Muni Election Post Mortum

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After a few days have passed in order to let the election results settle out, now is a good time to look at what we can take away from what happened Tuesday.

So far the media have concentrated their coverage on the tax cap proposition passing, the the school bond propositions failing, and how a new swath of progressive Assembly members are set to take office and give Anchorage what could possibly be the most liberal assembly we have ever seen.

All of those things are true. We won’t waste your time belaboring those points but rather point you to these excellent articles: APRN and ADN

Here are other interesting takeaways, some might say more interesting takeaways, that have gone largely unreported.

Everyone Loves Ethan — One of the major takeaways from both the campaigns and results is that after nearly a year in office, Mayor Ethan Berkowitz still remains popular. You might expect that a year after electing the most liberal Mayor in the Muni’s history, our center-right community might move to balance out his lefty tendencies. That didn’t happen. The assembly is arguably more liberal after the election than it was before it.

In addition to the election results, the campaigns themselves suggest that not only is the Mayor popular, but Republicans know it. In the latter years of Mayor Sullivan’s administration his opponents made direct opposition to him and his policies the cornerstone of their campaigns. This time around conservative candidates only made reference to their disagreement with Mayor Berkowitz tangentially.

They supported Prop 8, which was a repeal of an adjustment to the tax cap made by the Mayor and current assembly. However candidates, appeared to keep their support for the proposition trained on the issue itself rather than using it as a platform to create a referendum on the Mayor’s performance as a whole.

Little was heard on the Mayor’s signature policies to address homelessness, chronic inebriates,  spice / heroin epidemics, or support for the LGBT nondiscrimination ordinance. The character assaults launched at Berkowitz by conservatives just one year ago appear to have been buried and cemented over in an unmarked grave somewhere in the tundra.

The obvious takeaway is that conservative candidates understood the Mayor and his policies remain popular so challenging him directly would do little for their campaigns.

Another Bad Day for the AK GOP — Back in October, I wrote about the long losing streak Republicans are suffering in local elections. This Tuesday did nothing to change that narrative. In fact, you could make the case things got worse.

Everyone agrees that the more conservative candidates lost in the West, South, Mid-Town, and East Anchorage races, but it’s fairly common knowledge that former Alaska GOP Chairman Randy Ruedrich, who still runs a lot of the Party’s campaign apparatus recruited Nicholas Begich to run in the Chugiak/Eagle River race, donate to his campaign, and was trying to organize an independent expenditure group against incumbent Assemblywoman Amy Demboski.

WIth those fact established it could easily be argued Begich’s loss means the AK GOP party office went 0-5 in local races. Ouch.

Will the Alaska Republican Party do a post mortem and make changes to address their now three year long local election slump? They most definitely should, but they most definitely won’t.

Alaskans for Prosperity Get Badly Needed Win — Much like the Alaska GOP, the local affiliate of the conservative activist group Americans For Prosperity has had a track record of failure in races they play in. Just look at last spring’s Mayoral race where they promised to play a big role in defeating the liberal Berkowitz only to have him win by the largest margin in the Muni’s history.

Rumors have been swirling for some time the national organization has been increasing the heat on the local group to find success or see the national spigit of dollars cut off.

With that hanging over their head the group decided to go all in on supporting Prop 8 with internet advertising, phone banking, etc. When the results came in with a 61% victory, they got the decisive win on an issue right in their fiscally conservative wheelhouse that they badly needed.

I tend to think the issue won on its own, but in politics no position is so good it can’t be squandered, so those on the winning side always deserve some degree of credit for locking down the W.

Economy and State Fiscal Crisis A Factor — A lot of the buzz leading up to the election was to what degree a souring Alaska economy and the continuing lack of resolution to the state’s budget problems would impact the election. After reviewing the returns I would argue, not a lot, but I think I might get an argument from many of you on that.

If voters were truly being driven by these issues we should have seen a trend emerge in the ballot propositions and who won elections. None appears to exist.

Voters rejected the school bond narrowly 51%-49%, but went on to pass, sometimes overwhelmingly, all the other bond packages. Voters then seemed to contradict themselves by voting in large numbers for the tax cap restoration on Prop 8.

Those mixed results coupled with a lackluster 21% voter turnout (the last three Assembly elections have averaged a slightly higher 22.2% voter turnout) would seem to indicate that concerns about the Muni’s economy and the state’s budget were at best a mild factor in the election. They certainly were not driving voter decisions or turnout any more than they normally do.

My picks were dead on — Damn, I am good

West Anchorage
Final Predictions                             Current Results
Croft 48%-Trombley 36%            Croft 46%-Trombley 34%
Perman 13%-Darden 3%             Perman 15%-Darden 5%

East Anchorage
Final Predictions                             Current Results
Dunbar 58%-Gales 42%               Dunbar 60%-Gales 39%

Midtown Anchorage
Final Predictions                             Current Results
Traini 70%-Alleva 30%                  Traini 62%-Alleva 36%

South Anchorage
Final Predictions                              Current Results
Weddleton 43%-Taylor 41%        Weddleton 43%-Taylor 41%
Schimscheimer 16%                       Schimscheimer 15%

Chugiak/Eagle River
Final Predictions                              Current Results
Demboski 54%-Begich 46%         Demboski 58%-41%

About the Author

Casey Reynolds
Reynolds served as communications director for the Alaska Republican Party from 2008-2011. He left the Party in 2011 to host his own popular morning radio political talk show on AM750 / FM103.7 KFQD. Reynolds now runs The Midnight Sun (midnightsunak.com), crowned by the Anchorage Press as “Alaska’s best political blog.”