LaFrance outraises Bronson in final leg of Anchorage mayor’s race with both spending massively

Incumbent Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson and former Assembly Chair Suzanne LaFrance both raised huge sums of money from donors, according to the latest round of campaign finance reports, which were filed Tuesday and cover the days leading up to the April election and ongoing runoff contest.

LaFrance, however, brought in significantly more donations from both individual donors as well as a powerful independent expenditure group supporting her candidacy, and is spending down those funds more aggressively as the May 14 deadline for ballots to be returned approaches.

Though she received some big four- and five-figure checks, the majority of the $341,183 her campaign reported taking in between March 24 and May 4 in its latest disclosure to the Alaska Public Offices Commission came from more than 1,000 individual donations of $500 or less, in some cases just $5 or $10. According to campaign manager Katie Scovic, more than 1,600 Anchorage residents have donated to LaFrance’s election efforts since she launched her campaign last year. The donors reflect a broad swath of occupations, from teachers and lawyers to artists, pilots and a big game guide. They also include plenty of sitting and former elected officials — most of them Democrats, including former Anchorage mayors Mark Begich and Tony Knowles, along with a $1,000 contribution from Assembly Chair Christopher Constant.

The biggest individual donation was a $25,000 contribution from Anchorage developer John Rubini. The second-largest donation, at $10,000, came from former Republican state Rep. Andrew Halcro, who ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 2015, went on to work in the Berkowitz administration and has been a frequent critic of Bronson during his tenure. LaFrance received a number of $5,000 contributions from individuals living outside of Alaska, several of whom work in finance or helm businesses with an Alaska connection.

Such hefty donations are a recent development in Anchorage politics. Up until a federal appeals court ruling in 2021 that tossed out many of Alaska’s campaign finance rules, individuals could only give up to $500 a year to a candidate. Larger donations from the wealthy and interest groups were routed through independent expenditure entities, which could spend in support or opposition of a given candidate but were barred from coordinating directly with campaigns. Now, contributions that would have been illegal three years ago during the city’s last mayoral runoff are rolling into both LaFrance and Bronson’s campaigns.

Bronson raised $224,233 from more than 600 individuals in the same reporting period. In the full course of this election, he’s seen more than $570,000 in contributions, which is approaching the $617,813 his campaign reported raising in 2021. However, it lags substantially behind the $739,394 that LaFrance’s campaign has brought in so far.

Bronson is also trailing in spending by independent expenditure groups. In the last mayoral runoff, $143,450 was spent on his behalf by two large independent expenditure groups. This year, while there are some small independent expenditure groups that have chipped in resources towards his re-election, those contributions are dwarfed by what is being spent in support of LaFrance by outside political groups.


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

Many of the individual residents and business owners who wrote big checks to the independent expenditure group backing Bronson in 2021 simply gave directly to his campaign this time. Fourteen individuals gave a combined $85,000 to Bronson in $5,000 and $10,000 chunks, constituting a little more than a third of his total take during the runoff reporting period. The three biggest contributors were Pacific Properties owner James Protzman, BAC Transportation owner Charlie Grimm, and Ivy Home Infusion owner Paul Gionet, who each gave $10,000.

Dollars are the basic unit of energy powering political campaigns, fueling messaging efforts, canvassing, staff time, advertisements and fundraising itself. The LaFrance campaign has raised more, but it’s burned through its funds more aggressively, too, throughout the different stages of the election. In the latest reporting period, it spent $421,250 in expenditures and upcoming payments. About $148,288 of that went to the Ship Creek Group, a local political firm, buying a wide range of services including direct mail, video production, strategic consultation and compliance.

Just under $140,000 has gone to Washington, D.C.-based Sage Media Planning and Placement for advertisements to reach voters. The campaign has bought time on local TV channels and cable networks, as well as both AM and FM radio stations. On top of that, $44,720 has gone to a different D.C. firm, Hamburger Group Creative, mostly to place digital ads.

The LaFrance campaign has also spent more on staff than its counterpart. In its latest filing, it showed $24,000 going to Scovic, covering three months of campaign management. It listed $7,000 to Barbara Jones for volunteer coordination work, who retired in 2023 after a long tenure as the city’s clerk.

“This final week of the campaign is all about getting out the vote,” Scovic said. “We’re knocking on thousands of doors across Anchorage, making calls, sending texts, and activating our networks of friends and neighbors to make sure everyone knows to return their ballots by 8 p.m. on May 14.”

Bronson’s financial disclosure has less money going toward staff, with a little more than $10,000 in expenses listed for campaign management. Campaign coordinator Blake Stieren declined to answer specific questions Wednesday about the latest APOC report, saying it spoke for itself.

Of the $257,750 spent by the campaign in the reporting period, the biggest share, $97,000, went toward placing ad spots on local radio stations through longtime political consultant Art Hackney’s firm. Another $89,883 was paid to Utah-based political firm Arena for several different services that included consulting, fundraising, direct mail, as well as voter communications and outreach.

The campaign listed another $2,450 in advertising on local television station KTUU, $4,500 to Anchorage-based up49 Marketing for social media management, and $1,200 worth of advertising on conservative website Must Read Alaska.

Correction: This story has been updated to reflect that Christopher Constant is chair of the Anchorage Assembly, not vice chair.

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.