Anchorage

Here’s who has filed to run for Anchorage Assembly and school board in the spring 2022 election

A slate of candidates seeking to unseat current Anchorage Assembly members has registered to run in this spring’s municipal election.

By the time registration for candidacy closed Friday at 5 p.m., 15 people, including four incumbents, had filed for the five seats up for grabs on the Assembly.

Assembly members Kameron Perez-Verdia, who represents West Anchorage, Meg Zaletel, who represents Midtown, Forrest Dunbar, who represents East Anchorage, and John Weddleton, who represents South Anchorage, are all seeking reelection. One sitting Assembly member, Crystal Kennedy, will not seek reelection.

A number of the new candidates are would-be allies to Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson, and if elected, they aim to shift the balance of power in the city in the mayor’s favor.

Bronson, a self-described conservative, has clashed multiple times with the current Assembly majority over city issues since taking office last year. Points of contention have included the budget, a temporary ordinance requiring masks in public last year, and an escalating power struggle between the two branches of government.

[Earlier coverage: With at least 5 Anchorage Assembly seats up for election, Mayor Bronson and allies set sights on a shakeup]

Reached for comment on her decision not to campaign for another term, Kennedy, who represents Eagle River-Chugiak, said her husband recently retired and with the time-consuming nature of Assembly work, it’s time for her to retire, too.

“I absolutely love my community, and it’s definitely kind of bittersweet to say that I’m not going to be in that role,” she said.

While Assembly seats are technically nonpartisan, if Anchorage voters elect some of the more conservative challengers, it could weaken the Assembly majority’s power and strengthen the mayor’s hand, especially when it comes to mayoral vetoes. The Assembly needs eight of 11 votes to override a veto, and currently just two of its members consistently vote in line with the mayor — Kennedy and Jamie Allard, also of Eagle River.

[Anchorage Assembly overrides Mayor Bronson’s veto of ordinance on meeting rules]

Some conservative Assembly candidates have been working together as their campaigns attempt to flip the Assembly seats. A joint fundraiser was held last year by three candidates, Kathy Henslee, Stephanie Taylor and Randy Sulte, all Bronson supporters.

Two school board seats are up for election, with two incumbents running: School Board President Margo Bellamy and member Kelly Lessens. Bellamy faces two challengers. Lessens, who was elected last year to fill the remainder of a resigning member’s term, faces three challengers.

Anchorage residents who want to vote in the April 5 election must be registered by March 6 unless they are already registered to vote. Ballots will be mailed at least 21 days before election day. To be counted, all ballots must be postmarked or returned to a secure drop box or an in-person vote center by election day.

Assembly

District 2 - Seat A - Eagle River/Chugiak

Kevin Cross

Cross is a real estate investor and part owner of the Quantum Laundry Lounge in Anchorage. He is currently the chair of the Anchorage Platting Board. Cross was born in Anchorage and describes himself as a conservative on his website. He was recently endorsed by both Allard and Bronson, according to his campaign Facebook page, and both attended a campaign kickoff fundraiser for him this month.

Campaign website: crossforak.com

Vanessa Stephens

Stephens is a longtime Chugiak resident and lifetime Alaska resident. She previously worked for the Anchorage Police Department in computer forensics and technology and was a business owner of Chinook Computer Services. She is a first-time candidate for political office.

Gretchen Wehmhoff

Wehmhoff has previously served on the Anchorage Assembly from 2018 to 2019, briefly filling a vacancy left by former member and current Municipal Manager Amy Demboski. She previously ran for a District 2 seat and lost in 2017. She was also a Democratic candidate for the Alaska House of Representatives in District 12 in 2014 and 2016. Wehmhoff is a teacher, a member of the Birchwood Community Council and has served as chair of the Anchorage Public Transportation Advisory Board.

Campaign website: www.teamgretchen.com

District 3 - Seat D - West Anchorage

Kameron Perez-Verdia

Perez-Verdia, a current Assembly member, was elected to Seat D in 2019 and is seeking a second term. He previously served on the Anchorage School Board from 2013 to 2017. He is the president and CEO of the Alaska Humanities Forum, a nonprofit.

Campaign website: kameronforassembly.com

Nial Sherwood Williams

Williams ran for an Anchorage School Board seat last year and lost. He is a frequent attendee and testifier at Assembly and school board meetings. He has been ejected from the chambers for disruptive behavior and was recently arrested during an Assembly meeting.

Nick Danger

Update - March 7, 2022: Danger has withdrawn his candidacy for District 3 Assembly Seat D, West Anchorage.

Danger is a previous candidate for the Assembly seat, losing in 2020 to member Austin Quinn-Davidson with 3,524 votes. He is a Local 302 operating engineer and previously said that he wanted to bring a conservative, Christian, working-man viewpoint to the Assembly.

