Conservative candidate Dave Bronson is set to become Anchorage’s next mayor, ending a six-year run of progressive leadership in the highest office of the state’s largest city.
Bronson’s 1191-vote victory over progressive Assemblymember Forrest Dunbar is set to be certified at the Assembly’s Tuesday meeting following two weeks of tallying ballots from the May 11 run-off election that at times veered into contentious territory.
Though Bronson’s campaign took the lead on the second day of results and held it, his campaign and supporters weren’t shy about spreading Big Lie-style conspiracies about the election and making life tough at the election center.
“For the last two weeks we have had observers down at the Election Center and have been reaching out to a number of voters who need to ‘cure’ their ballots,” Dunbar said in a Facebook post conceding the race to Bronson. “During that time, we have witnessed aggressive, confrontational, and frankly bizarre behavior from Bronson supporters and staff toward Election Center workers. Their actions have caused the Election Center to revoke observer access to members of the general public, ban at least one Bronson campaign observer from entering the Center, and needlessly consumed Election Center staff time responding to baseless challenges.”
And while a Bronson victory looked certain early in the vote counting, Dunbar suggests there’s a larger goal at play: The end of the city’s by-mail elections. In the Legislature far-right Republicans had initially proposed strict limits on local by-mail elections, which would have primarily affected Anchorage and Juneau.
“Coupled with their allies on the Assembly and in the far-right media, the Bronson campaign is strangely casting doubt on the election that they themselves are winning,” Dunbar wrote. “Likely, this is a prelude to a concerted attempt to repeal the Anchorage Vote By Mail system, despite the demonstrable success of that same system as seen in this year’s record turnout.”
Bronson will have a big challenge when it comes to altering the city’s elections and just about anything else on his agenda: A strongly progressive Assembly that still includes Dunbar. While the mayor has considerable say in the day-to-day operations of the city and staffing (with which plenty can be done), the Anchorage Assembly’s still responsible for selecting and hiring the municipal clerk and for setting election laws.
As for Bronson’s victory, he struck a perfunctory conciliatory note in his victory post.
“I know that there are some in Anchorage who did not vote for me. As Mayor I will work to bring this city back together so we can make Anchorage more vibrant than ever,” he said. “Thank you to my staff and family who helped me through this whole process. Also, thank you to Forrest and his campaign. We had a lot of important conversations throughout this election, and I look forward to continuing to have them.”