Local News

Low turnout, new faces in ’13 municipal election

School board candidate Stephen Courtright signs the voter register for Precinct No. 2 captain Dorothy Orbison, during voting on Tuesday. Courtright came up short in his bid for a seat. (KCAW photo/Robert Woolsey)

School board candidate Stephen Courtright signs the voter register for Precinct No. 2 captain Dorothy Orbison, during voting on Tuesday. Courtright came up short in his bid for a seat. (KCAW photo/Robert Woolsey)

Sitka voters put two new faces on the assembly, and returned a 6-year incumbent to the school board, in municipal elections held on Tuesday.

Voters also approved extending the 1-percent seasonal sales tax for two years to cover outstanding school bond debt.

Although there are some absentee ballots yet to be counted, they’re not likely to make a difference in the outcome.

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There were plenty of Girl Scout cookies left on the tray when polls closed in Sitka Tuesday night — as good an indicator as any that turnout was low for the day.

As of 8 PM, only 648 ballots had been cast in Precinct No. 2, a little more than half of those cast in last year’s election.

Precinct No. 1 also came up short, with 582 ballots cast by the end of the day.

Still, turnout was enough for voters to show a clear preference for Lon Garrison on school board. The six year incumbent was the top vote-earner for the night, with 824 ballots. Challenger Stephen Courtright received 318.

Courtright says he ran to air issues that he thought needed to be aired. He does not consider the outcome unsuccessful.

“Keeping Lon Garrison on the board is in no way a loss. The man’s experienced, he’s passionate, he cares deeply, and I was glad to be able to run against somebody who I knew would do at least as good of a job as I could do if I weren’t elected. I would have been happy to carry on in his shoes.”

Lon Garrison was not at Harrigan Hall to watch returns — he was presiding over a school board meeting.

Aaron Swanson came out on top in the assembly race in his second shot at a seat. He took 668 votes. He attributes his success to the year he’s spent on the Police and Fire Commission learning the ropes. He wants to speak to a different constituency when he takes his seat next Monday.

“I’m looking forward to being a different voice, a younger voice. Matt Hunter’s a little bit younger than me, so we’re used to younger voices. I’m excited to serve.”
Twenty-nine votes behind Swanson was Ben Miyasato. Miyasato is also a member of the Tribal Council, which is by no means light duty. He’s glad voters thought he was up to the challenge.

“I think it’s a good compliment, that they think I can do both duties at the same time. And as I’ve told others, this is not setting any precedent. It’s been done before. All I’d be really doing is keeping an eye on both of them, and this is something I know I can do.”

Miyasato was only 15 votes ahead of ballots cast for write-in candidates when both precincts came in — and many of those write-ins were likely for registered candidate Steven Eisenbeisz. But, a canvass board was sworn in on election night specifically to count write-ins, and Eisenbeisz ultimately polled 583 votes, 56 behind Miyasato.

There are 77 absentee ballots to count in this election, so a difference of more than 15 or 20 votes is probably out-of-range for a candidate. Absentees will be counted by this Friday.

And finally, the other big winner of the evening was Prop. 1, which passed 859 votes to 350. The move will allow the city to pay off some outstanding school debt by extending the seasonal sales tax for a couple of years.

The old Sitka assembly will certify the results of the election at its next regular meeting, which has been rescheduled to next Monday. New members will take their seats in the second half of the meeting.

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