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Assembly candidates backed by the mayor get mixed results

Voters delivered mixed results to Assembly candidates backed by conservative Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan in Tuesday's city election.

Six of the 11 Assembly seats were on the ballot.

In Eagle River and Chugiak, Amy Demboski, the candidate endorsed by Sullivan, defeated two other candidates to win the seat vacated by Debbie Ossiander.

Demboski is a paralegal, and is current chairwoman of the city Budget Advisory Commission. She outpolled Pete Mulcahy, who was formerly post commander on Fort Richardson.

But in two other races, candidates aligned with Sullivan lost.

In West Anchorage, former School Board member Tim Steele defeated Cheryl Frasca, a Sullivan ally and retired city budget director.

"Going door to door, I saw a lot of ticked-off people. Not all of them about the labor issue," Steele said. He referred to a rewrite of city labor law that stripped power from city unions. The rewrite, sponsored by the mayor and two Assembly leaders, passed the Assembly in March.

"Maybe the way AO-37 (the labor law) was done, it was disrespectful, subversive, under the table kind of stuff," Steele said.

And in Midtown, incumbent Dick Traini kept his seat. His opponent, Andy Clary, had been endorsed by the mayor.

In a third race, also in West Anchorage, Assembly chairman Ernie Hall, who co-sponsored the labor law rewrite, was fighting against a strong write-in campaign.

Hall had no challenger on the ballot. But Nick Moe, a staff member of the Alaska Center for the Environment, launched a write-in campaign against Hall late in the race.

Moe said he was motivated by Hall's handling of public testimony for the labor ordinance.

At the end of the night, Hall and the write-in vote were close, Hall with 3,628 (50.6 percent) and the write-ins with 3,535 (49.4 precent). The write-ins don't get counted by name unless the total exceeds Hall's vote.

More than 2,200 early ballots cast city wide and an unknown number of questioned and mail-in absentee ballots remain to be counted, deputy city clerk Amanda Moser said. It wasn't immediately clear how many uncounted ballots remain in the West Anchorage race.

That lends uncertainty particularly to the Hall-Moe race.

The clerk's office has not yet determined when the rest of the ballots and potentially the write-ins, will be tallied.

"It's definitely going to be next week," said clerk Barbara Jones.

The election is supposed to be certified on April 16.

"I think either way, we've already won," said Moe, 26. "We've sent a loud message that the public process should be respected. I think we can say for certain that it's our time, it's my generation's time for leadership. If we can do this in a write-in campaign, we'll be able to succeed elsewhere."

Asked why his race was so close, Hall said

"I have no idea."

"Prior to AO-37 (the labor ordinance), nobody even wanted to contest me," he said.

Hall said he doesn't regret cutting off public testimony on the ordinance and would "absolutely" do the same thing again.

He said the only campaigning he did was at the very end of the race.

Without such strong union support, especially from firefighters, Hall said, Moe would not be faring so well but "he's done a fine job running his campaign."

"Three of the five people I endorsed are winning," Sullivan said. "That's 60 percent. In baseball that makes you the greatest hitter of all time."

But one of those mayor-backed candidates is Hall, who was trading leads all night with "write-in," and another was Jennifer Johnston in South Anchorage, who had no challenger.

Paul Honeman in East Anchorage -- decidedly not a Sullivan supporter -- was also unopposed.

Just after the mayor spoke, another surge of votes came in, putting Moe's write-in candidacy ahead of Hall's to loud cheers. (Hall later regained the lead.)

"There was a great effort put forth and I really admire young Nick Moe. I've known him a long time," including when Moe ran for mayor," Sullivan said.

Sullivan said he thought the election result "maintains a voice on the Assembly that looks out for the taxpayer rather than special interests."

He said Steele, with years on the School Board, came in with great name recognition and "special interest money."

"Quite frankly, I'm pretty OK with the results. It looks like we'll still have a 6-5 majority philosophically and when you count to 11, that's pretty good."

Reach Rosemary Shinohara at rshinohara@adn.com or 257-4340.