Juneau voters gave Mayor Bruce Botelho a birthday present Tuesday by re-electing him for another three-year term.
Botelho beat challenger Mark Farmer by a roughly 2-to-1 ratio with 3,805 votes to 1,327 in the preliminary poll numbers. There are still more than 1,500 absentee and questioned ballots yet to be counted, but not enough to change the outcome of the race.
Botelho turned 61 on election day and was sung "Happy Birthday" by dozens of people and presented a cake at City Hall shortly after all 16 precincts reported their numbers. He said he was pleasantly surprised by the election outcome.
"I think you always expect that there are people dissatisfied with what you do, quite apart from people that are generally attracted to Mark's message and his vision of what the office should be," Botelho said. "I'm gratified and truly looking forward to serving the next three years."
This will be Botelho's fourth three-year-term serving as Juneau's mayor. He has served in the position for the past 6 years and was also mayor from 1988 to 1991.
Farmer, who has previously run unsuccessfully for mayor three times and for an Assembly seat twice, said he was not very surprised with the results of Tuesday's election.
"I'm always a long shot every time I run," he said. "I think what it is more than anything is that people are afraid. There is a lot of uncertainty to the future."
Farmer said he believes the community has a variety of concerns and does not want a change in leadership right now.
"A guy like me scares a lot of people, let's be honest," he said. "A lot of people did think I was going to raise taxes and stuff like that without realizing the mayor can't do that all by himself."
The two campaigns kind of merged during the election process and had similar views on certain issues like the environment, solid waste disposal and sustainability, Farmer said.
Farmer said he is pleased with the number of votes he got by only spending $450 on his entire campaign. Botelho said he spent about $8,000 in contrast.
"If I can got out here with $450 and a few friends helping me out and things like this, if we can achieve this ... I hope I instill some hope and desire in other people to try it themselves. I mean, we do live in a city where you can do this. You can be anybody and participate and I highly recommend that people do try the public process."
Botelho said he will continue working at championing the issues he has been pushing for, including solid waste disposal, securing Juneau as the capital, global warming, sustainability and improving the transit system.
"Those are probably better described as themes as opposed to specific issues with specific stances," he said.
Botelho plans to visit Washington, D.C. at the end of the month to meet with Alaska's congressional delegation and some federal officials to discuss various Juneau issues. Those include discussing airport improvements and promoting a new research vessel for the National Marine Fisheries Service.
"And to be pushing construction of a forest sciences laboratory on the (University of Alaska Southeast) campus ... under the overall umbrella of pushing Juneau as a federal research center."
Botelho campaigned as helping create Juneau as a federal research center to help create jobs and as a way to help ensure that Juneau remains the capital of Alaska.
Botelho said he feels Farmer addressed some pertinent issues about Juneau during the campaign.
"There were some issues that were very gratifying to hear and some that he is even more strident about, particularly what Juneau could be doing with its waste management over all and looking at the issues of climate change," he said.
Farmer said he does not take the loss personally. He said he did his best, Botelho did his best, and the community made its decision.
"I'm going to say that it is a victory lap for the status quo, but I don't mean that by any way of (disrespecting) him," he said. "People obviously don't want to rock the boat right now. Hey, I did my best."
Contact reporter Eric Morrison at 523-2269 or email@example.com.
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