Skagway’s slate of candidates for the upcoming election is mostly made up of people whose names will not appear on the ballot. About two weeks before the October vote, there are five write-in candidates. It’s the most write-in contenders Skagway has seen in recent memory. Many of the candidates are motivated by a controversial waterfront lease.
When Skagway’s candidate filing deadline closed in August, it looked like it would be a quiet run-up to the Oct. 3 election.
Incumbent Mark Schaefer was the only candidate for mayor. And former Assemblyman Dan Henry was the sole option for two open assembly seats. The only competitive race at the time was for school board.
But it didn’t stay that way for long. Two political newcomers, Dewey McCracken and Philip Clark started write-in campaigns for assembly.
In mid-September, three more people put their names in the running.
“The future of the children is in our hands,” said Monica Carlson.
She is challenging incumbent Schaefer for mayor. Carlson had a front-row seat to borough business the past few months. She was appointed to an assembly position in June.
She hasn’t held back her criticism of a new tidelands lease proposal with White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad. She says since Schaefer is supportive of the agreement, she wants to give Skagway voters a choice.
“There are two definite choices to be made,” Carlson said. “[Schaefer is] pro-lease and he’s made some decisions at the table that I don’t feel are in the best interest of the city. So I feel the voters need a choice. I’ll be pro-lease as long as I feel that it’s the best for the community.”
Carlson says she does not support the new lease in its current form. It would give the railroad 15 more years of control over key areas of the port. The company would also continue to be the local cruise terminal operator. In return, the city would receive higher rent payments, control of uplands, and White Pass’s cooperation on crucial port renovations.
Dissatisfaction with the pending lease also motivated Roger Griffin and Dave Brena to file as write-ins for assembly.
Brena is running for assembly for the third time in three years.
“I think it’s time, we need a new perspective on the assembly,” Brena said. “I think Skagway needs to govern their own waterfront.”
Griffin ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 2015, when a tidelands lease question was on the ballot for voters to decide. The lease was overwhelmingly rejected.
“Who gets elected this year is going to determine which way the city of Skagway goes for the next 20 or 30 years,” Griffin said. “It’s just not something I can sit by and watch.”
Griffin originally filed as a write-in for mayor in the upcoming election. He dropped out of that race, but says Carlson’s bid for mayor motivated him to put in for assembly.
Griffin has also been active in holding former Assemblyman Dan Henry accountable for incomplete campaign financial disclosures. Griffin has his second complaint against Henry pending with the Alaska Public Offices Commission. Now Griffin is facing Henry in the assembly race.
At least one of the two open assembly seats will go to a write-in. But whether the write-ins get enough votes to best the candidates whose names actually appear on the ballot is another question. And it may depend on how voters feel about the future of Skagway’s waterfront.