Haines government moved more conservative during Tuesday’s borough election. A conservative mayor and four moderate-to-conservative Assembly members now dominate the governing body.
Observers say the conservative base in Haines is increasingly politically aware and going to the polls, with a 50 percent voter turnout on Oct 6, higher than the 48 percent voter turnout in 2019, and much higher than the 39 percent turnout in 2018.
Douglas Olerud, conservative candidate for mayor, defeated incumbent Mayor Jan Hill, a moderate. It was a landslide — 760 to 422.
Olerud and Hill were both born and raised in Haines. Both of them support mining.
For Olerud it’s a return to public service. He served on the Assembly for nine years, but that was a decade ago. He also served on the Planning Commission.
There were four seats on the Assembly up for election and six candidates vying for them. The results, as of late Tuesday night:
Cheryl Stickler, a pro-mining conservative, won the most votes and will likely be certified to the Assembly.
Jerry Lapp was the second-highest vote getter, also a moderate-conservative incumbent.
Caitie Kirby came in third; she is a liberal Democrat.
Brenda Josephson, a moderate incumbent, came in fourth, but with 82 absentee and questioned ballots to be counted, her seat is at risk from fifth-place Carol Tuynman, a liberal Democrat. Josephson has just a 10-vote lead over Tuynman.
Both Tuynman and sixth-place Helen Alten ran what some locals said were negative campaigns.
The canvassing board meets on Oct. 13 to open and count ballots and certify the election. Two weeks later, the newly elected officials will be sworn in.
One of the big issues in the Haines election was the Assembly’s firing of the former city manager Debra Schnabel, who had been accused of using public resources to plow a private driveway that she owns. Schnabel became cross-threaded with some Assembly members because of her heavy-handed approach on COVID-19 face masks for Haines residents and businesses.