Liz Vazquez

Vazquez was a Republican Alaska State House representative for District 22 from 2015 to 2016. She is an attorney, a former administrative law judge, assistant state attorney general and state prosecutor. She has twice served on the board of directors of Chugach Electric Association.

Campaign website: lizvazquez.us

District 4 - Seat F - Midtown

Meg Zaletel

Zaletel was elected to Seat F in 2019 and is seeking a second term. She is a disability attorney who came to Alaska for a job with the Disability Law Center of Alaska. She is currently the interim executive director of the Anchorage Coalition to End Homelessness. Zaletel defeated a recall petition against her last fall by a wide margin.

Campaign website: megforanchorage.com

Kathy Henslee

Henslee previously ran as a Republican candidate for the Alaska House, District 23, and lost in 2020. She is a business owner and real estate agent with AK Gold Homes. Bronson introduced Henslee during her campaign launch last year.

District 5 - Seat H - East Anchorage

Stephanie Taylor

Taylor is a longtime Anchorage resident and has been a stay-at-home mother of her five children for the last 30 years, according to her website. She has volunteered on several political campaigns, including Bronson’s.

Campaign website: stephanieforak.com

Forrest Dunbar

Dunbar, the current Assembly member for Seat H, is seeking a third term. He is an attorney and a commissioned officer in the Alaska Army National Guard. Last year, Dunbar ran for mayor and lost to Bronson in the runoff election by 1,193 votes. He was also a 2014 Democratic candidate for the U.S. House.

Campaign website: forrestdunbar.com

Christopher Hall

Hall is a first-time candidate for elected office. He is an HVAC instructor at Charter College in Anchorage. Hall previously worked as a shipfitter.

District 6 - Seat J - South Anchorage

Darin Colbry

Colbry ran for mayor in last year’s election and lost with 31 votes. Colbry also ran for governor of Alaska in 2018 and lost in the Republican primary with 416 votes.

John Weddleton

Weddleton is the incumbent Assembly member for Seat J and is seeking a third term. He is an owner of Bosco’s, a comic and game store in Spenard. He has served on the Abbott Loop Community Council board and land use committee, the Hillside Home and Landowners Organization and is currently a part of the Spenard Chamber of Commerce.

Campaign website: weddletonforassembly.com

Randy Sulte

Sulte is a first-time candidate for Anchorage Assembly. He is a private pilot and works as chief operating officer of Kakivik Asset Management and CCI Industrial, according to his website. Sulte says he is running to “bring balance back to a deeply polarized Assembly,” according to his website.

Campaign website: sulteforanchorage.com

School Board

Seat A

Cliff Murray

Murray is a longtime swim coach in Anchorage, including coaching at South High School. He is the head coach at Northern Lights Swim Club.

Campaign website: www.facebook.com/CliffMurray4ASDSeatA

Dan Loring

Loring ran for school board Seat F in the 2021 election, and lost with 3,345 votes. Loring said he is retired and that he has a strong interest in education and is currently doing research to write a book about the Anchorage School District.

Margo Bellamy

Bellamy is currently school board president. She was elected in 2019 to the board and is seeking a second term. She began working in the Anchorage School District in 1974 and has held multiple positions, including working as a teacher, librarian, assistant principal and principal.

Campaign website: margobellamy.com

Mark Anthony Cox

Cox ran for Seat B on the Anchorage School Board last year and lost. Cox is an Anchorage School District graduate and served in the U.S. Army. He is the CEO of Family Charity of Alaska.

Campaign website: macforanc.com

Seat B

Kelly Lessens

Lessens was elected to Seat B last year to serve the remainder of a term for a board member who resigned. She is a founder of ASD60, a parent organization and advocacy group that started a pilot program in the school district to increase physical activity and time for eating.

Campaign website: kelly4anchoragekids.com

Benjamin R. Baldwin

Baldwin is a first-time candidate for school board. He serves on the Kenaitze Indian Tribe’s education committee and is a member of the board of directors for the National Indian Education Association.

Dustin Darden

Darden has run for public office a number of times, including for Anchorage Assembly, but has so far never won a seat. He is a frequent attendee and testifier at Assembly meetings, and has been arrested or ejected from the chambers for disruptive behavior several times.

Rachel Ries

Ries is a first-time candidate for office. She is a former medevac pilot and platoon leader in the Army National Guard. She had previously announced her intent to run for a South Anchorage Assembly seat but has since decided to run for school board instead.

Campaign website: riesforalaska.com


Emily Goodykoontz

Emily Goodykoontz is a reporter covering Anchorage local government and general assignments. She previously covered breaking news at The Oregonian in Portland before joining ADN in 2020. She earned her degree in journalism from the University of Oregon. Contact her at egoodykoontz@adn.com.

Sponsored