Tuesday’s election was an overwhelming defeat for Juneau mayor Merrill Sanford, who was ousted by new challenger Greg Fisk by a whopping 66 percent of the votes.
Fisk secured 2,919 votes, nearly double that of Sanford, who received 1,470 votes, according to preliminary election results announced Tuesday evening.
“I’m pretty astounded,” Fisk said at “Election Center” at Assembly chambers. “This likely reflected that Merrill didn’t have his heart in it, I don’t think. He could’ve made it a hell of a lot closer.”
In the Assembly race, incumbents Jerry Nankervis and Loren Jones, who ran unopposed, both held onto their seats.
Nankervis won his race by about 321 votes, beating out runner-up Dixie Hood (1,381 votes) and Jason Puckett (911 votes). About 4,000 people voted in that race.
After the results were read aloud in chambers, Sanford congratulated Fisk in front of the 30-plus community members who gathered to watch the results from 13 voting precincts come in. Then, he quickly and quietly left. He declined to comment on the mayoral race, which saw 4,405 votes cast.
“Merrill has done so much really good public service for this community, and I think everybody needs to keep that in mind,” Fisk said to the Empire after Sanford left.
Rob Ekno, a poll worker at the Juneau Arts and Culture Center, expressed what a lot of people felt Tuesday evening: surprise by the margin of Fisk’s victory.
“He really got clobbered,” Ekno said of Sanford.
“Just the way that Greg threw his name in on the very last day to make sure the city had a second choice seemed sort of nonchalant, but obviously the city liked the second choice better,” he added.
Many predicted that Greg Fisk was going to defeat incumbent Sanford. The signs were everywhere — in this case, literally. Fisk, whose signs and advertisements could be seen throughout town, ran a much more visible campaign than Sanford.
Fisk will not be sworn in until the next Assembly meeting later this month. Once in office, he said he plans to begin working to make his campaign promises come to fruition. He said that includes bringing more NOAA jobs to Juneau to help diversify the economy and working to “put a dent in our housing problem.”
“Sometimes we need to get our eyes off the sidewalk and look up to see where we’re going,” Fisk said.
Nankervis was happy to have won his seat for the second time, but he was also happy to have been challenged. For a while during the candidate filing period, it appeared as he was going to be running unopposed.
“It was nice having more than just me for an option,” Nankervis said. “It’s always better for the public to be able to choose.”
Though two of the Assembly seats remained unchanged after the election, the new mayor may bring a change to the balance of power. What the change will be has “yet to be determined,” Jones said.
“I don’t know that it matters so much who is sitting in each seat,” Nankervis said. “We’ve got some big challenges ahead of us.”
Chief among these challenges, Nankervis said, will be maintaining a sustainable, balanced city budget especially with budget cuts looming.
“I don’t know that we’ll be any better equipped for these challenges than any other Assembly, but we’ll have to do it,” he said.
Nankervis’ challenger Puckett was not at Assembly chambers Tuesday. Hood said she is still holding out hope she might pull through with the help of the absentee ballots. Absentee ballots will continue to be counted for the next few days until the election results are verified on Oct. 13.
“It may not be until Friday when all the absentee ballots are in,” Hood said after the results were announced. “I’ve got my fingers and toes crossed.”
It doesn’t look as though the numbers are in Hood’s favor but that didn’t dampen her spirit too much. If she was saddened by the loss, she didn’t show it. Hood, who works as a family therapist, seemed a master of positivity.
“I didn’t spend hardly any money at all, so the positive feedback I was getting was very encouraging,” she said. “I think we will see some changes, and I’m thinking for the better.”