The results are 98.3 percent in!
Another Anchorage municipal election is now behind us. Thankfully, it looks as though the voters didn’t leave enough question marks on the doorstep overnight to keep us pacing.
At the dialed-down, mini-room that served as election central at the Dena’ina Center, results started trickling in shortly after nine. Out of the six assembly seats up for grabs (a majority of the body’s eleven members), four were foregone conclusions.
The story of her public life is nothing short of amazing. 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. Next time around, she upset Dick Traini – now her political ally – by over eight points. Gray-Jackson trounced her Sullivan-backed opponent, Dave Bronson, in 2011 by over 15 points.
From an underdog to an untouchable. She’s referred to as a rock star for a reason.
The rumor, as she heads into her third term serving midtown on the assembly, is that Gray-Jackson has her sights set on City Hall. Expect her name to be tossed in the hat when the mayor’s race heats up, alongside Dan Coffey (who has already announced), assembly colleagues Paul Honeman and Dick Traini, and current Anchorage Chamber of Commerce President Andrew Halcro.
Patrick Flynn, in similar fashion, coasted into his third and final term. Flynn represents Downtown, Mountain View, Fairview, South Addition, and Government Hill, and does so by himself. District One is the sole single-member district. Half the representation, but no shortage of support. He enjoyed 73 percent of the vote over challenger Mark Martinson. Martinson ran, not due to any disdain for his opponent, but because he didn’t think candidates should run unopposed.
I salute Mr. Martinson for stepping up to the plate, and congratulate Mr. Flynn on the three-peat. Full disclosure, I was Patrick Flynn’s staffer for the bulk of his last term, and am a big fan.
In West Anchorage, perennial candidate Phil Isley continued his trend of not coming close, this time losing to incumbent Tim Steele by a 35 point margin. Steele, after one year on the assembly (he first won election last year by beating Cheryl Frasca, who was appointed by Mayor Sullivan after voters promoted Harriet Drummond to Juneau), has been soft spoken, uncontroversial, and level-headed. He was rewarded with a weak challenger and a solid election to his first full term.
Eagle River staple Bill Starr also coasted to reelection, but by a surprisingly slimmer margin than I had thought. After lounging in the luxury of 70 percent of the vote last time around, unlikely challenger Sharon Gibbons mustered just under 38 percent of the vote. Starr still handily retained his seat, for a third term, by a 23 point margin.
Starr has proved to be a heavyweight on the assembly destined for higher office. He’s shown both autonomy and an ability to work across the aisle, so long as he serves in the capacity of scrutinizing contracts — both public and private — and as a watchdog for bloated government.
As I’ve said in the past, Starr is the best Eagle River could hope for, given its current (and not due to change anytime soon) ideological makeup. Gibbons showed some major glimmers of potential, but not in Eagle River.
East Anchorage, at least as viewed through contemporary assembly races, is a swing district. Trombley currently sits in a chair formerly occupied by left-of-center Assemblyman Mike Gutierrez, who took it from far-right, conspiracy theorist Paul Bauer — the type of guy who Alex Jones would caution to taper down the rhetoric.
Bauer unseated his ideological opponent Brian Whittle back in 2002. Meanwhile, the district’s other seat has bounced from current middle-off-the-road Assemblyman Paul Honeman, who proceeded his liberal predecessor Sheila Selkregg, who knocked off arch-conservative Ken Stout. Only one of those races — Honeman, running unopposed last year — has been a runaway. Generally, races have been decided by less than ten points. Incumbency is a rarity.
With Tosi entering the race, the math supporting Petersen’s bid became very problematic.
I’ll admit, I don’t understand the breakdown of this race. Historically, it makes no sense. Numerically, it makes no sense. In 2011, Trombley won with 47 percent, compared to Mike Gutierrez’s 43 percent — with Paul Bauer running as a sideshow, pulling nine percent. Give those nine points to Trombley, and that’s one hell of a hill to climb.
Tosi claimed he could pull votes from both sides, though most people (myself included) had trouble seeing him pull votes from any pool aside from Petersen’s. He also conceivably could add some nontraditional voters; disenfranchised voters, nonpartisan voters. But no one saw him eclipsing the ten percent mark. As far as I’ve seen, I was the most generous, predicting he’d pull in thirteen percent.
