Both Assembly incumbents and all but one candidate generally aligned with the current majority had wide leads in high-stakes races for the seven of 12 seats up for grabs this year in the Anchorage city election, according to preliminary results posted Tuesday night and updated Wednesday evening.
Even in what campaigns have perceived to be some of the most competitive races — in Midtown, West Anchorage and South Anchorage — candidates aligned with the current Assembly held striking leads over their opponents.
In the West Anchorage race, Anna Brawley had a more than 22-point lead with 59.2% of the vote while opponent Brian Flynn had 36.7% of the vote. Incumbent Felix Rivera had a nearly 12-point lead over challenger Travis Szanto in the Midtown race, with 55.9% of the vote to Szanto’s 44.1%. In South Anchorage, Zac Johnson was 10 points ahead with 53.4% of the vote, while Rachel Ries had 43.4% of the vote. Johnson’s lead was the smallest among the Assembly races, but he still had a wide margin.
Incumbent and Assembly Vice Chair Christopher Constant in North Anchorage held the most decisive lead, with 65.6% of the vote. His closest challenger, John Trueblood, trailed with 22.7%.
Election officials had tallied ballots from 33,309 voters by Wednesday evening, representing 14.1% of the city’s 235,546 registered voters.
Thousands of ballots at Anchorage’s election center have not yet been counted, and more will arrive by mail over the next two weeks.
Tallies will continue to change in the coming days, possibly up until the April 20 Public Session of Canvass, the deadline for mailed ballots to arrive at the elections center.
“Let’s just hope the votes turn out the right way, and if they didn’t, we’re still not down. Maybe we didn’t take this seat, but the city is worth it and we are not quitting,” Ries said in a message to supporters on Facebook on Wednesday. Ries is endorsed in the South Anchorage race by the Alaska Republican Party and a mix of conservative politicians, including Mayor Dave Bronson.
Rivera said Tuesday that he wants to hold off declaring victory in the Midtown race until all the votes are counted. But he also said that generally, during the city’s mail-in elections, the preliminary results have been in line with final outcomes.
“I do feel at this point that yes, I will be serving another term on the Assembly,” said Rivera, who in the past has served as chair and now leads the committee dealing with housing and homelessness.
In East Anchorage, two seats are up this year because former Assembly member Forrest Dunbar left his term early after winning election to the state Senate. The candidate elected to his former Assembly seat, Karen Bronga or Leigh Sloan, will serve the remaining two years of the term.
Bronga had a 20-point lead over Sloan, with about 60.3% of the vote to Sloan’s 39.7%.
George Martinez was leading Spencer Moore in the race for the other East Anchorage seat, with 56.3% of the vote to Moore’s 43.8%.
“Not where we want to be, but there’s still quite a few ballots to count,” Moore said of the preliminary results.
Bronson-endorsed candidate Scott Myers was leading with 57% of the vote in the city’s Chugiak/Eagle River district, a longtime conservative foothold. Opponent Jim Arlington trailed Myers by 14 percentage points, with 43% of the vote.
City elections are nonpartisan. However, the Assembly’s membership has held a center-to-left supermajority, giving it a strong veto override power and the ability to hold a check on the conservative Bronson administration.
The incumbents and other candidates who are generally aligned with that majority have been vying with a group of conservative candidates who aim to break up the majority and shift the balance of power.
The results so far indicate that the Assembly is likely to keep a similar supermajority and retain its veto power over Mayor Bronson.
Political tension between the Assembly and Bronson has mounted since his election in 2021, escalating as a series of controversies enveloped City Hall.
Over the last several months, the current Assembly has pushed forward with inquiries into multiple explosive allegations made against the mayor by fired former municipal manager Amy Demboski. She accused Bronson and some of his officials of unethical behavior and illegal contracting, among other allegations.
Many conservative candidates, including some with close ties to Bronson, tried to distance their campaigns from the mayor. Those more aligned with the current majority also tried to strike a balance in their messaging to voters, saying they will continue to put a check on the mayor while working to move the city forward.
Candidates across the political spectrum have said that voters, no matter how they lean, are generally tired of the political toxicity of recent years.
Incumbents and campaign managers said they saw the preliminary results as a repudiation of the Bronson administration.
Rivera said he believes his opponent’s alignment with Bronson was one of the determining factors in the election results.
“I think the people have spoken, and what they have said loud and clear is they want an Assembly that will serve as a check on this mayor,” Rivera said.
Ira Slomski-Pritz of Ship Creek Group — which managed the campaigns of Johnson and Bronga, and assisted with Brawley’s campaign — said the candidates he’s worked with, and candidates that are often called center-left, want to put partisanship aside.
“I think folks are gravitating towards candidates that are focused on local issues, not national politics, and are committed to working together to solve problems and make Anchorage work again,” he said.
Last year, voters also largely rejected candidates connected with the Bronson administration, with three of four incumbents defeating a group of Bronson-backed challengers.
Votes cast on election day have tended to break conservative in recent elections, and it’s likely margins will shrink, though not by enough to change the end results, Slomski-Pritz said. In past city elections, as more ballots have been counted, results have shifted around 2% to 5%, he said.
“I think there’s a really strong chance these results hold but we will wait to fully celebrate until we see the final tally,” he said.
Certification of the election is scheduled for April 25. New members will grapple with a big learning curve, as most candidates have yet to hold public office.
Election officials expect to post updated preliminary election results this week on Thursday and Friday evenings.