Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966


Campbell, initiative win borough vote


Haines Borough voters struck a blow against corporate personhood and elected George Campbell to the Haines Borough Assembly in Tuesday’s election, according to unofficial results.

Campbell was the clear winner of one borough assembly seat with 566 votes, and write-in candidate Diana Lapham was the apparent winner of the second seat with 448 votes.

Write-in Mario Benassi finished behind Lapham, getting 402 votes. As many as 49 outstanding ballots could still be counted and change election results during the Oct. 8 canvass.

Rob Miller, who withdrew his candidacy after a ballot publishing deadline and therefore remained on the ballot, received 276 votes.

Campbell said he was “honored that the voters of Haines have that much faith in me.” “It’s a relief in some ways, and a whole lot of trepidation in others,” he said.

Voters supported Proposition 1, which will amend the Haines Borough charter preamble and bill of rights by adding language asserting constitutional rights shoud apply only to individuals, 546-416.

school board candidates Sarah Swinton and Lisa Schwartz won three-year terms on the school board, garnering 589 and 540 votes, respectively.

Cozzi said the race is too close to call for a third school board seat, with Scott Doddridge at 495 votes and Ardy Miller at 491. The seat’s term is for two years.

Write-in candidate Kim Larson received 361 votes.

Write-ins who were not registered as candidates with the borough garnered 26 votes in the assembly race and 33 votes in the school board race.

Outstanding ballots include 22 questioned ballots, six personal representative ballots, 15 absentee-by-fax ballots and six unreturned absentee-by-mail ballots.

Diana Lapham said she is ready to hit the ground running, but said she isn’t going to count Benassi out of the race yet.

Benassi said Wednesday he isn’t conceding, but waiting for questions about the polling process to be answered, such as why voters who didn’t complete their entire ballot were asked whether or not they wanted to re-enter the voting booth and try again.

“It’s not about whether or not I win the election, it’s about safeguarding the process. We have to have belief in the process. We have to believe that it works, and if it doesn’t, we have to fix that first and foremost,” Benassi said.

Swinton, an 11-year veteran of the school board, said she wasn’t surprised by her victory, as she was “confident” the community would re-elect her. “I’m not a rookie at this. I feel they think I did a good job in the past 11 years and want to give me another three,” she said.

Schwartz said on the one hand, she was surprised to win the three-year seat because of her lack of experience. On the other hand, Schwartz said she has lived in Haines for 23 years and developed a lot of integrity over the decades.

“I’ve worked with four generations of people, so I’m not that surprised, in that I’ve worked intimately with a lot of people who got to know me well,” Schwartz said.

Gershon Cohen, an organizer of Proposition 1, said he was pleased voters in Haines were able to see through the “absurd” claims of danger and risk promoted by the proposition’s opponents.

“The vote clearly demonstrated that this issue of constitutional rights for individual people is bipartisan, probably as much or more so than any other issue today. People of all political persuasions are finding that they can at least agree on this, that constitutional rights were intended for people,” Cohen said.

Chilkoot Indian Association tribal administrator Dave Berry, who opposed the initiative, said he wasn’t surprised by its passage.

“I knew our side was going to fail. I think the biggest issue was education. There wasn’t really any education on the initiative,” Berry said. “Personally, I think this is a step in the wrong direction, but I don’t foresee anything happening for a while, I hope.”

Chamber of Commerce president Barbara Mulford, who also expressed apprehension about the legal implications of the proposition, said she understands the philosophy behind the change. “Of course we don’t want corporations to be a part of the electoral process,” she said.

Mulford said she was confused by why Haines had to take a national issue and put it on the municipality’s plate.

Cozzi said election officials finished counting ballots just before midnight, and that it was “a painstaking and very slow” process.

“We followed code to the letter of the law,” she said.

Cozzi said 978 ballots were cast. Voter turnout was 44 percent, about 5 percent higher than last year.

The election is expected to be certified Oct. 22.

Terms of office begin Oct. 28 and the first meeting of the new assembly is scheduled for Nov. 12.