Unofficial results from Tuesday’s municipal election show Caroline Venuti and Rachel Lord leading the pack and set to fill Homer’s two city council seats.
Venuti won the race with 776 votes, according to the unofficial results, and Lord followed with 773. Sarah Vance came in third with 331, or 28 percent of the total 1,283 votes cast. According to the results, Homer saw a 27 percent turnout of its registered voters.
“That’s a huge margin. Wow,” Lord said when told the gap between the top two winners and third place. “I’m really really happy and excited about the opportunity. I’m really pleased with the overwhelming support from voters. I think that’s really valuable. I’m excited to serve on council.”
Venuti and Lord came out on top in a busy race that included seven candidates across the political spectrum who were running for two 3-year seats on the council. They are replacing council members David Lewis and Catriona Reynolds, who chose not to run again this year. Lewis and Reynolds, along with council member Donna Aderhold, were the subject of a recall election in June, which they beat back.
The council now has four female council members, affirming that in the 21st century the glass ceiling for women in politics — at least at the local level — has been broken.
“Oh totally. That’s great,” Lord said. “I think it’s really exciting. I think that the more people who are engaged and participating the better.”
At 36, Lord also is one of the youngest council members elected in recent memory. Former council member Beau Burgess was elected in 2012 at age 27. Like Burgess, Lord, who owns Alaska Stems, also brings farming experience to the council. Lord also brings the experience of a parent with a young family to the council.
“As a young working parent with small children, I’m excited to have that voice at the table,”she said. I think it’s imptortant to have that part of the community represented, too.”
Venuti said she’s been humbled by the experience. She ran on a platform promoting an inclusive attitude to retain young people and families, focusing on building a resilient city and maintaining fiscal responsibility.
“I am going to work really hard for our beautiful city,” she said.
Lord credited her experience and that of Venuti for their win.
“I think that we both came to the table with a lot of experience, and experience with various aspects of the city and experience in the community,” she said. “Both of us have served the community in a lot of capacities over the years. I think that’s valuable and really appreciated. That would be one of my best guesses — my breath of experience,” she said.
With such a big field, Lord said media coverage helped people understand the views and background of all the candidates.
“I think KBBI did a great job, too,” she said. “They broadcast the forums, they rebroadcast the coffee table. There were so many candidates. Voters had plenty of opportunities to lean about how was on the ballot.”
“And I’m super thankful for everyone who came out to vote and asked questions throughout the process and who were engaged,” she continued. “There were definitely a lot of people looking to be informed about the candidates.”
Lord downplayed the role of the recall in the election. Vance served as spokesperson for Heartbeat of Homer, a political group in favor of the recall, and acknowledged her role. Nustvold also said he signed the recall petition.
“It’s certainly an issue that came up,” Lord said. “For me, I tried to focus on working, trusting our local government, working with the city staff, being open minded and being transparent. Everyone values open minds and critical thinking and transparences. There are some common values there.”
As far as the campaign this year went, Venuti said she felt it was very civil.
“All I ever met with was smiles,” she said of the other candidates.
Voters were able to choose two of the candidates running. To avoid a runoff election, a candidate needs a plurality of 35 percent of the total number of votes cast divided by the number of seats, which is two this year. If 2,000 votes were cast, for example, a candidate would have to get at least 350 out of 1,000 votes to avoid a runoff. With 1,283 votes cast, to avoid a runoff the top two candidates needed 35 percent of 642 or 225 votes. Venuti and Lord easily met that minimum.
Election officials Tuesday afternoon at Homer City Hall commented that the stream of voters had been steady since the doors opened at 7 a.m. By just after 1 p.m. there, 310 ballots had been cast for borough matters and 311 for the city election. A line was snaking out the council chambers door into the building’s main lobby around that time.
Donna McCubbins, a Homer resident since 1981, chose only one of the seven city council candidates — Vance.
“I just like what she said, and that she had values that I have,” she said.
Homer resident Floyd Seekins also cast his vote for Vance, along with Nustvold. He chose them because their conservative values aligned with his, he said.
“I voted for both of them because I feel that they had the … integrity for government and I believe that they have a conservative bend to their position.”
The preliminary election results will be finalized this Friday when an elections canvass board meets to count absentee ballots.