Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Fairbanks 2009 Election: "Bag Lady" Nadine Winters Barely Squeaks By Joshua Lott; Tammie Wilson Forces Runoff Against "Bag Man" Luke Hopkins

Update October 8th: The number of uncounted ballots (absentee and questioned) is now estimated to be around 1,800.

Post updated November 10th to correct superseded link for election results.

Fairbanks-area voters nearly unseated two elected officials who substituted political correctness for public service during their terms, and forced a third official into a runoff against a more conservative candidate in the Fairbanks-area elections held on October 6th, 2009. There remain over 1,800 absentee and questioned ballots to be counted on October 13th, and the runoff election will be held on November 3rd.

View election results for both the borough and city races HERE.

In the Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly Seat F race, incumbent Nadine Winters, who imposed a highly unpopular "plastic bag tax" on the borough, nearly paid the price for her perfidy. As I monitored the election results, I saw that her challenger, Joshua Lott, initially took a commanding 10-point lead. But as results from the Fairbanks city precincts, particularly from those near the University of Alaska-Fairbanks (UAF), began to filter in, the gap steadily closed, and Winters clings to a narrow 189-vote lead. Since more than 1,800 absentee and questioned ballots remain outstanding, there is a chance this outcome could be reversed.

In the Borough Mayor's race, Tammie Wilson and Luke Hopkins immediately broke out of the pack as expected, with Wilson also initially taking a commanding lead. But Hopkins came back, and now is narrowly leading Wilson with 2.4 percent of the vote in the six-candidate race, while Wilson got 31.5 percent. A total of 40 percent or more was needed to avoid a runoff election, which will be held on November 3rd. The bag tax was an issue in this race as well; as Assembly Members, Wilson voted against the tax, while Hopkins voted for it. Amusingly, as the campaign got rougher for Hopkins, he decided to start tap-dancing and publicly backtracked on his vote, filing a motion for a "do-over" on September 24th. Incredibly opportunistic and cynical on his part, and many voters saw through it. But not enough to deny him a runoff spot. Supporters of the other four candidates need to set their rivalries aside and unite behind Tammie Wilson to stop Luke Hopkins.

A newer News-Miner story provides a more specific geographical perspective on this race. Hopkins secured more than 50 percent of the vote in four major precincts north and west of town — Ester, Farmers Loop and the Goldstream Valley’s two precincts. Wilson captured 50 percent or more of the vote in Salcha and the Chena Lakes area and also came out ahead at smaller precincts such as Chatanika, Fox and Two Rivers. Wilson earned more votes in 24 of the borough’s 41 precincts than the other five mayoral candidates combined. Hopkins did the same in 14 precincts and scored big at some larger polling stations, enough for him to finish one percentage point ahead of Wilson.

And finally, in the race for Seat B of the Fairbanks Borough School Board, notorious social engineer Wendy Dominique, who is the incumbent, overcame an early deficit to take a 285-vote lead over conservative challenger Lynette Bergh. Because of the ballots remaining to be counted, Bergh has not conceded defeat yet, and since the school board race is borough-wide, it is possible that the large number of absentees could reverse the result.

An interesting dichotomy: Fairbanks city voters rejected Proposition 2, which would have imposed a 3 percent sales tax within Fairbanks city limits (a sales tax initiative also crashed and burned in the Mat-Su Borough). Yet voters throughout the borough approved a $11.95 million school bond, which will provide money for major maintenance projects in five local schools across the Fairbanks North Star Borough. State debt reimbursement of 70 percent proved to be a good selling point.

The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner also published stories about other races in the area:

-- Voters give Fairbanks borough authority to tackle air quality
-- City, borough split on disclosure rules
-- Stiver, Roberts lead races for Fairbanks City Council seats A, B
-- Isaacson holds nine-vote lead over Jacobson in North Pole mayor race

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