Fairbanks voters likely to re-elect conservative Mayor Jim Matherly

Jim Matherly.

Voters in the city of Fairbanks appear to have re-elected conservative Mayor Jim Matherly in one of the banner races of last night’s local elections.

Matherly is leading challenger Kathryn Dodge by more than 200 votes according to the latest unofficial tally by the city, succeeding despite backlash over his veto of an LGBTQ equal protection ordinance earlier this year.

According to the latest results, Matherly has 1,720 votes (49.73%) to Dodge’s 1,516 votes (43.83%). The remaining votes were split between Lakesha Jordan, who took 138 votes (3.99%), and Frank Turney who took 75 votes (2.17%).

There are 838 votes remaining to be counted in the race, according to the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, making it possible but highly unlikely that Dodge turns around the outcome once all the votes are counted.

Turnout was far lower than in recent years at 16 percent with 3,469 votes cast (which happens to be fewer voters than we got hits on a story about Matherly saying he’d support a “bathroom bill” law barring transgender people from using bathrooms that don’t match their sex at birth).

Matherly was enthusiastic about his chances of securing re-election when interviewed by the News-Miner.

“I am very excited at the numbers that are currently there,” Matherly said. “I also know they’ve got some more to count, so I don’t like to be uber-conclusive, but I’m feeling very confident.”

Dodge, who came up a vote short of tying the 2018 House District 1 race, said she wants to see every vote counted but said ultimately that she wants to see the political divide in Fairbanks healed.

“I feel like I am the candidate who is here to bring home the message that every vote counts,” she told the paper. “One thing I’ve seen in common across the races I’ve run is that Fairbanks is deeply split. My hope is that the people of Fairbanks are able to find a way to come together, regardless of the outcome of this election.”

Why it matters

In a system looking to constantly gauge the political winds, this race is a victory for conservatives who’ve been under-performing in local races in recent years. It comes after Matherly pushed the race into socially conservative waters with his veto of the equal protections ordinance and more recent position in support of a anti-transgender “bathroom bill” law.

It could be a formula for future wins but the layout of the race, with two other candidates, will likely invite plenty of Monday-morning quarterbacking on the way the race was run. Still, given everything it’s a disappointing result for Dodge when her fundraising crossed the $50,000 mark while Matherly’s was roughly half that amount.

Conservative candidates had more success when it came to crowded races in the Fairbanks-area elections. Five of the Alaska Family Action’s eight endorsements in the Fairbanks-area races won on Tuesday night. All but one were in three- or four-way races and none in the crowded fields crossed the 50 percent mark in votes.

The only candidates endorsed by Alaska Family Action that lost were in head-to-head races.

The main bright spot in the Fairbanks area is the election of progressive candidate Mindy O’Neill for the Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly. She had been appointed to the position this summer and currently holds a nearly 8-point lead over Jeff Rentzel.

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