Bronson opponents take early sides in Anchorage mayoral race

With eight months until the Anchorage mayoral election, opponents of Mayor Dave Bronson are already duking it out over which candidate would give them their best shot at victory.

Since longtime former Democratic lawmaker Chris Tuck entered the race in June, following former Anchorage Assembly Chair Suzanne LaFrance’s May announcement, politicos to Bronson’s left have been divided on the best path forward.

The friction comes unusually early in the race. For two years, the coalition has been largely united in its opposition to the mayor’s policies, but many say they must urgently unify behind one candidate, or else they risk a Bronson victory.

The disagreement has split the delegation of mostly Democrats representing Anchorage in the Legislature, along with union leaders, educators and other prominent city residents, in a rift that has spilled over into public opinion pieces and private text messages described as “vitriolic.”

Calls to drop out

In Anchorage, a candidate for mayor can win outright, avoiding a runoff, by crossing a 45% threshold of support.

Although scandals and accusations have diminished Bronson’s support, it’s still possible he could reach that threshold, said John-Henry Heckendorn, founder of Ship Creek Group, a political communications and campaign management firm that has worked with numerous local center-left candidates.

[Larry Baker, at center of multiple allegations against Mayor Dave Bronson’s office, is back as adviser]


“A lot of electoral history tells you that incumbents have significant advantages. This incumbent obviously has significant liabilities as well,” Heckendorn said. “But, from my perspective, it’s very clear that the easiest way for Bronson to win reelection is to get to that 45% hurdle in the first round.”

Some of LaFrance’s most ardent supporters say her best chances of victory come if Tuck drops out of the race. With more than one viable left-of-Bronson candidate, they say a runoff is likely, and Bronson’s chances are bolstered.

“I think it’s important (Tuck) get out as soon as possible so that people who are to the left of Bronson are able to organize together and pool our resources and our energy and really win this election outright,” said Laura Norton-Cruz, an Anchorage resident who co-signed, along with several other Anchorage women, a letter calling for Tuck to drop out of the race.

The letter went further in accusing Tuck of having “a history and reputation of sexist beliefs and behavior.” A separate opinion piece by Anchorage attorney Scott Kendall alleged Tuck had a “lack of respect for women and their rights.”

In a phone call this week, Tuck called the letters a “character assassination” and a “distraction.” He disputed that his entry in the race would increase Bronson’s chances of an April victory.

“There is no way to avoid a runoff in this election,” said Tuck. “I think people are naive in thinking that there’s only going to be three candidates in this race.”

Supporters of Tuck say that a runoff is almost inevitable, even if Tuck were to drop out, given that the filing deadline is still months away and more candidates could file — including ones that could draw left-leaning votes.

“I think choices and the ability to have good dialogue and discussion and debate about vision and policy and issues is what makes any candidate stronger,” said Sen. Löki Tobin, an Anchorage Democrat supporting Tuck. “I’m not a fan or supportive of this idea that we all need to coalesce around one person, because any person has faults and has weaknesses and we as the voting public have the right to have those vetted and understood through the campaigning process.”

Some Anchorage political operatives, like Heckendorn, disagree.

Without a second viable conservative candidate to draw votes away from Bronson, “you’re absolutely not guaranteed a runoff in 2024,” Heckendorn said.

“We just have a lot of examples of how multiple candidates running really saps momentum and affects all of these pre-election things like fundraising, like volunteers, like organizations being able to catalyze around the single candidate and move together,” Heckendorn added.

[Bronson proposes giving plane tickets to Anchorage’s homeless this winter to prevent deaths from exposure]

A kickoff event for Bronson’s reelection campaign is scheduled for Monday — with the support of powerful Republicans, including Gov. Mike Dunleavy and U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan.

In a recent interview, Bronson said he’s learned from some mistakes early in his term and that his administration has worked out many of its challenges, expressing confidence in his current staff. Bronson said he believes he has much to offer the city and that he stands “a really good chance of winning.”

‘Politics of personal destruction’

Tom Begich, a Democratic former state senator who has co-chaired Tuck’s campaigns, said he has received “bullying” text messages and emails from LaFrance supporters, and wondered whether negative messaging this early in the race could turn voters away. Sen. Elvi Gray-Jackson, an Anchorage Democrat who introduced Tuck at his campaign launch event Tuesday, also said she received “harassing” and “troubling” messages from LaFrance supporters.

“The politics of personal destruction are what got us into the place that we are with the municipality today,” said Begich. “If you really want to see a new mayor in this town, then the politics of personal destruction is not the answer.”

