The Anchorage Assembly is a body comprised of eleven elected representatives, serving six unique districts (the first of which is really unique, in that it only gets half the representation of any other). The Sullivan administration has enjoyed a supportive majority since 2010, when Ernie Hall edged out incumbent assemblyman Matt Claman to turn the tide fairly conclusively. The following year, the mayor’s majority grew, when Adam Trombley knocked Mike Gutierrez out of his seat in his bid for reelection.
After securing reelection in 2012, Sullivan saw the scales briefly tip even further in his favor, as West Anchorage Assemblywoman Harriet Drummond ascended to the state legislature, where she currently serves (brilliantly). Sullivan’s former city budget director, Cheryl Frasca, was elected by the assembly to fill the vacancy.
Less than three months later, she was voted out. Midtown Assemblyman Dick Traini set down his opponent by 16 points. Ernie Hall barely retained his seat against a write-in challenger. The mayor kept his majority, but there was clearly a shift away from the standard of empowering him.
As of Friday, Anchorage residents now have a set field of candidates for the next round of elections. This is a really big election; six of the 11 seats are up for grabs (but not really). As the mayor prepares to not care all that much about Anchorage, while campaigning for Lieutenant Governor, his legacy could be defined in the coming months.
District One is at the constant disadvantage of being the place where everything happens, yet is only half as represented on the assembly as any other district. So, that’s the bad news. The good news is that it’s sole representative in municipal politics is Patrick Flynn.
Which is where we take a grand pause for a disclosure statement from yours truly.
I worked as Patrick Flynn’s staffer for the last three years, ending my employ this past July. I think the world of him, and think he is the personification of the term “statesman” which we should hold as the standard for public servants. That’s not because he paid me; it’s not because I particularly agreed with him all of the time (because I really, really didn’t); but because working under him for as long as I did taught me that Patrick Flynn did nothing without careful, laboring thought, and his district always came first.
In recognition of my bias, I will mention his race as little as humanly possible, which shouldn’t be too difficult given his situation. In his latest reelection, Flynn secured over 68 percent of the vote. In his first bid, he enjoyed a 74-24 split.
This year, he faces University of Alaska Anchorage chemistry professor Mark Martinson. Martinson has no online presence, other than his directory listing with the university and “Rate My Professor” page. Some students really like him, others really don’t. He should fit into Muni politics just fine. But I wouldn’t place any bets on his candidacy.
Bill Starr is in a similar position to Patrick Flynn, although the flip-side of the ideological coin. Starr is entering his final term enjoying strong support. He won election in 2008 with 46 percent of the vote, and saw that approval rating rise to over 70 percent in 2011, when he won a second term.
Starr is a strange phenomenon in Eagle River politics; possibly the last of an “old guard.” He’s incredibly bright, influential, autonomous, and effective. For Eagle River residents who exemplify the neighborhood’s libertarian streak, they hit pay dirt with Starr.
The problem is that he’s only got three years left. I’m afraid of who will follow.
Eagle River doesn’t pay attention to politics. Whoever says “liberty” the most times at the local Chamber meeting gains favor. The latest example is Starr’s colleague, Amy Demboski, who has testified in favor of Eagle River seceding from the municipality.
Eagle River refuses to care about the municipality. Sadly, Bill Starr is the best Anchorage residents can hope for until they bother to give a damn about their community, and, by extension, ours.
Starr’s unlikely opponent is Sharon Gibbons, a ten year resident who works in criminal justice. She has none chance – not because she’s a flawed candidate, but because Eagle River doesn’t care. They should.
Even if they did, it would probably make the most sense to vote for Starr.
Tim Steele was West Anchorage’s response to Cheryl Frasca’s appointment.
The neighborhood has had a rough couple of years.
Last year began with West Anchorage Democratic Representative Lindsey Holmes switching parties immediately after winning reelection. Next, Assemblywoman Harriet Drummond – the most liberal member on the body – was replaced by Sullivan’s pick, Frasca. Just a couple of months later, District Three Assemblyman Ernie Hall waited until after the candidate filing deadline to drop Ordinance 37, a labor law rewrite that should be on this April’s ballot, but which was pushed back until November. The bill was supported by the mayor, but highly opposed by Hall’s district, who almost unseated him via write-in candidate Nick Moe. Hall’s victory margin was less than 300 votes.
West Anchorage is seething to enact repercussions, but haven’t had much chance. This April, the options are weird.
