Sanford has edge in mayor’s race

Merrill Sanford and his wife Patti at election central.

Merrill Sanford and his wife Patti at election central. Photo by Casey Kelly.

Merrill Sanford has the inside track to be the next mayor of the City and Borough of Juneau.

The former assemblyman out-polled Cheryl Jebe 55 percent to 44 percent in Tuesday’s municipal election. With about 1,400 absentee and questioned ballots still to be counted, Sanford holds a 660 vote edge over Jebe – 3,334 to 2,674.

“If everything falls as it has in the past with absentee ballots and everything, you probably split those,” Sanford said. “And I think that probably, well, I think that I’ve won.”

However, Jebe said she’s holding out hope that the outstanding ballots will break heavily in her favor.

“I’m just going to wait until they do the absentee ballots on Friday. It’s quite possible that it will continue at the same rate, but you never know,” she said.

Both candidates said they’re proud of their campaigns, and credited each other with running a clean race.

Jebe – who didn’t declare her candidacy until just before the August 13th filing deadline – said she ran for mayor to bring “new energy” to Juneau. She thinks she would have benefited from more time to reach out to voters.

Cheryl Jebe and her husband Hank.

Cheryl Jebe and her husband Hank. Photo by Casey Kelly.

“It took me some time to get going,” Jebe said. “If I had another month, I think the numbers would have been different. I would have had more time to talk to individual people.”

Sanford on the other hand announced his run for mayor in March. After serving on the assembly from 2002 to 2011, he took a year off due to term limits. If his lead holds following the absentee and questioned ballot count, Sanford says his top priority as mayor will be creating a business friendly environment in Juneau.

“I want to try to present the mayor’s office as a pro-economic business climate in Juneau,” he said. “We want people to come here and we want people to open stores here – no matter what the store is – and we want jobs here.”

Sanford said he’ll do that by advocating for better economic planning by the Assembly and by listening to and promoting local businesses.