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Assembly members set to jockey for leadership following election

Nathaniel Herz

The makeup of the Anchorage Assembly is poised to swing away from Mayor Dan Sullivan after residents appeared to vote Tuesday to oust conservative Adam Trombley from his East Anchorage seat.

Initial results have Trombley trailing former Democratic legislator Pete Petersen by 340 votes, with about 7,500 untallied early votes and absentee and questioned ballots split between six different Assembly districts.

The counting process is expected to run through next week.

In South Anchorage, conservative Bill Evans had a 210-vote lead over moderate opponent Bruce Dougherty -- which, if it stands, would maintain right-leaning control over a seat that's been held by Chris Birch for nine years.

Assembly Chairman Ernie Hall, who has led the 11-member body for two years, said members would likely appoint a new chair later this month, after the results of Tuesday's municipal election are certified -- though Assembly members, and Sullivan, downplayed the impact of a change on city affairs.

Potential candidates to replace Hall, one of two members from West Anchorage, include Midtown representative Dick Traini, who's been one of the most active members of the Assembly minority, and South Anchorage's Jennifer Johnston.

Patrick Flynn, who represents downtown and Mountain View, also said Wednesday that some Assembly members had spoken to him about the job.

"Should be a fun couple of weeks to watch the jockeying," Flynn said.

Flynn said he'd heard that Bill Starr, who represents Eagle River and Chugiak, was interested in the position, as well, but Starr said in an interview that he had accepted a job as a commercial pilot this summer, and preferred to focus his Assembly work on his constituents rather than on being chair.

Midtown representative Elvi Gray-Jackson said she hoped to be elected vice chair of the Assembly.

If Petersen's lead holds, the current six-member majority that's aligned with Sullivan would flip. Sullivan, in an interview Wednesday, said that a switch "wouldn't really change the direction of the administration." "We may have to work a little harder to get consensus on some issues," Sullivan said. "You may not agree on philosophical issues. But 95 percent of what the Assembly does is not philosophical."

Sullivan is running for lieutenant governor -- which, if he's elected, could result in his departure from office in December, elevating the Assembly chair to the job of interim mayor.

That's one incentive for members to seek the position of chairman now, though Starr said in an interview that the Assembly can be reorganized at any time -- and he added that he's interested in the interim mayor job.

But before a new chair can be selected, the city must first finish tallying the questioned ballots, and the early and absentee votes.

In addition to the two tight Assembly races, one of the seven bond packages that went before voters was still too close to call: a measure that would put $5.5 million toward renovations to the Loussac Library; relocation of Mulcahy Stadium, near Sullivan Arena; and improvements at City Hall and to the Anchorage Golf Course.

While the six other bond packages each appeared to pass with more than 55 percent of voters approving, the library package was almost dead even, with 18,818 supporting the bond, and 19,107 opposed.

Marc Hellenthal, an Anchorage political consultant, said he expected the measure to ultimately fail, given what he described as a history of absentee ballots trending more conservative.

"The absentees will kill that one off, for sure," he said Wednesday.

Mary Rasmussen, a board member of the Anchorage Library Foundation, said in an interview that she was "extremely disappointed" with the results.

"You keep your fingers crossed for the last votes, and then we'll see," she said.

She added that regardless of the outcome of the bond, her organization would still push to get additional funding for the library renovations from the state Legislature.

Reach Nathaniel Herz at nherz@adn.com or 257-4311.

 


By NATHANIEL HERZ
nherz@adn.com