The Tuesday runoff election for Kenai Borough mayor appears to favor Charlie Pierce, with 51.66 percent and Linda Hutchings with 48.34 percent of the vote. Some 6,792 votes have been counted, but absentee and early votes are not included in that tally. There are as many as 1,000 votes yet to be counted and technically Hutchings could close the 226-vote lead.
The Oct. 23 runoff was the result of a three-way race on Oct. 3, when none of the candidates received more than 50 percent to have an outright win. Dale Bagley was on that ballot, and he received 29 percent of the vote, with Pierce at 38 percent and Hutchings at 31 percent. The election will be certified on Oct. 31, according to borough election rules.
The contest between Pierce and Hutchings grew testy in some political circles, and two weeks ago a lawyer representing Pierce served his opponent with a letter demanding that Hutchings and her surrogates stop making accusations of domestic violence against Pierce or face a defamation lawsuit. Later, some supporters of Hutchings posted actual court documents on social media to make their points.
Seventeen years ago, Pierce was charged with assault in the fourth degree during a dispute with his now ex-wife. The charge was reduced to harassment and he pleaded no contest, performed 40 hours of community service, and took a court-ordered class.
Pierce worked for ENSTAR Natural Gas Company for 39 years, with over two decades as ENSTAR’s division operations manager on the Kenai Peninsula. He retired in 2016. He also served on the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly from 2008-2014.
The outgoing mayor, Mike Navarre, heads to the Walker Administration, where he will serve as commissioner for the Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development. Navarre has served since Dec. 1, 2011 as borough mayor.
The borough government in Alaska is akin to a county government in other states. The Kenai Borough covers 29 communities on the Kenai Peninsula in Southcentral Alaska.