Homer council members retain seats in recall

Ballots are counted at Homer City Hall, while observers from Heartbeat of Homer, a pro-recall group seeking to remove three city council members, gather nearby.

A record-breaking voter turnout resulted in three Homer City Council members retaining their seats after this week’s special recall election.

Council member Catriona Reynolds, who became a leader in an effort to make Homer a sanctuary city, was seen by many as the most in peril. But she retained her seat by 223 votes, or 56 percent, once all the absentee ballots and early ballots were counted.

Donna Aderhold and David Lewis retained their seats on the council with a cushion of 274 and 273 votes respectively, or about 57 percent of the vote. Some 1,936 voters participated in the special election, for a 42 percent turnout, which is likely the highest in the city’s history.

Sarah Vance, a spokeswoman for the Heartbeat of Homer, said in a statement released before the votes were counted that the pro-recall group “congratulates everyone for speaking up at the ballot box on this important issue. It is exciting to see such an excellent turnout in this Special Election! We win! Every time we take a stand to hold our leaders accountable, take responsibility for our own actions, and defend truth; we win! Thank you, to everyone who participated in this tumultuous recall; your efforts have not gone unnoticed.

“We want to especially extend our hand to council members Donna Aderhold, David Lewis, and Catriona Reynolds. Your volunteer efforts and commitment to this community are to be commended. This recall has indeed blown a strong wind of change through our sleepy little town, and it is now up to us, as a community, to determine how we proceed. It is our hope that together, we will embrace the change that is now before us, and embark on this journey with great expectation as to whom Homer will become.”

Problems with the vote counting machine dragged the process into the late afternoon on Friday. Some ballots had to be fed through the machine several times before it would count them. Several of absentee ballots were set aside because they were not properly signed, observers said, but there were not enough of those to have changed the outcome.

Aderhold, Lewis, and Reynolds faced a recall after petitioners claimed that they were engaging in political activity that was beyond their scope of office, by trying to make Homer a sanctuary city and by passing a resolution opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline.

The three hired the ACLU to challenge the recall in court, but lost that venture. They have asked the city to pay their legal bills that they owe Heartbeat of Homer for having taken them and the City of Homer to court to stop the election.

Mike Fell, one of the organizers of Heartbeat of Homer, said the group of conservative activists was not discouraged and would continue to work for transparency, honesty and accountability in government: “We’re just getting warmed up,” he said.