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LaFrance leads Bronson in Anchorage mayoral runoff

Anchorage mayoral candidate Suzanne LaFrance had a strong lead over incumbent Dave Bronson in preliminary runoff election results released Tuesday evening.

LaFrance received 55% of the vote and was 10 points ahead of Mayor Bronson, who had 45%.

After the initial results were released, LaFrance said in an interview that she felt “excited, optimistic, filled with gratitude to everyone for getting us to this point.”

LaFrance presided over the Assembly for the first two years of Bronson’s term. Since Bronson took office in 2021, he and the vast majority of the Assembly have frequently clashed over many municipal issues.

“We know we have big challenges ahead,” LaFrance said in a speech to supporters gathered in downtown Anchorage. “We know it will take a lot of work to make a difference. But we can do it and we will do it together and I believe in us.

After thanking his campaign team, voters and his family, LaFrance also thanked Assembly members in the crowd, including Members Daniel Volland, Anna Brawley, Kameron Perez-Verdia, Zac Johnson, Speaker Christopher Constant and Vice President Meg Zaletel.

“Local government is not a left versus right issue. It’s about working together to get things done. And tonight I hope we take a step forward in how we’re going to work together,” she said.

During Tuesday night’s election night, Bronson stressed that the count was not yet final.

“It doesn’t discourage us,” Bronson said. “Would we have liked to have been 10 points ahead? Of course.”

“We’re not going to commit to anything tonight,” Bronson said.

On Tuesday evening, Bronson suggested he was in a similar situation on the night of the 2021 runoff elections, and that comparable dynamics could allow him to move forward as additional ballots are also counted in the runoff round of elections this year.

“That’s pretty much where we were when we won three years ago,” Bronson said.

However, in the 2021 mayoral runoff, the gap was much narrower between Bronson and his opponent: Then-Assemblyman Forrest Dunbar had 50.08% of the vote on election night, and the two were separated by only 114 votes.

As of Tuesday, LaFrance was ahead of Bronson by 4,973 votes — a gap that will be difficult to close for outstanding ballots.

More than a hundred people gathered Tuesday evening at Bronson’s campaign headquarters. Several prominent figures in state government and the Republican political party were in attendance, including Republican House candidate Nick Begich, the former talk radio host, and Dunleavy staffer Dave Stieren, the former talk radio host and special assistant to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game Rick Green, recently Carmela Warfield, Alaska State GOP Chair-elect Larry Baker, Bronson Advisor Randy Sulte , Assembly member, and Mia Costello, former state senator and current Bronson legislative liaison.

Much of Bronson’s campaign message focused on criticizing the Assembly and maintaining “balance” in municipal governance. The outgoing president, a self-described conservative, claimed that a mayoral position in LaFrance would amount to “one-party rule” and that the former president would work closely with an “ultra-woke” Legislature.

For her part, LaFrance criticized Bronson for controversies and challenges within his administration and for what she claimed was a failure by the outgoing president to tackle the city’s most pressing problems. LaFrance said she would “restore skills” to City Hall and bring a “nonpartisan, collaborative, no-ego, problem-solving approach” to the mayor’s office.

In an interview after the results were released, Bronson reiterated his message that he is a political counterweight to the Assembly.

“At the end of the day, and I’ll be honest with you, Chris Constant is going to run the city,” Bronson said. “That’s how it works because he runs the Assembly, he runs the elections… If (LaFrance) took that away, then that’s what we would be looking for.” I’m on pause on this. I am the person who stands in the gap and stops this from happening.

If LaFrance wins, she would be the first woman elected mayor of Anchorage.

But she wouldn’t be the first woman to hold the position: After former Mayor Ethan Berkowitz resigned in 2020, former West Anchorage Assemblymember Austin Quinn-Davidson was chosen by the Assembly to serve serve as interim mayor for several months.

At Tuesday night’s campaign rally, campaign manager Katie Scovic alluded to how gender dynamics played out in LaFrance’s campaign.

“Candidates usually get a lot of feedback on what to say. As many of you in this room know, more often than not, what not to say,” Scovic said. “But I’ve never seen anyone who got so much feedback on how to say things, what to wear, how loud to speak, how much to smile, how to smile. The list goes on, to times when the comments would have made the rest of us implode. Or at least I know I would have. Suzanne remained stable.

Election officials have counted 51,019 ballots so far. Thousands of additional ballots have yet to be counted, and the percentages are likely to change in the coming days as election officials count more.

We do not yet know exactly how many ballots remain to be counted. Tuesday night’s results included counting nearly all of the ballots returned to the election center Monday morning, according to Acting Election Administrator William Northrop.

As of 5 p.m. Tuesday, election officials had received and sorted a total of 62,956 packages of ballots. A few thousand more voters returned Monday were in a locked cage waiting to be sorted. Election workers have yet to process ballots cast by voters Tuesday, and more will arrive at the election center by mail over the next few days.

Election results will not be official until certified by the Anchorage Assembly, scheduled for May 31.

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With a penchant for words, jack began writing at an early age. As editor-in-chief of his high school newspaper, he honed his skills telling impactful stories. Smith went on to study journalism at Columbia University, where he graduated top of his class. After interning at the New York Times, jack landed a role as a news writer. Over the past decade, he has covered major events like presidential elections and natural disasters. His ability to craft compelling narratives that capture the human experience has earned him acclaim. Though writing is his passion, jack also enjoys hiking, cooking and reading historical fiction in his free time. With an eye for detail and knack for storytelling, he continues making his mark at the forefront of journalism.
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