As latest vote count arrives in Anchorage mayor’s race, Bronson and LaFrance gear up for a runoff

In a second round of preliminary election results Wednesday, incumbent Mayor Dave Bronson and former Assembly Chair Suzanne LaFrance held their wide leads over other competitors, remaining poised for a runoff race.

LaFrance and Bronson each had a little more than a third of the total vote as of Tuesday night in the Anchorage mayor’s race. By Wednesday afternoon, the latest vote count gave LaFrance 36%, and Bronson just under 35%.

Former Anchorage Economic Development Corp. executive Bill Popp received about 17% of the vote, and former Democratic state Rep. Chris Tuck got just under 8%.

Under municipal rules, if no candidate receives 45% of voter support, then the top two vote-getters reappear in a head-to-head contest in May.

With just about six weeks to sway voters, both the Bronson and the LaFrance campaigns are anticipating a competitive and expensive contest.

“We’re not going to take anything for granted, and I think Suzanne is going to have to go out and earn every single one of those votes over the next six weeks,” said Ira Slomski-Pritz of Ship Creek Group, a local political consultant firm working with LaFrance’s campaign.

“It was about what we expected,” said Hunter Fanning, outreach coordinator for the Bronson campaign, speaking about the vote distributions. He added that as of Wednesday there were still thousands of votes to be tallied, and a better picture of candidates’ support will firm up in the days ahead.


“It’ll be a huge runoff for sure,” Fanning said.

After the first round of results Tuesday, Popp said he’s waiting until more ballots are counted before conceding or endorsing anyone in the runoff, but noted “that’s a tough gap to close.”

“We know that there was a strong turnout today. We just want to see what the numbers look like as we get into Friday, possibly Monday, depending on where the counts are,” Popp said Tuesday night.

Tuck said he was “a little bit surprised” following Tuesday’s results and that he won’t be endorsing either candidate in the runoff at this time. Some people supporting his campaign previously supported Bronson or initially favored LaFrance, he said. Much of Tuck’s campaign focused on “bringing people together.”

“We’ll just see how things shape up between the two of them to see who will catch, capture that togetherness spirit the most between now and that final outcome,” Tuck said.

‘A race of turnout’

Many campaign watchers believe the preliminary ballot returns indicate that LaFrance is in a strong position going into the runoff election against Bronson.

The LaFrance campaign itself noted in a press release that Bronson’s share of the votes in early returns is abnormally low for an incumbent running for a second term in Anchorage by historical norms.

Former mayors Mark Begich, Dan Sullivan and Ethan Berkowitz won second terms with more than 55% of the vote, avoiding runoff elections in 2006, 2012 and 2018, respectively.

“If you underperform incumbent mayors by 20 points, is that inspiring to your base?” said AFL-CIO Chair Joelle Hall, whose independent expenditure group is spending tens of thousands of dollars opposing Bronson and supporting LaFrance.

“Those results portend defeat in my mind,” Hall said of Bronson’s campaign.

Matt Shuckerow, a political consultant who runs local firm Fathom Strategic Communications, said that while it’s clear Bronson and LaFrance are advancing to the runoff, both campaigns will have to work hard to turn out as many votes as possible in the coming weeks.

“I don’t think that this campaign is over by any means,” said Shuckerow, whose firm did some work for the Bronson campaign.

“This race is really going to be a race of turnout,” Shuckerow added.

Late-arriving ballots in Anchorage tend to tilt conservative, which could nudge up Bronson’s vote margin, but are unlikely to alter the preliminary results in a meaningful way.

Historically, “it’s been anywhere between a 2% to 5% shift in the candidate races; less of a shift in the ballot props,” Slomski-Pritz said. “Suzanne might not end up at the front as the top vote-getter, but she will definitely end up as the candidate to challenge Bronson.”

Many of those who’ve opposed Bronson said that early returns favor LaFrance’s election efforts.

“I think she’s going to win,” said former Democratic state Sen. Tom Begich, who backed Tuck in the regular election. “There’s no path for Bronson.”


Much of the analysis after Tuesday’s results came down to math: Roughly two-thirds of the electorate picked a candidate other than the incumbent, indicating he is not their first choice for a large majority of voters.

“The problem for Bronson is that analysis of municipal likely voters paints a picture of him having a ceiling of about 46 or 47% max — which means that in a runoff he’d have to identify and turnout people who would not typically bother voting,” campaign consultant Art Hackney wrote in an email.

