Labor council backs LaFrance, an early show of support in Anchorage mayor’s race

An organized labor coalition representing some 15,000 members on Thursday endorsed Suzanne LaFrance in the 2024 Anchorage mayor’s race.

In a written statement, the Anchorage Central Labor Council said that after interviewing three candidates and reviewing questionnaires filled out by each, it voted unanimously to back LaFrance, a former Assembly chair who represented South Anchorage for two terms until opting not to run for a third earlier this year.

“With her municipal experience, Suzanne has shown that she will be ready on day one to put our city on a path to prosperity. We have complete confidence in her ability to lead Anchorage and fight for working families,” said council president Dennis Knebel.

Unions don’t typically endorse candidates this early in the race, with the April 2 election still more than six months away. But already, a fierce contest is shaping up between candidates challenging incumbent Mayor Dave Bronson, all of whom are hoping to garner enough votes to advance to a runoff if nobody hits the 45% threshold necessary to win in the first round — an outcome many anticipate. According to the Central Labor Council, this is the earliest it’s ever waded into the campaign with an endorsement.

“We can not afford another three years of Dave Bronson,” Knebel said.

The Central Labor Council is made up of trade unions affiliated with the AFL-CIO chapter in Alaska, including unions representing electricians, plumbers and more in the Anchorage Bowl. Though such endorsements hardly mean the thousands of affiliated workers will all cast their ballots the same way, it makes it likely resources like campaign donations from political action committees and membership mailing lists will benefit LaFrance’s candidacy.

The backing is seen as a boon for LaFrance, and a hit to former state House majority leader Chris Tuck, a Democrat who many believed was depending on union support to buoy his run.


“Tuck was known in Juneau as ‘the labor guy.’ When he entered the mayor’s race, the conventional wisdom was he’d bring significant labor support to his campaign,” said Jim Lottsfeldt, a political strategist who supports LaFrance but is not working professionally for her campaign.

“I’m not sure where he goes for support,” he said.

Tuck, a longtime IBEW member and union organizer, said he’s surprised and disappointed by the council’s decision.

“I was always considered the labor candidate throughout all the years of serving,” Tuck said. “This is just really unimaginable to me — but I know it’s not because I haven’t earned it. There’s other factors, and I think fear is the biggest one.”

Some politicians and strategists believe Bronson’s chances of winning outright are increased with moderate and progressive votes split among LaFrance, Tuck and Bill Popp, the fourth major candidate in the race, who recently retired as head of the Anchorage Economic Development Corp. and announced his candidacy Tuesday.

The labor council’s early decision signals labor supporters and progressives are likely to coalesce behind the LaFrance campaign.

“I’m honored to receive this endorsement. I grew up in a union home, and I know how important good jobs are for working people and their families. I’m excited to get to work,” LaFrance said after the endorsement.

More endorsements from specific union chapters connected with the Central Labor Council, along with influential interest groups like local affiliates of Planned Parenthood and the Alaska Center, are expected to roll out in the weeks ahead. According to Lottsfeldt, if they all break toward the same candidate, it could signal to political donors that other competitors lack broad appeal and keep their campaigns from developing momentum.

“I respect their decision,” Popp said, adding that while he would have liked the council’s endorsement, he is hopeful some individual union chapters he’s had conversations with will back his candidacy.

He noted his past work with businesses and emphasis on community reinvestment will be another source of campaign support.

“The business community is an important base for me,” Popp said. “I think we’re going to have a very broad base of support.”

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The Bronson campaign did not return an email and phone call Friday. In a July interview, Bronson said he believes he stands a good chance of winning reelection. Bronson, a conservative, said his administration provides a counterbalance to the Assembly majority. The mayor said he learned from some mistakes early in his term and that his administration has worked out many of its challenges.

”I think I have a lot to offer the city,” Bronson said in July.

The deadline to file candidacy in the spring Anchorage election isn’t until January — and “that is a long time to wait in, now, what is a very contested field, against somebody who absolutely cannot be allowed to continue to serve,” said Joelle Hall, president of the Alaska AFL-CIO, the largest labor organization in the state. The Anchorage Central Labor Council is a subordinate organization of the Alaska AFL-CIO.

“The stakes are really, really high,” she said.

With multiple candidates, mayoral races typically result in a runoff election, because a candidate must garner more than 45% of the vote to win outright.


When more than one pro-labor candidate ran for mayor in the past, the council and other organizations would wait until the runoff race to endorse, said Kim Hays, the Alaska AFL-CIO’s political director.

But that sets back the momentum of the pro-labor candidate who does make it to the runoff — leaving them with just one month of focused support, Hays said.

While the labor council endorsed now-state Sen. Forrest Dunbar, D-Anchorage, in the 2021 mayoral race, others waited until the runoff to put their full support behind his campaign, she said.

Union affiliates had called on the council president to hold a vote and make the decision early in the race, unite behind one candidate and avoid “history repeating itself,” she said.

Tuck said that, regardless of the council’s endorsement decisions, he still supports the labor movement.

“I will always be true and blue to the labor movement,” he said.

The city is scheduled to mail ballots on March 12 for the April 2 election. A runoff race would take place on May 14, with ballots in the mail May 6.

[Correction: This story has been updated to reflect that mayoral candidate endorsements from interest groups such as the Alaska Center, not the Nature Conservancy, are expected in the coming weeks. The Nature Conservancy does not issue endorsements. The story has also been updated to make clear that the Labor Council endorsed Forrest Dunbar in January 2021 during the regular election for Anchorage mayor.]

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Zachariah Hughes

Zachariah Hughes covers Anchorage government, the military, dog mushing, subsistence issues and general assignments for the Anchorage Daily News. He also helps produce the ADN's weekly politics podcast. Prior to joining the ADN, he worked in Alaska’s public radio network, and got his start in journalism at KNOM in Nome.

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