Incumbent Bronson takes aim at ‘single-party rule’ and Assembly in Anchorage mayoral runoff against LaFrance

The Anchorage mayoral runoff election is underway, and voters are choosing between incumbent Dave Bronson and former Assembly chair Suzanne LaFrance to lead the city for the next three years.

The rivals have a history: LaFrance chaired the Assembly during the first two years of Bronson’s term, leading a supermajority that often clashed with the mayor. She left the Assembly last spring after choosing not to run for a third term.

Now, Bronson is attempting to sway voters by leaning into LaFrance’s association with the Assembly. The mayor has also frequently criticized the Assembly in recent weeks, independent of LaFrance.

In recent campaign messaging, advertisements and debates, Bronson’s pitch to voters has hinged on what he calls keeping “balance” in city governance. He has asserted that a LaFrance mayorship would amount to “single-party rule” and that without Bronson in City Hall, a power-hungry Assembly would run amok.

“He thinks he has a better chance of winning if his opponent is the Assembly, not Suzanne,” said political consultant Jim Lottsfeldt, who has worked for the LaFrance campaign. “So, he’s ignoring Suzanne, and running against the Assembly.”

LaFrance, in turn, has criticized Bronson over strife within his administration, for “divisive” tactics and for what she says is a failure by Bronson to address the most critical city issues. To voters, she’s promised to “restore competency” and to bring a “nonpartisan, collaborative, low ego, problem-solving approach” to the executive office.

“They’re sort of not talking to each other. They’re both talking at the voter with completely different messages. His is a message that ‘you need to be afraid of my opponent.’ And her message is, ‘I can do a better job than the current guy,’” Lottsfeldt said.


Matt Shuckerow, a political consultant who runs local firm Fathom Strategic Communications, said the campaigns are “defining the choice” between the two candidates, and targeting voters likely to support them with messaging meant to motivate their respective bases.

“This is about building momentum, and ultimately driving people to the ballot box,” said Shuckerow, whose firm has done some work with the Bronson campaign.

The Bronson campaign did not respond to multiple requests for interviews for this story.

Ballots were mailed to voters Tuesday, and the final day to vote in the mayoral runoff election is May 14.

Resurrecting the shelter debate

Recently, Bronson has ramped up direct criticisms of the Assembly, particularly surrounding the city’s homelessness problems. During the election, he has resurrected debate over his now-dead multimillion-dollar project to construct a shelter and navigation center in East Anchorage.

Twice in April, the mayor’s office slammed the Assembly in written media statements immediately after votes regarding his request to ship to Anchorage the city’s prefabricated Sprung Structure tent purchased for the shelter project — once when the Assembly refused to take up the matter last-minute, and again when they rejected the request.

[Compare the candidates: Q&As with Bronson and LaFrance on the issues]

Bronson and a local nonprofit homeless service organization, Henning Inc., say they have a way to use private funding to cover construction costs, but they’ve provided no formal proposal or plan, nor have they said where the funding to erect the structure would come from.

Assembly members have questioned Bronson’s motivations for pushing to ship the building without providing those details.

“Our mayor continues to spend more time, energy, and city resources on optics & blaming everyone else,” Assembly member Anna Brawley said in a social media post following the April 18 vote on the shelter project. “I assume this is the status quo for the next 4 weeks.”

In a debate on Monday, Bronson again brought up the project.

“We have an outside investment group that wants to stand up the shelter that we own, operate the shelter for free. And last week, the Assembly voted to kill that idea. Why? I have no idea,” he said.

Bronson said he’s produced multiple plans for the operation of the shelter — “and they were opposed by the Assembly every last time, led by Ms. LaFrance.”

LaFrance — whose vote helped narrowly advance the project in 2022 — took issue with that. The Assembly collaborated with the administration, she said, and came to a compromise. She initially voted in favor “because I believed it was something that our community needed,” she said.

“Unfortunately, the cost ballooned. And then the rules — the laws — for spending public money were broken,” LaFrance said, referring to the administration pushing ahead with millions in construction work without the required Assembly approval.

“It became an issue about fiscal responsibility and the project simply couldn’t continue,” she said.

[WATCH: Hear from Bronson and LaFrance in livestreamed Anchorage mayoral runoff debate]


As the city on Tuesday moved forward with clearing a large homeless encampment in Midtown, Bronson again blamed the Assembly for the lack of shelter in a video posted to social media by the mayor’s office.

“These people are living the consequences of the Assembly’s failure to provide shelter,” he said.

On a different subject, Bronson has tried to associate LaFrance with a recent Assembly proposal that proved unpopular with voters.

Some Bronson advertisements have falsely attributed to LaFrance the Assembly’s recent idea for adding Portland Loo-style public restrooms around the city: “LaFrance and the left-wing Assembly proposed these homeless hangouts. Mayor Bronson strongly opposed them,” one ad said.

In debates, LaFrance had indicated that she thinks the city should establish public restroom facilities, but she’d left the Assembly long before the members proposed the $5 million bond, which failed by a wide margin during the April regular election. She was not involved in the Assembly’s proposal.

