Preliminary election results posted late Wednesday showed Forrest Dunbar leading the Anchorage mayor’s race, but with Dave Bronson closing the gap. Dunbar and Bronson continue to hold wide leads ahead of the 13 other candidates.
With just over 41,800 ballots counted, Dunbar, an Assembly member from East Anchorage, was leading with 13,711 total votes, or about 32.8%. Bronson, a retired pilot, had 12,986 total votes, or about 31%.
None of the 15 mayoral candidates are likely to gain the 45%-plus-one lead required to win the election outright. If no one wins outright, the top two candidates will advance to a runoff election on May 11.
Elections workers are still processing tens of thousands of ballots. Many were collected over the weekend at secure ballot drop boxes. Thousands are still flowing in by mail, and on Tuesday, last-minute voters flooded Anchorage’s in-person vote centers. Those ballots remain uncounted.
Early results Wednesday showed Bill Falsey third in the mayor’s race with just under 13% of the vote, Bill Evans with about 9%, Mike Robbins with 7% and George Martinez with 3%. Nine other candidates each had received a small number of votes.
On Tuesday evening, city election officials released preliminary results that included far fewer ballots than expected -- just 10,606 -- which is less than 4.5% of all registered voters in the Anchorage municipality. That left candidates in suspense on election night.
Wednesday’s early results, with counted ballots accounting for 17.7% of registered voters, gave more clarity.
Though still ahead, Dunbar’s lead narrowed Wednesday by a little over 2%. Bronson increased his share of the vote by 1%.
Dunbar on Wednesday night said he was not quite ready to claim a spot in a runoff election.
“The gap obviously narrowed between the two of us,” Dunbar said of Bronson. “But it still appears that the two of us are going to a runoff. But there are still a number of votes to be counted.”
Municipal Clerk Barbara Jones on Wednesday said that, in a conservative estimate, there are an additional 15,000 ballot envelopes at the elections center that workers have not yet begun to process.
More will continue to come in by mail, and some may trickle in up until the certification of the election on April 20.
The thousands of uncounted ballots could give any candidate a boost and threaten Dunbar or Bronson’s spot in a runoff. Still, that is unlikely, as Bronson and Dunbar hold wide leads in the race. Falsey would need to snag a majority of the remaining votes to land in the runoff.
“Tonight the numbers show that Anchorage is ready for a new direction,” Bronson said Wednesday night in an emailed statement.
Bronson said he thinks a runoff could “go either way,” because there are just 341 votes separating the total votes between “the conservative candidates and the left leaning candidates.”
Self-described conservative candidates include Bronson, Mike Robbins and Bill Evans. Bronson has said he sees candidates as Dunbar, Bill Falsey and George Martinez as left-leaning.
In the nonpartisan race for mayor, the preliminary results speak to deep disagreements between Anchorage residents.
Much of Bronson’s campaign has been predicated on bringing conservative leadership to the city. He has opposed its approach to the coronavirus, including its emergency orders and mask mandate, which he has said he would revoke if elected.
Dunbar has criticized Bronson for his views on the pandemic, and Bronson has criticized Dunbar and the rest of the Assembly for pandemic-related shutdowns he says harmed the economy.
As an Assembly member, Dunbar has supported the city’s emergency orders and voted to extend the emergency declaration multiple times. He has campaigned on what he calls “fact-based leadership.”
Wednesday night’s results also show that District 4 voters are continuing to lean toward rejecting an initiative to recall Assembly chair Felix Rivera. About 58% voted “no” on the initiative. Just over 16% of the registered voters in the district have submitted ballots that are included in that tally so far.
The leaders of the school board race — Pat Higgins for seat E, Kelly Lessens for seat B, Dora Wilson for seat F and Carl Jacobs for seat G — also remained the same in results posted Wednesday.
That means two incumbents in the school board race appeared poised to lose their seats following Wednesday’s early results. School Board President Elisa Vakalis was trailing Jacobs by more than 1,200 votes, and board member Alisha Hilde was in third place in the crowded race for seat E, which has six candidates. Higgins was leading Hilde in that race by more than 7,800 votes.
Wilson has a lead of more than 4,700 votes over her opponents. In the race for seat B, Lessens was leading conservative opponent Judy Norton Eledge by just over 900 votes.
Wednesday’s preliminary results also remained the same for the 11 propositions on the ballot. Proposition 1, a $6.9 million bond proposal that would fund various capital projects, was failing with about 48% of the vote, but the rest were passing. That includes a property tax levy to pay for body cameras and other technology improvements for the Anchorage Police Department, which is so far succeeding with 55% of the vote.