Tomorrow is election day in Anchorage. At this point in most election cycles, visible campaign activity tends to spike as much as tensions between competing campaigns.
This year is the exception, at least on the visible campaign activity side. Yes, there are plenty of last-minute campaign ads popping up and a newspaper article here or there just to confirm there actually is an election on the horizon. This morning, however, I drove around the normal street corner haunts of campaign sign wavers and didn’t see a single one.
Don’t get me wrong, I am a staunch non-believer in the efficacy of sign-waving, but it is a tradition in Alaska politics and standard operating procedure for real campaigns. For a campaign watcher like me, the size of the crowds or lack thereof can signal how much energy there is in the coming election. Seeing not a single person out sign waving the day before the election is telling. It means candidates either don’t have the supporter and volunteer base to get people out or aren’t organized enough to put the activity together.
Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a definitive measurement. I wasn’t able to drive by every major street corner in Anchorage, so it’s possible some campaigns just chose new corners this year. That’s not likely, but possible.
The bottom line is that the lack of sign wavers out this morning confirms what many of us have been saying for weeks: this is a low-energy/low-profile election.
That lack of energy isn’t preventing some races from getting testy towards the end.
In Midtown Anchorage, the Assembly race that includes Felix Rivera and Don Smith is getting heated after Smith sent this mailer out attacking Rivera over the weekend:
The mailer says of Rivera, “Rivera’s agenda revolves around inflicting his moral and religious ideology onto your family.” I have to give Smith credit on this one. He came up with a whole new code phrase for “vote against my opponent because he is gay.” And to be fair to Smith, while that tactic is offensive to most on its face, it doesn’t even make the list of the top five most offensive things he has said while seeking office.
The mailer drew this response from Rivera’s campaign:
Midtown voters woke up on Saturday morning to find a disturbing mailer from Assembly candidate Don Smith. Filled with untruths and fake facts, Mr. Smith falsely equates Rivera’s work on behalf of immigrants and refugees with the “release [of] rapists and murderers into society.” This type of language, while not only without factual grounding, seeks to divide Anchorage.
“I was saddened to hear about Don’s mailer today. This is exactly the type of politics that Anchorage residents hate. His words are both inaccurate and untrue, and attempt to instill fear into voters. They divide and create fractures in our society. Our diversity is what makes Anchorage great. This isn’t the politics I believe in. Midtown deserves better,” Rivera remarked.
This isn’t the first time that Don Smith has used inflammatory language in the course of his campaigns. His unsuccessful run for School Board in 2014 ignited controversy when he attributed Anchorage’s graduation rates to diversity in the school system. In an interview on KSKA’s “Running” program (a forum he declined to attend this year, claiming the 2014 interview and subsequent media coverage lost him that election), he remarked that “[Anchorage schools are] 48% white and 52% other and that clearly is causing problems. I think our numbers are dropping because where we are importing all of these people that aren’t up to the standards that we had set for the school.
“Consequently, it’s drawn us downward not upward… You know, we can’t tell all these people to go back to Africa or back to Indonesia or wherever they’ve been imported from.”
Anchorage voters rejected this type of language in the past, and the Rivera campaign is confident they will again today. “I’ve run a positive campaign that’s focused on increasing our public safety infrastructure, improving our residents’ quality of life, and solving our fiscal situation,” Rivera said. “I’m going to keep talking about those issues through Election Day, and I look forward to helping build a stronger Anchorage on the Assembly.”
Then there is the Downtown Anchorage Dem-on-Dem fight between Chris Constant and David Dunmore. Dunsmore kicked things off by sending out this mailer attacking Constant for being a closeted Republican and even tying him to the presidential campaign of Donald Trump.
That provocative attack prompted blowback from establishment Dems, including Sen. Tom Begich, who represents Downtown Anchorage in the legislature. He formally withdrew his endorsement of Dunsmore, saying:
“While David Dunsmore is my friend, and I endorsed him, I don’t support his misleading attack on Christopher Constant who has done so much for this community. It is unfortunate and unfair. Consequently, I must withdraw my endorsement.”
The counterattack on that mailer could still get worse for Dunsmore. Among other things, his mailer alleges to prove its point that Constant is a closet conservative is that John Bitney, who the mailer lists as a lobbyist and “Palin Operative,” is supporting and donated to Constant’s campaign.
Unfortunately for Dunsmore, he forgot that he himself solicited Bitney for campaign support. Here is the proof:
After all is said and done, the Dunsmore mailer may do more damage to his campaign than it was worth.