Pubdate: Wed, 07 Oct 2015
Source: Alaska Dispatch News (AK)
Copyright: 2015 Alaska Dispatch Publishing
Note: Anchorage Daily News until July '14
Author: Zaz Hollander


PALMER -- Palmer residents apparently voted to ban commercial 
marijuana operations, according to early municipal election results, 
despite residents having voted in favor of legalizing pot when the 
issue came to a statewide vote last fall.

The other big race in Tuesday's elections here, the Matanuska-Susitna 
Borough mayor, was too close to call even as a dramatic night ended 
with results from Talkeetna delayed by a mechanical glitch and 
hand-delivered by municipal clerks -- and more than 2,000 outstanding 
ballots yet to be counted.

Palmer residents who voted Tuesday came in 318 to 266 in favor of the 
marijuana business ban, according to unofficial results posted on the 
city's website. But that tally doesn't include 129 early, questioned, 
special needs and absentee ballots to be counted Friday, according to 
the city clerk's office.

Houston voters were defeating a similar ban by a vote of 131 to 100, 
though 34 early votes remained to be counted. Both initiatives would 
ban marijuana cultivation, manufacturing and testing facilities and 
retail stores.

Meanwhile, in the mayor's race, Willow dog musher and Assemblyman 
Vern Halter and incumbent Larry DeVilbiss, a Lazy Mountain farmer and 
former Alaska Division of Agriculture director, were neck and neck.

As of 11:30 p.m., preliminary election results gave Halter a 179-vote 
lead over DeVilbiss, mayor of the fast-growing borough since 2011.

A third candidate, former teacher and senior advocate Rosemary 
Vavrin, trailed both.

The votes from Talkeetna emerged several hours after other precincts 
because of a voting machine malfunction, according to borough public 
information officer Patty Sullivan. Clerks drove from Houston and 
Palmer to get the results.

Outstanding absentee and questioned ballots still remain to be 
counted, and all results have yet to be certified.

The 5-member borough canvass board was scheduled to convene at 10 
a.m. Wednesday and begin working its way through 1,693 absentee, 604 
questioned and 6 special-needs ballots cast, Sullivan said.

Voter turnout was a low 13.7 percent, with individual precincts 
ranging from a low of about 7 percent turnout in the Wasilla Lake 
precinct to 31 percent in Willow -- home to Halter, as well as a 
hard-fought Assembly race.

If Halter's lead holds, he'll be the first Susitna Valley resident to 
be mayor since at least 2001, according to the borough clerk, Lonnie 
McKechnie. Others at the borough say he'll be the first in their memory.

DeVilbiss has prided himself on his heavy use of the mayoral veto, 
one of the few powers granted to the Mat-Su mayor, commonly viewed as 
a fairly ceremonial position. During the recent budget setting cycle, 
DeVilbiss submitted seven vetoes, all but one squelched by the Assembly.

DeVilbiss collected nearly $26,400, with recent donations from former 
Gov. Sean Parnell and the Alaska Republican Party, according to his 
campaign's Alaska Public Offices Commission filings.

Halter raised more than $58,000 during the campaign, some $15,000 of 
it his own money, according to APOC filings. He got heavy support 
from several unions. Halter, who is leaving the Assembly because of 
term limits, touted himself as a moderate who wouldn't make such 
heavy use of mayoral vetoes.

Three contested Assembly races were also being decided Tuesday night. 
Retired labor relations negotiator George McKee was defeating Mat-Su 
College student Maria Serrano in District 3 to represent a broad area 
between Palmer and Wasilla.

In Palmer-area District 6, incumbent family physician Barb Doty was 
defeating former schools administrator Bob Doyle.

In District 7, which runs from Meadow Lakes to Trapper Creek, former 
Assemblyman Doyle Holmes held a 52-vote lead over retired business 
executive Randall Kowalke. That race was to decide the fate of the 
seat Halter holds now and late Tuesday was also too close to call.

Borough voters defeated an initiative to move borough elections from 
October to the general election in early November but roundly backed 
another one to elect school board members by district.

In Palmer, city council candidate Pete LaFrance led and incumbent 
Richard Best was tied with Kenni M. "Psenak" Linden. Five people ran 
for the two open seats. The 129 uncounted ballots could affect those races too.

In Wasilla, voters rejected a 3 percent sales tax rate and voted to 
drop to 2 percent after funding goals have been met for a new 
library. On the city council, challenger Tim Burney unseated 
incumbent Alvah C. Buswell III by a wide margin.

Mat-Su school board member Kelsey Trimmer was holding onto his seat 
against challenger Wade Long.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom