Dave Bronson’s lead grew significantly Friday over opponent Forrest Dunbar in the Anchorage mayor’s runoff election, the latest round of preliminary results showed.
Bronson had a 1,116-vote lead over Dunbar on Friday evening, with 44,076 total votes and 50.64% of the vote. Dunbar had 42,960 votes and 49.36% of the vote.
Though there are thousands of votes left to count, ballots have broken in favor of Bronson since Wednesday, and it is unlikely — though mathematically possible — that Dunbar will catch up. Dunbar would need upwards of 60% of the outstanding votes to catch Bronson.
In a statement posted to his campaign’s Facebook page on Friday following the updated results, Bronson came just short of declaring victory:
“We are encouraged by tonight’s results. It is clear that Anchorage is moving in a new direction!” he wrote.
He called his campaign a “team effort” and thanked his volunteers.
“Also, I want to thank Forrest for his hard fought campaign,” Bronson wrote. “Now it is time for the city to come together and get to work.”
Dunbar was away for duties with the Alaska Army National Guard on Friday and could not be reached for comment.
On Thursday, Dunbar acknowledged Bronson’s growing lead in a post to his campaign’s Facebook page, saying it “appears unlikely that we will make up the difference.”
On Friday, the campaign clarified that he was not conceding the race.
An additional 6,000 ballots were included in Friday’s count, and 87,165 ballots have been counted so far.
More than 92,000 ballot envelopes have arrived at the elections center during the runoff race, leaving at least 4,800 ballots left to count.
More are arriving by mail, though the number arriving each day has trickled off since runoff election day.
Bronson and Dunbar were initially neck-and-neck on Tuesday in the first round of preliminary runoff election results, with Dunbar ahead by just 114 votes.
Bronson overtook Dunbar the next day and has since substantially widened that lead. Many predicted that votes cast later in the runoff election would lean conservative, favoring Bronson, and Bronson also had said that “conservatives vote late.”
The race for Anchorage mayor is technically nonpartisan, but the election has been marked by partisan divides. The two candidates have starkly different visions for the city’s future, and see each other as political extremists.
Bronson has opposed many decisions by the city’s current leadership, including its previous COVID-19 policies that restricted businesses. Bronson announced his candidacy last summer as an effort to bring conservative leadership to Anchorage.
He is a retired military and commercial pilot who served in the Air Force, Air Force Reserves and Air National Guard, retiring with the rank of lieutenant colonel.
Dunbar is a twice-elected Assembly member from East Anchorage and a captain in the Alaska Army National Guard. During the pandemic, Dunbar voted multiple times in support of the city’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. City officials said they restricted capacity at businesses and temporarily shut down some during the pandemic to help slow the spread of coronavirus and keep hospitals from becoming overwhelmed.
With a 36.8% voter turnout so far and more ballots to count, the runoff race has smashed the city’s previous voter turnout record. In 2018, during the first year of the city’s vote by mail system and the previous mayoral election, voter turnout hit a record with 36.3%.