Sally Smith's supporters whooped and leaped in a victory dance Tuesday night at the Juneau-Douglas High School commons as Smith squeaked an apparent win over her principal opponent, former mayor Jamie Parsons, by a margin of 209 votes.
Amid predictions that a big voter turnout especially in the Mendenhall Valley would favor Parsons, Smith nevertheless prevailed with 4,820 votes as polls saw 10 percent more of the city's registered voters turn out than in last fall's election.
There are still about 500 questioned and 100 to 200 absentee ballots to count, according to City Clerk Laurie Sica.
But Smith wasn't worried about her margin Tuesday night. "Questioned and absentee ballots usually reflect the way the vote goes," she said.
Of the 1,090 absentee ballots tallied so far, Parsons and Smith have garnered 473 and 469 votes, respectively.
Downtown precinct results were the first to be
tallied, and Smith established an early lead. The race tightened as the valley numbers registered big wins for Parsons in at least five valley precincts.
But downtown generally regarded as Smith country showed a higher overall voter turnout than the valley, as high as 45 percent in some areas downtown and in North Douglas.
In the valley, turnout averaged in the mid- to upper-30s. Switzer Creek showing the least interested voters at 30 percent.
"In our door-to-door campaigning, the reception downtown was very good," Smith said. "But people in the valley were less sure, and I can understand that."
Election results including conservationist Marc Wheeler's win over realtor PeggyAnn McConnochie in the assembly areawide race will "change the political character" of the assembly, Smith said. "For example, Marc and I both think tourism is good, but it can't be left unbound."
Smith said the assembly would now be more amenable to discussing tourism plans.
Reflecting on being flashed a thumbs-down sign by passersby as she campaigned, Smith whose campaign slogan was "Joining Juneau" said there wouldn't be any progress "unless we show respect for viewpoints different from our own."
Ex-candidate Mark Farmer, who quit during the last week of the race and threw his support to Smith, said he felt vindicated. "Former supporters had been calling me a sell-out, but this way we came out on top," he said.
"The next target is bears," said Farmer, who won 363 votes, although he had withdrawn.
A quid pro quo for Farmer's support had been that Smith consider his proposal to develop a city program to better address the garbage-bear problem.
Jamie Parsons, who won 4,611 votes, conceded to Smith on Tuesday night and said he would continue "to be a support system for those folks on the assembly who want to bring the spirit of unity back."
Juneau needs to start working together as a community, he said.
Patty Zimmerman, the third mayoral candidate, made an appearance at the commons late in the evening and congratulated Smith. Zimmerman received 442 votes.
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