In a voter breakdown that still has me shaking my head, the final tally on election night went like this: Petersen with 42 percent, Trombley with 37, and Tosi with 20.
There was no substantial increase in voters, which presumably dismisses the presumption that Tosi added a bunch of new voters to the electorate. 7,348 people showed up to vote; comparable with 2011’s 7,213 and 2008’s 7,359.
Petersen, on the other hand, secured 3,085 votes. That’s just 26 votes shy of his average over the two elections he won as a state representative in Juneau. Talk about a retention rate.
Meanwhile, Trombley lost 654 votes between his election totals in 2011 and last night.
I have to wonder how hard Trombley campaigned this time around. His losses are unprecedented in his district.
And then there was the other toss up…
The last time South Anchorage endured a comparable race with three viable candidates was back in 2001, when Chris Birch and Bob Bailey split the conservative vote, allowing Janice Shamberg to win the district with just 39 percent of the vote. Shamberg would win again in 2004 with a seven point advantage. In 2005, Birch would win a bid for the other South Anchorage seat, beating Dick Tremaine by nine points. He’s retained his seat twice, 53-43 in 2008 and 58-42 in 2011, both times against challenger Mike Kenny. This year, he’s termed out and unable to run for reelection (though, not for lack of trying).
The race has shaped up to be comparable to the 2001 race, with far right conservative Bill Evans and Pete Nolan squaring off against Bruce Dougherty. Evans has been laying into Dougherty via a somewhat clumsily put together facebook advertisement campaign (the ad links to a Google Doc lambasting “Bruce ‘DEMOCRAT’ Dougherty”), while Nolan has struggled to gain traction as the middle-of-the-road candidate.
But, unlike 2001, Dougherty enjoyed no advantage from his two conservative opponents. Though out front throughout the first couple rounds of precincts reporting, Evans shot into the lead and never looked back. The final tally, at the end of the night, had Evans up by a little over 200 votes. It’s possible absentee votes could challenge the result, but it’s doubtful. And Evans’ appearance at election central serves as a show of confidence in the outlying votes.
South Anchorage, after three terms of Chris Birch, rejected both the moderate conservative and the center-left candidate and doubled down on the cut-everything option.
Don Smith did not win “reelection” to the school board. However, he did wind up with 14,512 votes, despite his recent comments which unexpectedly thrust an Anchorage, Alaska school board candidate into the national spotlight. That’s unsettling. But, good news, Kameron Perez-Verdia won easily by a fifteen point margin. But, good lord, please come up with a better chant than “‘K’ is for Kids!” Please?
Patrick Higgins also breezed through reelection with over 51 percent of the vote, despite having to fend off two challengers. We hope he’ll stay in town this time.
Prop. 1: $57,285,000 Educational Capital Improvements, Planning and Design Projects and Districtwide Building Life Extension Project Bonds
Prop. 2: $1,793,000 Areawide Safety and Public Transportation Capital Improvement Bonds
Prop. 3: $5,550,000 Areawide Facilities Capital Improvement Project Bonds
NO. 50.38 – 49.62 — Next year, can we approve construction of a sinkhole under the Loussac so that the conditions warrant repairs? Seriously, why do we hate our libraries so much? Stop it.
Prop. 4: $2,550,000 Anchorage Parks and Recreation Service Area Capital Improvement Bonds
Prop. 5: $20,200,000 Anchorage Roads and Drainage Service Area Road and Storm Drainage Bonds
Prop. 6: $1,950,000 Anchorage Fire Service Area Fire Protection Bonds
Prop. 7: $650,000 Anchorage Metropolitan Police Service Area Facilities Bonds
Prop. 8: Charter Amendment – Gender Neutral Terms
YES: 58-42. To clarify, 15,903 people thought that municipal code shouldn’t acknowledge that women have entered the workplace. Bravo. 1,391 more people than voted for Don Smith.
Prop. 9: Charter Amendment – Vehicle Violation Enforcement