David Nees thought he had found an interesting loophole in Anchorage municipal code when he discovered there’s no provision that specifically prevents someone from running for two local offices at the same time. He then filed separate paperwork to run for both the Anchorage Assembly and Anchorage School Board in this spring’s election.
Anchorage Municipal Clerk Barbara Jones didn’t take kindly to him doing so, telling Nees a local candidate can’t run for two offices at the same time… In an email to The Midnight Sun, the clerk’s office explained its response this way:
“The Municipal Clerk’s Office contacted David Nees on Thursday, Feb. 2, and informed him that the Municipal Code specifies that candidates must declare “the office” which they are seeking. AMC 28.30.020B.3. Since the term “office” is singular, and dual office holding is prohibited elsewhere in the code, the Clerk’s Office encouraged Mr. Nees to select an office for which he would like to declare. The Clerk’s Office did indicate to Mr. Nees that it could determine that his declaration for “the” first office was valid and the second declaration was not. Mr. Nees did come to the Clerk’s Office on Friday morning, Feb. 3, and voluntarily withdrew from one of the seats.”
To put that in layman’s terms, on Thursday, the Clerk’s Office threatened to take Mr. Nees off the ballot for whichever office it chose at its own discretion if he didn’t choose one to withdraw from himself. The Clerk’s Office went so far as to offer to flip a coin to decide which office he’d be removed from on the ballot.
In an interview Monday morning, Jones challenged the assertion that her office had made any determination in the matter or that they had applied any pressure to Nees, “I encouraged Mr. Nees to select an office and I indicated that I ‘could’ make a determination,” she said.
Ultimately Nees gave in, withdrawing from the School Board race early last Friday, effectively settling the issue for now.
Jones’ rationale, however, raises questions for Anchorage elections going forward.
First of all, it is highly questionable if hanging the decision on the singular nature of “the office” mentioned in municipal code is sufficient to justify throwing an otherwise qualified candidate off the ballot. But that’s a question only a court challenge can settle.
More concerning is Jones’ logic that since municipal code prohibits anyone from holding multiple offices at the same time, she can reasonably prohibit someone from running in a manner that might result in that outcome. If that is the case, it would prevent any sitting Anchorage Assemblyperson from running for Mayor, as has happened many times, most recently by Assemblywoman Amy Demboski in 2015.
This is certainly an issue the Assembly would be well advised to clean up before the next election season.