 1,000 absentee votes to be counted before the election is certified, and 400 challenged ballots.

Juneau voters selected former Assemblymember Merrill Sanford as their choice for mayor in Tuesday’s municipal election, endorsing a man with nine years of experience on the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly and strong ties to Juneau’s business community.

Sanford defeated his only opponent, League of Women Voters Treasurer Cheryl Jebe, with 3,334 votes to Jebe’s 2,674. He performed strongly in the Mendenhall Valley and Lemon Creek and carried one Juneau precinct, Juneau #3, by six votes.

“Our town voted basically the way it has voted for a number of years now,” Sanford said, assessing the voting patterns of the city and borough. He said he performed fairly well downtown, which he credited to his years of Assembly service making him familiar to voters.

Sanford said he is “happy the way things have turned out.”

Juneau voters have been casting in-person absentee ballots since Sept. 17. Those ballots were not included in Tuesday’s Election Night vote count, nor were questioned ballots cast at a polling place outside the voter’s precinct.

“We have over 1,000 absentee ballots,” said Laurie Sica, city clerk. There are exactly 400 questioned ballots, according to a count available Tuesday night.

Despite the 660-vote margin by which she is trailing, Jebe said she is waiting until absentee and questioned ballots are tallied Friday before conceding the race.

“I’m going to wait until the absentees are counted,” said Jebe.

As to whether those ballots could make up the margin, Jebe said, “I have no idea. … This is Alaska. You never know.”

In Assembly District 1, voters preferred Loren Jones to Paul Nowlin. Jones, who fell just short of being elected over now-Assemblymember Carlton Smith last year, carried every precinct in his second bid for Assembly, winning 3,223 votes to 1,934 cast for Nowlin.

Jones compared the feeling of being elected to a student’s first day of school — “both excited that you’re there and scared to death,” as he put it.

“I’m just really glad that the municipal campaigns are short,” Jones added.

Former Juneau Police Capt. Jerry Nankervis easily fended off a late write-in challenge from Dixie Hood in District 2. Not enough write-in votes were cast for them to be counted individually under city code, though Hood was the only certified write-in candidate in the race. Nankervis won 3,661 votes, to just 738 write-in votes.

“I’m pleased that I garnered the support that I did,” Nankervis said.

In the race to fill three seats on the Juneau School District Board of Education, incumbents Andrea “Andi” Story and Phyllis Carlson won easily, with 3,740 and 2,990 votes respectively. Former school board member Destiny Sargeant was also elected with 2,639 votes.

“I’m thrilled,” said Sargeant. “I can’t wait to roll up my sleeves and get on with it.”

For her part, Story said, “I’m really pleased to be back and ready to work hard.” She also praised school district staff and parents and added, “I just picture really good things for our district.”

Candidate Will Muldoon placed a respectable fourth, with 2,094 votes — 545 votes behind Sargeant, who placed third.

Running her first race since moving to Juneau in late 2010, school board candidate Michelle Johnston came in fifth, with 1,660 votes.

Of the two ballot propositions, while Proposition 2, the five-year extension of the 1 percent temporary sales tax, passed easily, the results for Proposition 1, to authorize a $25 million general obligation bond issue, were close throughout much of the night.

“Yes” on Proposition 1 clung to a narrow lead with 12 out of 13 precincts reporting. But in a dramatic turn, when the 13th precinct, Mendenhall Valley #2, reported in, the “no” votes overtook “yes,” with 3,094 “no” votes to 3,037 votes in favor.

Jones and Jebe said they are hoping the absentee and questioned ballots are enough to put Proposition 1 over the top, while Nankervis said he would prefer that the proposition fail.

Proposition 2 succeeded with 3,573 “yes” votes to 2,599 votes against, meaning the sales tax will be extended from October 2013 to October 2018.

Voter turnout was 25.4 percent of registered voters, though that number will increase as absentee and questioned ballots are added into the count.

“The voter turnout is just terrible,” said Jones.

Sica agreed that it was lower than she had hoped, remarking, “I wish we had a bigger turnout.”

But Nankervis said it was actually “higher than I expected.” He said he believes it was driven not by interest in his race, but by passion over the ballot propositions.

All results are still preliminary and unofficial pending certification. The results are set to be certified next Tuesday.

• Contact reporter Mark D. Miller at 523-2279 or at mark.d.miller@juneauempire.com.

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