What is the old Chinese curse? May you live in interesting times? In the race for the Assembly seat in South Anchorage times are very interesting.
The last month has seen two registered Republican candidates drop out, two more register to take their place, and a third seemingly switch party affiliations just in time to declare his candidacy. Very interesting, indeed.
Here is where things stand today. David Jensen and Joe Riggs have dropped out and Joy Bunde, Treg Taylor, and Mark Schimscheimer have all jumped in. They join John Weddleton. That means there are now four candidates in the race.
The veteran in the race, and by that I mean his campaign can be measured in months rather than days or even hours, is John Weddleton who’s probably best known as the owner of Bosco’s. Weddleton and his crew bristle when I refer to him as the left-of-center candidate in this race. A look at his campaign materials certainly doesn’t cry out “LIBERAL!!!” There is no mention of hot button social issues like LGBT rights, abortion, school choice, or gun control. Mostly, Weddleton is branding himself as a “can work with everyone” local businessman and when you talk to him it’s clear he really, really, likes the process of local governance.
But I’m sorry Weddleton fans, in this race he is the center-left candidate. His campaign finance disclosure reads like a who’s who of progressive politics. He’s accepted donations from Berta Gardner, Pat Abney, Ernie Hall, Pat and Patti Higgins, Pete Petersen, David Ramseur, Bettye Davis, Andy Josephson, Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, Eric Croft, Max Gruenberg, Elvi Grey-Jackson, and Sheila Selkregg. He’s also taken money from a few public employee unions.
It’s true Weddleton sports endorsements from Republicans Andrew Halcro and Rep. Mike Hawker, but if those are your most conservative endorsements, then that says something too.
A fair assessment is Weddleton isn’t a fire-breathing Bernie Sanders type socialist, but he is undeniably the candidate of Anchorage progressives.
Schimscheimer is probably the most interesting of the candidates in the race. He is a civil engineer who has worked in both the private sector and in state government. Early indications are that he will run as a pro-business moderate.
The interesting part is that Schimscheimer was a Democrat as recently as late last year, but changed his party registration to Republican just prior to declaring his candidacy. He also has donations to Barack Obama and the Walker-Mallott campaign. That would seem to make it difficult for staunch conservatives and hard-core Republican Party insiders to support him.
Joy Bunde is the daughter of former longtime legislator from South Anchorage Con Bunde. Her work history includes stints as a reporter at KTVA, TV anchor with then KIMO, and then a host of advertising rep jobs with multiple companies. You can view a larger bio for Bunde on her campaign’s fundraising page on gofundme.
Bunde is beginning her campaign with two primary messages. The first is that she is a fiscal conservative. She hasn’t shared any details on what that means, but her campaign has only begun to organize, so it’s reasonable to give her some time to lay those details out.
Her second message is that she is a long time Republican. This is obvious trolling of opponent Mark Schimscheimer.
Taylor is an LDS Church member who previously ran for school board in 2011. His campaign website already boasts of endorsements from Dan Sullivan, Chris Birch, and Commissioner of Administration Sheldon FIsher, who is a leading figure in the LDS church.
If the race dynamics remain as they are today, and I wouldn’t bet the house on it, Weddleton receives all left of center support, Schimscheimer plays for the pro-business crowd, Taylor is the social conservative candidate, and Bunde casts herself as the fiscal conservative.
That means there are three candidates playing for right of center voters and only one playing for those on the center and left, a dynamic that all but guarantees Weddleton the win.
The South Anchorage Assembly district is a solidly Republican district, enough so that if Republican power brokers can narrow the field to a three-way race one of the right leaning candidates could win. This is exactly how Bill Evans won this same district in 2014:
So look for pressure to be applied in the coming weeks to at least one of Taylor, Bunde, and Schimscheimer to drop out.The candidate profile of Schimscheimer would suggest he has the most baggage and would be the likely target of such pressure, but rumblings I’m hearing are that it’s likely to be Bunde, who gets the talking to.
Regardless of what happens, this race will be interesting. Stay tuned for more coverage.