As the dust settles from Homer’s election, two candidates are soaking in their landslide victories. Candidates Caroline Venuti and Rachel Lord both clinched seats on the Homer City Council, beating out five other candidates. Both Lord and Venuti say they’re ready to take current council members David Lewis and Catriona Reynolds’ seats.
Voter turnout was higher than usual Tuesday. Including absentee and special needs ballots, about 37 percent of registered voters flocked to the polls.
Lord and Venuti came away with about 770 votes a piece, 64 percent of the vote. Sarah Vance, former spokesperson for the pro-recall political action committee Heartbeat of Homer, came in third with 33 percent.
There are about 50 questioned and special needs ballots that still need to be counted. About another 420 absentee ballots will also be tallied up, but it’s extremely unlikely those votes will shift the results.
Venuti spent Tuesday evening gathered with supporters and friends waiting for the results. City Clerk Melissa Jacobsen was the first to let her know over the phone.
“I didn’t know I could jump. Both my feet were off the ground,” Venuti said. “I mean I’m sure Melissa thought she was in a tunnel because it was so noisy with my friends and supporters there yelling and screaming. We were just so ecstatically happy.”
Ventui said she was a bit surprised by the decisive win, but adds that working as a school teacher in Homer for a number of years gave her name recognition.
Lord, who was out of town for a conference, found out over the phone as well.
“I felt great about not just having such a strong turnout, but having such a good percentage of the vote. That felt really tremendous, and I felt really humbled and honored and really excited,” she said.
Voter turnout for Homer typically hovers around 25 percent. Nearly half of registered voters turned out for a contentious recall election back in June, but Lord thinks it was the large number of candidates on the ballot and media coverage that led to a significant turnout this time around.
“I think there was a lot of talk about it, there was a lot of energy around it, and I think that was really valuable,” Lord explained. “Then we had some propositions that were of interest to folks too, and we have the mayoral election at the borough level. I think there were not too many things, but there was just kind of enough and a level of interest to keep people engaged.”
Both candidates that Lord and Venuti are replacing were subject of this summer’s recall effort. Venuti does thinks the recall may have fueled interest in the regular election, but notes she was happy the process was civil.
Both candidates say they’re humbled by their victories and plan to stay engaged with city council meetings until they’re officially seated at the Oct. 30 meeting.
Venuti said she’s going into the position with an open mind.
“I’m not going in with an agenda by any means, but most people just want me to represent unity on the board and I think that’s what Rachel and I both bring,” she added.
It wasn’t just city council candidates that voters made a decisive choice on. Homer residents voted overwhelmingly in favor of using Homer Accelerated Roads and Trail program, or HART, funds to pay for road maintenance.
Currently, the fund pays for capital projects and improvements for city roads and trails. The move will free up money in the general fund that typically pays for road maintenance. It’s expected to fill half of a looming $1.2 million budget gap in 2019.
The canvas board will count the remaining votes Friday, and the city council is scheduled to certify election results on Monday. Both Lord and Venuti will also be sworn in during that meeting.