Veteran Anchorage Assemblyman Dick Traini is up for re-election on April 5, and is hoping to seize a third consecutive term in a career on the Assembly that has spanned nearly two decades.
His challenger, Anchorage businessman Ron Alleva, says it's time for Traini to give someone else a turn. Traini, though, says he still has work to do, such as increasing the number of police officers.
"I've been doing this for awhile," Traini, the chair of the Assembly, acknowledged in a recent interview. "I want to make sure I continue to bring Midtown's concerns to the forefront."
By sitting out a year when he was subject to term limits, Traini, who turns 67 on Sunday, has served on the Assembly a total of 17 years, which he said is longer than any other Assembly member since the city and borough were unified in 1975. He's spent 12 years as chair.
Known as a forceful personality, Traini first won election to the Assembly in 1991 and served three years before losing to future mayor George Wuerch. In 2001, he was appointed to a vacancy, won election a year later, and served two full terms.
In 2008, Traini was unseated by Elvi Gray-Jackson in a race that included a court case challenging Traini's ability to serve another term because of term limits. Traini ran again in 2010 for the other Midtown seat, and won.
He and Gray-Jackson are now good friends and close political allies. They even made T-shirts that say, on the front, "Who you gonna call?" The back says, "Dick & Elvi."
"We just work really well together, and we get things done," Gray-Jackson said in a phone interview. She added, speaking of Traini: "There's something to be said for knowledge, especially when it comes to municipal government."
In his most recent term, Traini pointed to victories like the purchase and dedication of a Midtown pond as a park, and the tearing down of an old fire station at Lake Otis Parkway and 47th Avenue to make room for more car and bike parking near the Campbell Creek trail.
At community council meetings in his district, Traini is more or less a fixture.
"I don't always agree with him but I find him at every meeting," said Karen Dechman, president of the Midtown Community Council. "Go to community councils around town and there he is. I don't know how he keeps the hours he does."
Alleva, Traini's opponent, has yet to report raising any money in disclosures with the Alaska Public Offices Commission. There's little activity on a campaign Facebook page for Alleva, and his website simply displays an image of a campaign sign. Alleva did not submit a description of himself to the voters guide prepared by the League of Women Voters.
Alleva said he bought a moving van that's equipped with a horn. He said he's planning to drive through neighborhoods and "make all kinds of noise," reminding people to vote. He said that's a better tactic than to "flood their mailboxes with paper," and called the proliferation of yard signs "pollution."
Alleva, who is 64, said he's lived in Alaska for 42 years and spent the majority of it in the real estate business.
He has five children, most of whom work with him at Grubstake Auction Co., a real estate and auction company headquartered in downtown Anchorage. As one of his contracts, Alleva auctions off firearms and other contents of the Anchorage Police Department's evidence locker and lost-and-found drawers.
Over the years, Alleva has launched vehement complaints about social services organizations, like Bean's Cafe and the Brother Francis Shelter, clustered near his business. He has said the programs enable homeless alcoholics rather than helping them. He said in an interview that if he were elected to the Assembly, he would write an ordinance requiring the two nonprofits to hire private security guards.
Alleva occasionally testifies at Assembly meetings. Sometimes his testimony gets heated. He recalled that once, while Traini was chair, he was escorted out of the Assembly chambers because he kept trying to talk after his three-minute time limit was up.
He ran in 2011 for the downtown Assembly seat, losing to incumbent Patrick Flynn in a three-way race. Flynn got nearly 70 percent of the vote and Alleva got 15 percent.
Even Alleva says that Traini is "well-positioned" to win a third consecutive term.
"He's got a lot of union endorsements," Alleva said.
Of the $26,202 Traini has reported raising for his campaign, about $19,250 has come from political action committees affiliated with unions. Traini said his substantial union support is "because they know I care about this town."
Alleva said union endorsements shouldn't matter. He said he sees a problem with incumbents in general.
"The backlash should be, no matter who the incumbent is and how good he is, it's time to go," Alleva said. Traini, he said, had been in the Assembly too long.
"I hate to say it, but it's like an auctioneer who doesn't want to give up the mic," Alleva said.
Traini said he didn't have specific comments on Alleva. He called his opponent "a good auctioneer."
Read other profiles of this year's Anchorage Assembly races:
West Anchorage: Familiar faces square off in West Anchorage
Chugiak-Eagle River: In Chugiak-Eagle River Assembly race, big names compete for recognition