After watching an intense few weeks of campaigning unfold, Anchorage voters are casting ballots Tuesday to decide on a gay-rights initiative, pick who should be mayor, choose three School Board members, and say yes or no to $91 million in bond propositions.
Voters are requesting absentee ballot and voting early in higher numbers than last year, said city clerk Barbara Gruenstein, indicating turnout may be up, too. More than 3,800 people had already voted at Loussac Library, City Hall or Chugiak Senior Center through Sunday, Gruenstein said. Another 2,675 people had requested absentee ballots, though they may not all vote, she said. She did not have comparable numbers for last year, but knows the numbers are up.
The ballot item that's drawn the most attention is Proposition 5, an initiative that would add "sexual orientation or transgender identity" to the city's anti-discrimination code. The ballot language asks whether the city code should provide legal protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or transgender identity, as the code already does on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, national origin, marital status, age and disabilities.
Church leaders have lined up on both sides of this issue. More than 45 leaders of denominations including Lutheran, Methodist, Episcopal and Quaker groups support Proposition 5. They've formed a group called Christians for Equality.
And more than 80 church leaders signed an open letter against the proposition. The Anchorage Baptist Temple donated $80,000 to fight against Prop. 5. Pastors of some evangelical, Catholic and historically African-American churches are among the initiative's opponents.
The leading candidates for mayor are split on Prop. 5, too.
Assemblyman and mayoral candidate Paul Honeman favors it, and said gay rights are "the equal civil rights movement of our era."
Mayor Dan Sullivan opposes it. He said he hasn't heard of any quantifiable evidence of people being fired or denied housing because of their sexuality. Sullivan in 2009 vetoed a similar gay rights ordinance that passed the Assembly.
Sullivan and Honeman are among six candidates for mayor. The others are Jacob Seth Kern, Bob Lupo, Phil Isley and Bruce J. Lemke.
The School Board races also drew six competitors, two for each of three seats on the ballot. The candidates are: For Seat E, incumbent Kathleen Plunkett and David Nees; Seat F, Tam Agosti-Gisler and Richard Wanda, and Seat G, Starr Marsett and Natasha von Imhof.
All board members are elected citywide.
The ballot includes four bond propositions:
• $59.1 million for schools.
• $27.5 million for roads.
• $2.8 million for parks.
• $1.6 million for public transit and an ambulance.
Reach Rosemary Shinohara at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4340.
Anchorage voting basics:
Polls open: 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday.
Looking for your polling place? Call 269-8683, or go to neighborhood.muni.org/, type your address, and select political. Ballots for all parts of town also available election day at two polling places: Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, lowest level, and UAA Student Center.
Results will be posted: After polls close at muni.org/elections and at election central 8-11 p.m. Tuesday at the Dena'ina Center, Kahtnu Rooms, second floor. Check adn.com for updates.
By ROSEMARY SHINOHARA
Anchorage Daily News