Steele has been an uncontroversial moderate, who should skate to reelection. He is being opposed by two candidates. Phil Isley, the first, will run at any office he legally can but loses supporters each time. I will likely say many horrible things about Isley during the campaign, most of which will be direct quotes without commentary. He is a uniquely unlikable person. The second, a surprise candidate, is Kelly Lee Williams, a stand-up comic who sings about smoking pot while perusing facebook, and displays national-headlines-worthy dance moves from time to time.
I spoke to Williams last week, and he told me, bluntly: “I don’t know what I’m doing. No chance of winning.”
When I followed up by asking if his campaign was a publicity stunt, the humor stopped. He said that he’s doing this to advocate for Anchorage’s youth, who he believes need more choices than alcohol or substance abuse. He thinks young adults are often left out of the conversation. “If I win, I’ll be the best assemblyman,” he told me.
The bad news: Williams has none chance. The good news: Isley has less.
Elvi Gray Jackson misses her lines sometimes, doesn’t bother much with the whole interwebs, and occasionally has trouble getting along with others. But she’s a rock star.
The second African American to ever hold an assembly seat now shares a field with two other African Americans this time around. She’s paving a more diverse road for Anchorage, and we owe her a debt of gratitude that will, no doubt, end in her name etched in history books.
Her seat was widely accepted as a “toss up” since her first attempt to unseat incumbent Dan Coffey back in 2007. She lost that year by less than four points, but made a great meal out of it (seriously, click that link). Next time around, she beat Dick Traini – now her political ally – for an open seat by over eight points. She trounced her Sullivan-backed opponent, Dave Bronson, in 2011 by over 15 points.
This time, no one bothered.
Ironically, the next time she’ll likely face a contested election will be in a bid for mayor, against Dan Coffey and Dick Traini (and, likely, Andrew Halcro).
Incumbent Adam Trombley faces two challengers. One expected, one most likely viewed by the east side conservative as a pleasant development.
Pete Petersen was my state representative, and he’s a genuinely good person and hard worker. He doesn’t know what to do with himself if he’s not serving constituents. That’s an admirable quality.
Mao Tosi and I met years back through attending different social events. I think the world of him. He’s a retired NFL player (I don’t hold his Arizona affiliation against him), a youth advocate, and the manager of the Northway Mall, which I frequent (Hood Wings, A #1 Comics, Ian’s Game Paradise – ’nuff said). We need voices like his to speak for the demographics readily ignored by the rest of the assembly.
Petersen announced his intention to run, and began the quiet campaign that all assembly candidates launch in the summer. Trombley responded correspondingly.
And then, on Thursday night, Ma’o Tosi sent me a message on Facebook, letting me know he was jumping in the race.
I’ll tell you what I told him: both campaigns are five digits ahead of him, financially, with an electoral strategy to win. Ma’o Tosi can’t. That’s not a political statement, it’s math- which I suck at, but I believe in and can’t disregard.
Ma’o Tosi will add a new component into the muni elections which is laudable; he’ll bring in new voters and voters who were discouraged from participating and gave up. His campaign will accomplish more than Chris Birch could ever hope to by simply moving the election to November without reforming any of the underlying reasons as to why people stopped caring. But, when ballots are cast, his candidacy has another effect: it negates Trombley’s shoddy record and Petersen’s name recognition, and pretty much guarantees three more years for the incumbent.
South Anchorage Assemblyman Chris Birch is terming out.
Do a little dance. I’ll wait. Hell, I’ll do it with you.
Birch leaves a legacy of doing whatever the mayor wishes him to do, however, whenever, without regard to the consequences. South Anchorage should take a moment to reflect and embrace the embarrassment.
In Birch’s wake is a bit of a contrasting image of the east side race. This is another three-way competition, with Sullivan-backed – and appointee to the muni’s ethics board – Pete Nolan vying against Bill Evans, an attorney with Sedor, Wendlandt, Evans, and Filippi.
[Editor’s note: an earlier version of this post indicated that Evans’ law firm represented the Anchorage Tennis Association. It did not – Allen Clendaniel, an associate with the firm, is an ATA member, but Evans and the firm had no direct involvement.]
Running against them is Bruce Dougherty, the left-of-Birch candidate and retired air force veteran hoping for an upset.
Birch beat his last challenger, Mike Kenny, by fifteen points. Even with two conservatives in the mix, it will likely still be an uphill battle. I’m glad that South Anchorage has opted to handicap the race, but it’s still South Anchorage.
Sullivan is rumored to be backing Nolan, Birch has endorsed Evans, and Doughtery is a darkhorse in unfriendly territory – though, as a veteran of operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, I doubt he’s all that concerned.