Yesterday we learned the full slate of candidates running for local office in Anchorage this spring. Now we can begin looking at how those campaigns might impact the balance of power on the Anchorage Assembly.
Right now, here is how the Assembly stacks up ideologically, with lefties in blue and righties in red:
Conservatives will balk at Bill Evans being listed on their team given his votes on any number of issues, including LGBT protection, and John Weddleton likes to think of himself as a centrist. Those quibbles aside, this chart accurately represents how the Assembly generally breaks down on ideological lines.
Now let’s take out those seats that are on the ballot this year to show who will be back for the next two years, no matter how this year’s elections pan out.
Before a single ballot is cast, lefties have a 4-1 advantage, but it takes six votes to control the Assembly.
We can also add back in on one lefty vote and two conservative votes.
The lefty vote comes because the Downtown Assembly district currently held by the term-limited Patrick Flynn is a solidly liberal area and there is nothing to indicate a conservative is likely to break that trend this year. Lefty support has been coalescing behind Chris Constant for weeks, and right now the race appears his to lose.
Likewise, the South Anchorage seat currently held by Bill Evans, who chose not to run again, is a fairly conservative district. The rightie in the race, Albert Fogle, appears to be a quality candidate with who is energetic and likable. It would be a significant upset if his lefty opponent, Suzanne LaFrance, beat him.
The Chugiak/Eagle River seat currently held by termed-out Bill Starr is just as conservative as the Downtown seat is liberal. That race does have two conservatives, John Brassell and Fred Dyson, splitting the vote against one Democrat, Gretchen Wehmhoff, but even Democratic insiders I talk to don’t feel Wehmhoff is a top tier candidate and show no hope of winning the seat.
Here is how things stand after we make those changes to the chart:
Lefties still outnumber conservatives 5-3, but still lack the critical sixth vote necessary for control of the Assembly.
That means conservatives can win a majority, but in order to do so they would have to sweep the Midtown, West Anchorage, and East Anchorage contests, and that requires beating two incumbents, Tim Steele and Pete Petersen.
It is possible, but not likely.
Such a victory would take what’s called at the national level a “wave election,” where one side wins a massively disproportionate number of races and takes out quite a few incumbents along the way. Wave elections don’t materialize out of thin air. There is always some sort of easily visible turmoil or energy on one side of the political spectrum that spurs them into existence.
So far, there is nothing to indicate Anchorage has a conservative wave building in local politics. If anything, progressive reaction to President Trump taking office and enacting his agenda has energized the left, even in red state Alaska.
2018 is a mayoral election year in Anchorage, so there will be no Assembly seats up for grabs. If conservatives fail to win a clean sweep in this year’s elections, they’ll have to watch lefties control things for at least two more years.
The Midnight Sun will do individual previews for each of these races, but for now, it looks like liberal control of the Anchorage Assembly will continue for a while.