Stone leads District 1, District 2 too close to call

Nearly 1,400 ballots yet to be calculated in Assembly race

Posted: Wednesday, October 04, 2006

While incumbent David Stone held a commanding lead over challenger Mark Stopha in Juneau's District 1 Assembly race, the contest between Sara Chambers and Jean Christian for the District 2 seat was too close to call Tuesday night.

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Stone clearly led in District 1 with 3,294 votes over Mark Stopha's 2,383. Chambers, with 2,894 votes on Tuesday evening, was just 67 votes ahead of Christian.

Nearly 1,400 ballots had yet to be calculated. About 1,000 absentee ballots and 430 questioned ballots for people who voted outside of their precincts will be verified and tallied over the next several days, City Clerk Laurie Sica said. The results will be announced on Friday and certified Tuesday.

Stone and Stopha, who campaigned on similar ideas on the majority of the issues facing the community, have both agreed the incumbent is heading back to the Assembly for another term.

"I don't think there is such a thing as having it in the bag, but yeah, I feel fairly confident," Stone said.

Stopha said he feels like a winner because he campaigned on one major issue - helping the community understand the problems with the docks and harbors in the community. Working on reforming the Harbor Board and lowering moorage fees so fishermen return to Juneau are important, he said.

"The point in me running this time wasn't to win," Stopha said. "It's hard to explain. It's not that you don't want to win, but you're running to get this issue out."

Whether the public took the issue seriously remains to be seen. But Stopha said he thinks the other candidates heard the message.

"I feel I was able to get this across to the three people who will have seats on the Assembly, so to me that is the main benefit of running," he said.

Stone said he is eager to get to work on issues such as affordable housing, a north Douglas crossing and airport needs. He also said the community needs to discuss how to make Juneau more attractive to young people.

"We've got this brain drain of young people leaving and how can we create an atmosphere that provides opportunities for young people to stay in Juneau?" Stone said. "That's an issue that the Assembly needs to be a part of. We're not the solution, but I think we need to be a part of that."

Christian, a first-time political candidate, said she really didn't know what to expect prior to the initial ballots being counted. She said she doesn't know why the race is so close.

"Both of us have been campaigning real hard, so I don't know what to say beyond that," Christian said.

Chambers, a small business owner, attributes the closeness of the race to the many working families in District 2 who have children to attend to and jobs to focus on.

"It's hard to fit voting in when you've got all those responsibilities and that's why I'm running is to be their voice," she said.

Because of that, Chambers said she believes she has an edge with the absentee voters.

"I think my message has resonated and obviously my district wants me to represent them on the Assembly," she said.

Christian, a retired educator, said it has been a hard-fought and exciting race, and she will have a break before the results come out on Friday.

"It's been long days, and both my husband and I have been working on the race for every minute of every day," she said.

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