Newcomer Rob Edwardson ousts incumbent Debbie White for Assembly seat

• Kiehl, Gladziszewski hold on to seats

When Rob Edwardson walked into a workshop in June about how to run for public office, he wasn’t sure he fully intended on running. When he left, he was sure he wanted to run for the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly.

 

“I thought it was possible,” Edwardson said of winning. “I didn’t think it was probable.”

During a whirlwind 30 minutes as results came in Tuesday night, Edwardson and his family watched as possible turned into probable turned into a victory. Edwardson unseated District 2 incumbent Debbie White by an unofficial count of 2,955 to 1,967 (59.5 percent to 39.6 percent).

Full, official results will be in Friday after city staff counts all absentee and questioned ballots.

Edwardson, a legislative staffer for Rep. Justin Parish, D-Juneau, spoke politely with people in the Assembly Chambers in City Hall in the minutes after his victory. Meanwhile, White hugged supporters and joked about spending more time gardening and doing her woodworking now that the time commitment of an Assembly seat was no longer present.

“I knew I had a target on my back because I tend to say what I believe, whether it’s the right thing to say or not,” White said. “I’m really not too worried. I will always find a way to give back to my community. I’ll just pick something that takes five hours a month instead of five hours a day.”

The two other incumbents, District 1 Assembly member Jesse Kiehl and Areawide Assembly member Maria Gladziszewski won their races by wide margins. Kiehl, running against challengers Chuck Collins and Loretto Jones, finished with 66.4 percent of the vote while Collins finished second with 28.5 percent and Jones earned 4 percent of the vote.

Gladziszewski, who ran against write-in candidate Andy Hughes, picked up 76.8 percent of the votes that were cast.

Kiehl, who ran unopposed in 2014, now enters his third term on the Assembly. Kiehl said that moving forward with the Assembly, the biggest issues remain largely the same: working out a sustainable budget, promoting economic development, finding solutions for seniors and improving public safety, among others.

“When I went door-to-door for the last three solid weeks,” Kiehl said, “I met a lot of people who appreciated a constructive approach to solving problems and the outlook that Juneau can get through this rough patch. I think that’s what I heard from people.”

Both Kiehl and Edwardson said they were thankful for the efforts that their families were so involved in their campaigns. Edwardson’s campaign in particular was a family affair, with his daughter Susie as his campaign manager and his wife Sandy as the volunteer coordinator.

Both Rob and Sandy said they were shocked at how many people they didn’t know approached them and pledged their support. Susie said they didn’t expect the process to be easy at all, but that they learned a great deal and are ready to see Rob take his spot on the Assembly.

During his campaign, Edwardson listed addressing homelessness and public safety as high priorities. He also said he was not in favor of looking into changing the city’s mining ordinance, which differs from White’s stance.

“My mind right now, and it might sound cliché, is on, ‘What next?’” Edwardson said. “What’s next are the things that I talked about on my campaign, the things that endanger people’s lives, like homelessness and addiction. That’s what I’d like to work on.”

Voters approve both propositions

The two propositions on the ballot passed with relative ease. Proposition 1, which would extend the 1 percent sales tax increase and send the projected revenue to mostly maintenance projects, passed with 76.8 percent of people voting in favor.

Proposition 2, a charter amendment that allows the city to award project bids on factors other than only the lowest bidder, passed with 70.3 percent of voters’ approval. Juneau voters have not voted down a proposal since 2011, when voters defeated two proposals.

Gladziszewski said she felt the extension of the sales tax was “necessary,” and was glad the community shared her sentiments. She was concerned that voters would go against Proposition 2 in particular.

“I’m happy that the two propositions passed,” Gladziszewski said. “I wasn’t sure that the charter amendment wasn’t explained all that well, or I was worried that it wasn’t, and that if people didn’t understand it they would just vote no.”


• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or alex.mccarthy@juneauempire.com.


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