Five of the 11 seats on the Anchorage Assembly will be decided in the ongoing municipal election, with votes due by April 5. Enormous amounts of money continues to flow into campaign war chests, only to flow out just as quickly.
Ten of the candidates vying for the five seats — which include the West, East, Midtown, South, and Eagle River districts — have raised $1,281,543 in direct donations to their campaigns, according to the latest disclosures filed with the Alaska Public Offices Commission.
That figure does not include tens of thousands more being spent by political action committees financed by organized labor and private businesses to influence the races. While there are four other candidates who have filed for Assembly seats, they have not raised significant sums of money or mounted serious campaign apparatuses.
Candidates and observers in this year’s municipal election have said the spike in campaign contributions can be attributed in large part to a significant change in state campaign finance law that has entirely lifted limits on individual donations.
The most expensive race is for the East Anchorage seat currently held by incumbent Forest Dunbar, who has raised a total of $264,322. His challenger, Stephanie Taylor, has received $197,914.
In the South Anchorage district, first-time candidate Randy Sulte has raised $163,552 in his effort to unseat John Weddleton, who is running for a third term. Weddleton’s campaign has brought in $146,843.
Midtown Assembly member Meg Zaletel, who beat a recall effort against her last fall by nearly 20 points, has raised $104,424. Her challenger, Kathy Henslee, has outpaced her, bringing in $158,618.
Incumbent Kameron Perez-Verdia holds a fundraising edge over challenger and former Alaska House Rep. Liz Vazquez, with $113,534 to Vazquez’s $79,092.
In the Eagle River/Chugiak district there is no incumbent, with current member Crystal Kennedy opting not to run again. That race is seeing fewer donations, in part because the district is viewed as reliably conservative and therefore less competitive. First-time candidate Kevin Cross has brought in $38,913. Gretchen Wehmhoff, who as run for the seat before and was chosen to temporarily fill a vacancy on the Assembly in 2018, has raised $14,330.
Anchorage elections are conducted by mail. Candidates have aggressively ramped up their spending in recent weeks, timed to coincide with ballots arriving to residents’ at their homes. Money has gone to campaigning mainstays like signs, mailers, and radio ads, as well as on more cutting-edge services like text messaging supporters, data analytics from out-of-state firms, and targeted digital ads.
Tuesday is the last day to vote in the municipal election, which will also determine two school board seats, a large school bond package and a series of municipal bond proposals.