A small crowd gathered in the Assembly chambers at City Hall on Friday night to watch three machines process early, absentee and questioned ballots. Some attendees had popcorn in hand from the nearby movie theater.
District 2 Assembly candidate Wade Bryson wasn’t eating.
Bryson cycled between standing and pacing as he closely watched election officials count 2,533 ballots. After Election Day on Tuesday, Bryson held a slim 122-vote lead over Garrett Schoenberger for a District 2 seat. Schoenberger wasn’t there Friday, as he enjoyed his honeymoon.
Bryson stayed stoic as the numbers were slowly unveiled Friday night, but when the final (unofficial) numbers came through and showed that he hung on — winning by a 128-vote margin — the emotion he’d been hanging onto since Tuesday came pouring out.
“A lot of the candidates mentioned the emotional comedown of having the election over with, but for me to not have an answer, it just kept the nerves fried, but yet I didn’t have any adrenaline keeping me going. It was just a difficult couple of days,” Bryson said.
Bryson hugged his wife Christine after talking with media members Friday and came away with tears in his eyes.
“Got the emotion out that I couldn’t get out for two days,” Bryson said as he wiped the tears from his eyes.
In all, voter turnout was 35.5 percent, which is the highest since 2010 (38.5 percent).
The election will be certified Tuesday, and the new Assembly members and Mayoral-elect Beth Weldon will be sworn in at the Monday, Oct. 15 Assembly meeting.
Bryson owns the Subway restaurants in town and has hosted the KINY radio show Problem Corner for years. Schoenberger is a managing partner in real estate firm Alaska Legacy Partners.
Bryson gets a one-year term on the Assembly, replacing Weldon. Weldon had to resign from the Assembly to run for mayor. Weldon was in attendance as the votes came in Friday. Mayor Ken Koelsch and his wife Marian were there as well.
Schoenberger also said it was a stressful week with the tight margin. Speaking via phone on Saturday morning, Schoenberger said he was optimistic when it came to early and absentee voters.
“It was a battle and I thought I’d do better on the early voters,” Schoenberger said, “but it was still a very close race and I think it was well deserved for Wade and I think he’ll be a great Assembly member. I really believe that.”
Schoenberger said it’s much too early to guess about whether he’ll run again, but he’s open to the idea.
“I’m open (to running) but I’m gonna get to work with Alaska Legacy Partners,” Schoenberger said, “and have some duck hunting and deer hunting to do first.”
Bryson joins Michelle Bonnet Hale as a District 2 Assembly member. Hale earned the most votes, meaning she gets a full three-year term that was left by Jerry Nankervis who chose to run for a spot in the state House of Representatives instead. Hale was in attendance Friday, and welcomed Bryson to the Assembly afterward with a handshake.
The atmosphere was tense Friday night, but Bryson said he welcomed it.
“This is going to be a moment that will stick with me for the rest of my life,” Bryson said. “I’d like to consider this to beginning of my political career. I just got a new job.”
• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.