‘A rubber stamp at City Hall’

Attacking the Assembly is a familiar tactic for Bronson — one that helped propel Bronson to victory in the 2021 mayor’s race over then-Assembly member Forrest Dunbar, who is now a Democratic state senator.

At the time, Bronson’s campaign capitalized on opposition to the city’s pandemic restrictions and mask mandates, and its rhetoric also focused on criticizing the Assembly and the city’s handling of homelessness.

Throughout Bronson’s term, the Assembly and administration engaged in acrimonious power struggles. They’ve quarreled over numerous issues, including homelessness policy, the city budget, personnel problems and contracting. Some disagreements have resulted in lawsuits.


As chair, LaFrance also spearheaded several Assembly investigations into controversies within Bronson’s administration, including allegations of mismanagement, and ethics and code violations.

During LaFrance’s tenure as chair and after, the Assembly has taken votes that have stoked anger among conservatives, like approving pandemic restrictions and adding to Bronson’s slimmer proposed city budget and taxing to the capacity.

In one recent advertisement, the Bronson campaign said, “Without Mayor Bronson, our ultra-woke Assembly will have a rubber stamp at City Hall.”

Assembly Chair Christopher Constant called the idea of a “woke” Assembly “just dumb,” because even among the nine members who tend to vote against Bronson’s proposals, some are “pretty damn conservative,” he said.

“All of these cuckoo bird arguments that he’s making are just mere distractions from people actually looking at what he’s done, how he’s been, who he is. And the record is really clear,” Constant said.

LaFrance has said she decided to run for mayor because of her “front-row view” to the Bronson administration’s “negative impact.”

“We’ve got some really big challenges in front of us. I mean, municipal finances need to be in order,” LaFrance said. “There’s a staffing crisis at the police department. There’s a lack of a real plan on homelessness.”

In an interview, LaFrance asserted that Bronson is focused on politicizing city government and picking fights instead of solving the city’s problems.

She called much of the rhetoric about her from the Bronson campaign and his supporters “simply not true” and “fear-mongering.”

LaFrance rejected the idea that she would be a rubber stamp for the Assembly, saying “that’s not how it works.”

“The Assembly doesn’t run the city. That’s the mayor’s job,” she said.

She added, “there are many times where we have strong disagreements on the Assembly and I voted differently than some of the other members and they voted differently.”


Last fall, the Assembly postponed and then rejected renaming the Port of Alaska after the late Republican former U.S. Rep. Don Young, though it later reconsidered and approved the name change.

LaFrance, who was no longer on the Assembly during those votes, said she disagreed with the delay and controversy it stirred.

“I just would have voted from the get-go to make it the Don Young Port of Alaska,” she said.

[In Anchorage’s mayoral runoff, most independent expenditure group money is boosting just one candidate]

Questions of partisanship

To voters, LaFrance, who is a registered nonpartisan, has pitched herself as someone who would keep party politics out of the mayor’s office.

Bronson and his supporters are challenging that assertion.


“The notion that somehow politics is nonpartisan is naive,” Bronson said during Thursday night’s debate.

An independent expenditure group supporting Bronson, called Keep It Alaska, recently jumped into the fray with text message blasts to voters. One message called LaFrance “extremely far left” and questioned her endorsement by a local chapter of Democrats.

“I pushed back on the characterization that she’s not partisan because that’s a purely partisan thing,” Joel Borgquist, the group’s chair and a conservative political strategist, said of the endorsement.

City elections are technically nonpartisan, but political parties frequently play a role, offering financial support and endorsement of candidates. Bronson, a registered Republican, has the support of several prominent Alaska conservatives. Bronson acknowledges his political associations, calling himself a conservative and recently speaking at the Alaska Republican Party’s annual convention.

LaFrance supporters say that the mayor’s tumultuous time in office is one reason for the Bronson campaign’s focus on political ideology and the Assembly. They also point to the fact that two-thirds of voters in the April regular election voted for a mayoral candidate other than Bronson, unlike the previous three incumbent mayors, who handily won reelection and avoided a runoff.

“When an incumbent has a strong record, they just run on their record and on their accomplishments,” said Katie Scovic, LaFrance’s campaign manager.

LaFrance’s supporters insist she is more moderate than Bronson is making her out to be. Lottsfeldt said Bronson’s current advertisements contain “dog whistles.”

“He’s talking about ‘wokeness’ and sanctuary cities, which is funny because it’s not what she’s talking about at all. I mean, her proposals aren’t particularly ‘woke’ ... she’s talking about plowing roads and competent management and fully funding cops and firefighters.”

Shuckerow had a different view. There are many conservative and center-right voters in Anchorage, and Bronson’s messaging is about “sounding alarm bells” to those residents, he said.

“It’s very clear and it remains true that this election boils down to turnout,” he said. Moreover, Shuckerow said, it’s about “defining the choice between what they’re calling ‘single-party rule’ with a mayor and Assembly, sort of working hand-in-hand, in lockstep on every issue, or a government that represents the different sides and visions of Anchorage.”

For his part, Assembly Chair Constant asked, “Does the public have an appetite to spend the next three years exactly how we’ve spent the last three years?”

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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