When Dan Sullivan and Paul Honeman first clashed for the job of Anchorage mayor in 2009, the pair found themselves awash in also-rans. Fifteen candidates scrapped for the vacant seat.
Three years later, much has changed. Sullivan, victor in the battle to replace Mark Begich after he was elected to the U.S. Senate, is the sitting mayor. Honeman rebounded from a sixth-place finish to win an East Anchorage Assembly seat, and now both are competing for voter attention in an election cycle eclipsed by a fiery gay rights debate.
The mayoral campaign may be relatively quiet but the stakes remain high. With the election two days away, the top two candidates for the role of city CEO offer a clearly divergent package of goals and dreams, priorities and ideas.
They disagree on building the proposed Knik Arm bridge, the long-awaited but massively expensive span connecting Anchorage and Point MacKenzie. They disagree on Proposition 5, the voter initiative that would extend anti-discrimination legal protection to gay and transgender people in Anchorage.
They disagree -- as you might imagine -- on whether Sullivan has done a good job over the past three years as mayor and whether Honeman has the chops to do any better.
The incumbent has roughly twice the money of his challenger, with Sullivan reporting $338,000 in donations as of March 24. Honeman had raised about $163,000.
Officially, the mayor's race is a nonpartisan election. Except it's really not. Major party heavyweights and donors typically line up behind a favored candidate or candidates, and this year is no different.
Sullivan, a Republican, has received contributions from Sen. Linda Menard, R-Wasilla, state GOP party chief Randy Ruedrich and conservative Assemblyman Chris Birch, among hundreds of others.
Honeman, whose voter registration is "other," describes himself as nonpartisan. Prominent Democrats such as Begich, state party executive director Kay Brown and Midtown Assemblywoman Elvi Gray-Jackson have donated to his campaign.
Also on Tuesday's mayoral ballot are Jacob Seth Kern, Bob "Joker" Lupo and Phil Isley -- who all competed in the 2009 race, combining for 0.5 percent of the general election vote -- and Bruce Lemke, who ran for mayor in 2003.