Unions fighting labor law rewrite pour money into two Assembly campaigns

Rosemary Shinohara

In the days that followed Mayor Dan Sullivan's proposal to rewrite city labor laws, union groups and members rushed in to contribute $11,000 to two Anchorage Assembly races featuring candidates critical of the mayor's ordinance, campaign finance reports show.

Mayor Dan Sullivan unveiled a proposal to rewrite city labor law on Feb. 8.

The Sullivan proposal, still before the Assembly, would take away unions' right to strike, and it would limit raises, among other things. Sullivan says he wants to streamline union contracts, save money and make the city more efficient.

In Midtown Anchorage, unions have responded by pouring more money into the campaign of incumbent Assemblyman Dick Traini, who is against Sullivan's labor plan. Traini's opponent is Andy Clary, son of Anchorage Baptist Temple administrative pastor Glenn Clary and a conservative who has Sullivan's support and ran a close race against Traini in 2010.

Clary raised money from developers and other business people. Contributions to his campaign were about equal to Traini's as of the most recent state reports.

In West Anchorage, Assembly candidate and former School Board member Tim Steele began drawing union donations in February, but is still behind Cheryl Frasca in fundraising.

Frasca, Sullivan's former city budget director, received donations from the mayor and other city officials, developers and other business people.

The election for Assembly and School Board seats and bond propositions is now a little more than two weeks away.

Six Assembly seats are on the ballot, but three incumbents are unopposed: Paul Honeman in East Anchorage, Ernie Hall in West Anchorage and Jennifer Johnston in South Anchorage. Three newcomers, Peter Mulcahy, Amy Demboski and Robert Lupo, are running for an open seat representing Eagle River and Chugiak. Only Mulcahy and Demboski are raising enough money to have to file state reports.

"The only thing that's really different is the labor ordinance and the response of labor," said Dan Coffey, a former Assembly member and inveterate election watcher.

The timing of the ordinance also made a difference in who's running, said another former Assemblyman, Charles Wohlforth. The Sullivan plan became public on the same day the filing period closed to run for city offices.

"If it hadn't been dropped on the filing deadline, Ernie (Hall) would have had a strong opponent," Wohlforth said.

Hall, Assembly chairman, is a sponsor of the mayor's labor proposal, and no one filed to run against him by the deadline.

"I think the unions are realizing their people are highly motivated and doing what they can," Wohlforth said.

Traini picked up at least $7,000 in donations from union groups during February and thousands of dollars more from people who work for unions, or the city. That's as of the campaign reports due the first week of March.

Unions had donated $5,000 to the Traini campaign prior to the introduction of the labor ordinance.

Traini's campaign income jumped from $8,565 through Feb. 1, to $41,133 through March 1.

Some police officers and firefighters gave $500 each, and many others donated $100 or $200. Political action committees for the firefighters, police, laborers, operating engineers, plumbers and pipefitters, and APEA unions each donated $1,000 in February. The Teamster ALIVE raffle account gave another $1,000.

U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, who was mayor before Sullivan, gave $500.

Clary raised more money early in the campaign and ended up with nearly the same amount as Traini, $41,205, by March 1. His money came from developers such as Andre Spinelli and Connie Yoshimura, business owners, lawyers, builders and others, including $500 from Mayor Sullivan and another $500 from his wife, Lynette Sullivan.

Steele, the West Anchorage candidate, drew $4,000 from union groups in February. No union political action groups contributed to Steele's campaign before that.

Steele had raised a total of $26,215 by March 1.

Frasca, with Sullivan's backing, had raised the most of any candidate: $47,735.

Reach Rosemary Shinohara at rshinohara@adn.com or 257-4340.