Editor’s note: John Aronno served as Patrick Flynn’s staffer for three years.
Midtown is the big winner in the casino tonight. Dick Traini is the new chair of the Anchorage Assembly after Tuesday’s meeting began with a vote to reorganize leadership. Elvi Gray-Jackson is the new vice chair.
A similar vote took place at the tail end of the last meeting, on December 2, but a busy agenda prevented it from taking place. After failing to get the votes necessary to extend passed the charter-mandated deadline of 11pm, the clock expired and the attempted restructuring with it.
After assembly members cast their votes on paper ballots, the municipal clerk announced the results: Traini has resumed leadership — a post he has held more times than any other member in the city’s history. His first chairmanship took place over two decades ago, when he first served between 1993-1995. He returned for four years, from 2001-2005, and again between 2010-2011.
Assembly members can only serve three consecutive three-year terms, but are permitted to run again after sitting out for one term.
Since his first election in 1991, Traini has served under six mayors and over 30 assembly members. He is also rumored to be mulling a run for mayor in April, along with half the city — Eagle River Assembly member Amy Demboski has announced she is running, and colleagues Elvi Gray-Jackson, Paul Honeman, and Patrick Flynn are rumored to be interested as well.
Former Assembly member Dan Coffey has already announced his bid. Other names being floated around include Andrew Halcro, Hollis French, and Mark Begich. If Begich jumps in, it’s likely the field will slim down considerably, as no center-left candidates will likely want to step up to the kind of organization and campaign machinery that a former U.S. Senator will have at the ready.
Should Begich choose not to seek a return to city hall, expect a similar situation as the state saw play out in this year’s gubernatorial race. Labor will expect one center-left candidate to emerge to face Coffey, Demboski, or Halcro (should he jump in).
Leaving the leadership position is Patrick Flynn, who represents the downtown area. Flynn became chair after the last municipal election, after former-State Representative Pete Petersen ousted Assembly member Adam Trombley, tilting the majority away from the mayor’s favor. That makeup has not shifted, but something inspired a reorganization all the same.
Similarly confusing, ideologically, was the vote for the new vice chair. Jennifer Johnston nominated Elvi Gray-Jackson and Bill Starr nominated Paul Honeman. Both picks were made by members generally viewed as conservative, for members who have generally opposed Mayor Dan Sullivan.
Gray-Jackson, also representing midtown, was elected.
Tuesday night’s moves suggest there are new coalitions forming as multiple prospective mayoral candidates jockey into the positions they feel will suit them best to qualify for a promotion.