Sen. Forrest Dunbar, who ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 2021 after serving on the city Assembly, posited the text messages are a reaction to what some see as disrespect for LaFrance and efforts by Tuck’s supporters to divert support to him.


“I think what you see is a real desire to not repeat the last three years. And some, I think, good safe disagreement about who is the strongest candidate to go forward and do that,” said Dunbar.

Dunbar — one of several sitting state legislators publicly supporting LaFrance — said some lawmakers who favor Tuck underestimate the support that LaFrance gained during her time chairing the Assembly at the height of the pandemic, when she navigated meetings inundated by angry crowds.

In an interview this week, LaFrance repeatedly pivoted away from answering questions about Tuck, focusing her responses instead on Bronson.

LaFrance and her supporters echo a phrase: “training wheels.” Tuck would need them, LaFrance wouldn’t, they say, given her six years on the Assembly and close familiarity with Bronson’s administration. Her supporters also celebrate the opportunity to cast ballots for a woman.

[City manager contacted Anchorage police over concerns with election challenge brought by mayor’s former top aide]

Tuck and his backers see the other side of that coin. They say his fresh perspective, devoid of City Hall drama, coupled with his years serving as majority and minority leader in the Alaska House, make him fit for the job.

“People are more focused on tearing each other down than they are building the city up. And I think that just shows why someone coming from the Assembly isn’t necessarily the best person in these times that Anchorage is going through,” Tuck said this week.

LaFrance says that thanks to her time as Assembly chair her “innards have been forged in steel.”


“When you go through something like that, you grow your capacity, too,” she said.


For many of LaFrance’s early supporters, abortion access — not often a topic brought up in municipal politics — is a key issue.

Tuck, a registered Democrat, personally opposes abortion but said that he doesn’t intend to pursue policies that would make it harder for people to seek the procedure, which is protected under the state constitution. LaFrance’s supporters say that’s not enough.

“I’ll say that, following the Dobbs decision, it’s just not something that I think is really tolerated by our base anymore,” said Dunbar, referencing the June 2022 U.S. Supreme Court decision that undid decades of federal protections for abortion access

Dunbar said that even though snow plowing, homelessness and other issues are likely to take center stage in the campaign, candidates hoping to court left-leaning voters can’t afford to oppose abortion access.

“At the municipal level, even though we aren’t legislating abortion … it’s something that’s so important and so top of mind for so many of us right now, that it’s almost a non-negotiable,” said Rep. Jennie Armstrong, an Anchorage Democrat.

Tuck has pointed to several policies he backed while serving in the state Legislature that strengthened the rights of women.

“They can call me pro-life, I have no problem with that. But they can’t call me anti-abortion,” said Tuck. “They’re trying to capitalize on a Supreme Court decision that’s got people fired up.”

LaFrance, a registered nonpartisan who supports abortion access, said the mayor’s personal opinions have an impact and can set the tone for the administration. The mayor also appoints directors and high-profile city leaders, including to the Health Department, she said.

“So there are issues concerning sex education and reproductive health that come up,” she said. “And, as we’ve seen, the position of mayor is one where there’s opportunities to advocate.”

‘Highly unusual year’

In the months ahead, support from groups including labor organizations and political parties will likely be key in determining which candidates gain traction among voters. The Alaska Democratic Party is already weighing in with support for Tuck, the only registered Democrat in the race, though party director Lindsay Kavanaugh said the party could support LaFrance in the future.

The party can provide similar resources to candidates who are not registered Democrats, but it must first go through an approval process, Kavanaugh said, adding that LaFrance’s campaign has requested the party’s support.


“Anybody who is saying that the Democratic Party doesn’t support (LaFrance) I think is mischaracterizing our process. That said, we do support Chris Tuck. We have for a long time,” said Kavanaugh.

In previous mayoral races, the party has provided support to multiple candidates, drawing criticism from some for the seemingly technical way it doles out its resources.

“Do we unequivocally give Democrats support 100% of the time? No. There have been several Democrats that were actually Democrats in name only,” said Kavanaugh. “I do think the Democrat behind the name is important.”

Joelle Hall, director of Alaska’s largest labor organization, said the central labor council typically doesn’t weigh in on candidate endorsements until January, but it’s likely to happen sooner this year.

“It is a highly unusual year. I guess we shouldn’t be surprised when you have such a catastrophic incumbent,” said Hall.

Iris Samuels

Iris Samuels is a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News focusing on state politics. She previously covered Montana for The AP and Report for America and wrote for the Kodiak Daily Mirror. Contact her at

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. Contact her at