In Tuesday’s election, Skagway voters rejected a proposed tidelands lease between the municipality and the parent company of White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad. But they elected mayoral and assembly candidates who support that lease.
First, the lease vote. The contract as proposed would have continued leasing portions of the municipality’s tidelands to a private company. It would have continued the relationship Skagway has had with White Pass for the past 40-plus years, but with different terms.
Skagway residents decided in a vote of 278 to 136 that they did not want the contract to move forward. That margin of about 140 votes is wide enough that absentee ballots will likely not change the outcome.
The mayoral contest also has a wide margin that is unlikely to be changed by absentee votes. Incumbent mayor Mark Schaefer garnered 258 votes, compared to Roger Griffin’s 140 votes. Schaefer has served as mayor for two years while borough representatives negotiated the lease, and he has expressed support for it. Griffin was strongly opposed to the contract and he made that opposition a central part of his campaign platform.
“I’m just really happy to hear about the results of the lease,” said Griffin. “I can’t tell you, I think that’s just superb, and I think it’s superb that it was by such a wide margin. As for myself, well yeah I’m a little disappointed but I think Mark will probably do a pretty good job as mayor and he’s got a lot ahead of him.”
KHNS was not able to reach Schaefer Tuesday night. We’ll have comments from him in a following story.
For the two open borough assembly seats, there is only one clear winner at this point. Steve Burnham Jr. gained re-election with 264 votes.
“I’m completely flattered because I wasn’t really sure how it was gonna go,” Burnham said.
Burnham was one of the borough representatives who negotiated the lease, and he supports it in its current form. But, he says he is not surprised that voters rejected it.
“All the feedback that I’ve been hearing for the past two and half months has kind of clued us all into this,” he said. “So I’m not surprised.”
Jay Burnham, the only other candidate who filed in time to get his name on the ballot, garnered 186 votes. That number is close to write-in candidate David Brena. He received 148 votes. And the other write-in candidate, Mavis Irene Henricksen, received 64 votes.
Jay Burnham is for the lease. Brena and Henricksen are not.
Absentee ballots could affect which candidate wins that second borough assembly seat. Election officials say there are around 140 absentee ballots that have yet to be counted. That’s more than twice the usual number of absentee ballots in local elections here.
And in the Skagway school board election results, John Hischer, the only candidate for two open seats, received 360 votes.
There was also a strong in-person voter turnout in Skagway’s election. 416 people cast their ballots at city hall Tuesday. When you add about 140 absentee voters to that, it could be the highest voter turnout Skagway has seen in a decade.
The election results will be finalized and certified Thursday evening. The election board plans to tally absentee and contested votes Thursday at 4 p.m. And then the borough assembly will certify the results at a 5:30 p.m. meeting.
The assembly wants to know more about why people voted yes or no on the tidelands lease. At the previous meeting, members came to a general consensus that they would contract with a third party to conduct a post-election survey. That survey would ask residents why they voted the way they did on the tidelands lease. Then, the borough will have direction from the public on how to move forward.