Hackney, an old hand in Republican political campaigns in Alaska, worked for Tuck this cycle.

Wooing Tuck and Popp voters

As Bronson said often during candidate forums, he was the main conservative option among the race’s primary candidates and, as a sitting mayor, is already well-known to voters.

“He had a lane all to himself, he had the power of incumbency, and he had three years of name recognition, and he’s not changing his performance from 2021,” said John-Henry Heckendorn, managing partner of the Ship Creek Group and a supporter of LaFrance.

Popp, LaFrance and Tuck all pitched themselves as relatively similar candidates: moderate, left-leaning alternatives to Bronson. Consultant Jim Lottsfeldt, who is working for LaFrance’s campaign, said it would be a mistake to assume all of Popp and Tuck’s voters will automatically fall in line behind her in the race’s runoff contest, but he believes a majority of them will.

“They’ve already said Bronson’s not their first choice,” Lottsfeldt said.

However, LaFrance was also not the first choice for those voters.


Many Tuck and Popp voters will be weighing their second choice in the weeks ahead, Shuckerow said. Final ballot counts will be “highly informative” for the campaigns as they determine how to dedicate resources and which voters to target, he said.

Bronson on Tuesday night said he thinks many Tuck voters could be “natural allies.” He plans to pitch his case about the “ideological divides” between himself and LaFrance.

Preparing for a hard-fought runoff

The team behind LaFrance, Lottsfeldt said, is well-organized relative to what he’s seen in past municipal elections and, in addition to spending on messaging, plans to connect with potential voters in-person.

“We have an aggressive field campaign organized to identify people who are gonna vote for Suzanne,” Lottsfeldt said. “I think that’s gonna give us an extra margin of victory.”

Fanning, with Bronson’s team, declined to comment on specific outreach or tactics the campaign plans on implementing going forward. But he said supporters will soon begin pitching in on turning out the vote for Bronson.

“We have a lot of people who have expressed interest in volunteering, and I expect they’ll come out of the woodwork (now),” Fanning said. “I think we’ll see a much greater involvement.”

Bronson heads into the runoff with a hefty cash advantage, something LaFrance seemed to allude to Tuesday night as she told supporters that the campaign faces a big lift, aiming to raise another $300,000 in donations.

“We expect that this week we will do better and better,” Lottsfeldt said of the LaFrance campaign’s fundraising efforts. “We made projections in the general for fundraising which we met and exceeded. And now we have projections for the runoff.”

The Bronson and LaFrance campaigns are preparing for a hard-fought and bitter runoff.

During the first two years of Bronson’s term, LaFrance as chair led an Assembly with a moderate-to-progressive supermajority that frequently clashed with the conservative mayor’s administration. The Assembly and administration have been locked in power struggles and duked out some disagreements in lawsuits. They’ve quarreled over a range of issues, including homelessness policy, personnel problems and contracting.

“I’ve been kind of defined by my opponents the last three years,” Bronson told reporters Tuesday night, adding that he would defend himself but would not “sling mud.”

LaFrance meanwhile told a crowd of supporters that she hopes to bring together “a professional team of people who are ethical,” also saying that “we don’t have an administration that can even just get the basics right.”


In LaFrance’s signature campaign message, she has promised to “restore competency” to City Hall.

In 2021, Bronson’s campaign capitalized on a wave of opposition to the city’s pandemic restrictions and mask mandates, and much of its rhetoric hinged on sharp criticisms of the Assembly and the city’s handling of homelessness. Bronson’s victory was narrow over then-mayoral candidate and Assembly member Forrest Dunbar, now a Democratic state senator.

But the issues surrounding the pandemic, which largely propelled Bronson to victory and motivated many of his supporters, are over.

Another big difference this election: Bronson now has a record as mayor.

“He’s got six weeks to try to convince people that all of the mess that’s been made over the last three years is not actually his fault. So I think you’re gonna see a lot of attack ads. And we’ll see. I don’t think it’ll work,” said Slomski-Pritz.

But LaFrance also has a record from her time in the Assembly, Shuckerow said. Bronson, in campaign messaging, has used that record against her.


“We’ve already seen from some of the messaging focus on, as they use, ‘single-party rule,’ and on having a mayor that is in close lockstep with the Assembly that doesn’t have the strongest favorability,” Shuckerow said.

“And I think that’s probably where this election is gonna go: a choice between the two candidates and what it means for Anchorage,” he said.

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