With more than 40,000 ballots already counted, Anchorage’s progressive incumbents on the Assembly and School Board are likely breathing a sigh of relief.
Facing well-funded conservative challengers, Anchorage Asemblymembers Forest Dunbar, Kameron Perez-Verdia and Meg Zaletel hold leads ranging from 16 to 7 percentage points. School Board members Margo Bellamy and Kelly Lessens are also faring well against crowded fields of conservative challengers, with both receiving more than 50% of the vote in their races and holding onto 10-point leads over their next-nearest challenger.
“Still a lot of votes left to count,” Dunbar tweeted following the results, “but my team is feeling pretty good about where we are at.”
The only incumbent trailing after Tuesday night’s results is South Anchorage assemblymember John Weddleton, a moderate who has not always voted with assembly’s core of progressives. He trails conservative Randy Sulte by 153 votes or about 1.5 points. In conservative Eagle River, conservative candidate Kevin Cross holds onto a 25-point lead over Gretchen Wehmhoff to fill the vacant seat.
The Anchorage Municipal Clerk’s office had worked to process more ballots for the initial count than in previous elections, giving us a clearer picture of the races earlier than in last year’s election. The 41,529 ballots counted on Tuesday brings the city’s turnout to 17.5%. The Anchorage Daily News reports that there are at least an additional 13,000 ballots that have been counted, though more can arrive by mail. Final turnout has been between about 65,000 and 75,000 ballots over the last three years’ elections.
The clerk’s office will continue counting ballots with releases expected around 5 p.m. on weekdays. The election is set to be certified on April 26.
Veto override maintained
A year after the election of far-right Mayor Dave Bronson, his battles with the progressive/moderate core of the Anchorage Assembly have taken center stage. The Assembly has routinely served as a strong check on the mayor, overriding his vetoes on several occasions and digging into allegations of malfeasance. Defeating the Assembly’s override margin, which requires eight of the Assembly’s 11 members, was a key motivator for the conservative Bronson-friendly candidates and saw a massive influx of money into both direct contributions to candidates and independent expenditure spending.
The pro-Bronson forces would need to send two members of the 9-member moderate/progressive core to be defeated. Unless something wild happens, the Anchorage Assembly is expected to maintain the numbers necessary to override a veto by Bronson.
The veto override numbers will likely only harden once the North Anchorage/Downtown assembly district is set to elect its second member in special election this summer. Unlike every other assembly district, the Downtown assembly district has only had one seat—which is held by Assemblymember Christopher Constant—but that was changed with voter approval last year. The district is expected to produce another liberal member as the assembly grows to 12.
However, the 8-member override requirement would stay the same.