A second round of preliminary special election results shows Midtown voters are firmly rejecting an effort to recall Anchorage Assembly member Meg Zaletel, and though there are more ballots trickling in, it’s unlikely the outcome will change.
In Wednesday’s preliminary election results, 10,617 ballots had been counted. About 59.9% of Midtown voters whose ballots have been tallied voted no on Zaletel’s recall while 40% voted yes, slightly decreasing Zaletel’s lead from Tuesday’s results.
While ballots are still arriving, it’s unlikely that the outcome of the vote will change, Zaletel said in an interview earlier Wednesday.
“We want to wait and see what all of the vote count shows for the outcome,” she said.
“It’s strongly in our favor, and I don’t anticipate that changing,” Zaletel said. “I think if it did, it would be very unexpected.”
In April, voters soundly rejected a nearly identical initiative to recall Midtown Assembly member Felix Rivera. Just over 12,500 Midtown ballots were cast — less than 30% of the district’s registered voters — in a recall vote held during the regular municipal election.
Both campaigns have said that it would likely be more difficult to turn out voters during this recall vote, which is occurring during a special election, rather than a regular election. So far, ballots from about 25% of the total registered voters in District 4 have already been counted in Zaletel’s recall.
Voting closed at 8 p.m. Tuesday, but more ballots will continue to arrive at the elections center by mail. Most ballots postmarked by Oct. 26 have until Nov. 8 to make it to the elections center and be counted. Military and overseas ballots have until noon on Nov. 9 to arrive and be counted.
Russell Biggs, a local anesthesiologist and the main sponsor of the initiative and recall petition, said voters should have seen the recall initiative on the April ballot instead of a special election.
“The results are not surprising given the amount of Outside money that was funneled into the state, and the fact that Zaletel successfully delayed the recall vote for a year by suing to stop it,” he said by text message.
Tens of thousands of dollars have poured into the special election from both sides of the recall effort, including a few large donations.
A third-party group supporting Zaletel received a $70,000 donation from a national labor union group, though state records show most donations directly to Zaletel’s anti-recall campaign have been local. Another third-party group supporting the recall efforts received a donation late last month of $75,000 from McKenna Brothers Paving co-owner Marc McKenna.
As of Monday, state records also showed that more than $140,700 had been raised in the recall effort — about $10,000 more than the $130,400 raised to support Zaletel.
While the official stated reason for recall is that Zaletel may have participated in an Assembly meeting with too many people present under a COVID-19 emergency order last year, campaigners on both sides say the vote is actually about policy disagreements and a struggle over the direction of politics in Anchorage.
Zaletel has been a supporter of policies that many of the recall’s proponents have vehemently opposed, including the city’s current and previous COVID-19 restrictions.
Zaletel said she is ready to move past the recall and instead focus on the issues Anchorage faces.
“It’s really about getting back to work,” she said. “We’re in the middle of budget season, and it would be nice to get back to work without this as a distraction for the constituents and residents of Midtown.”