As of Wednesday morning, Anchorage officials were counting municipal mail-in ballots, including a surge of 13,000 received Tuesday, and with just over 10,438 ballots tallied of a possible 58,000 mailed in, Forrest Dunbar and Dave Bronson appear headed for a runoff race for mayor, with the election held May 11.
Of ballots counted, Dunbar had 35 percent, or 3,702, to Bronson’s 30 percent, or 3,116, but things could change as more ballots are counted. The initial count showed mayoral candidates Bill Falsey with 1,281 votes of 12 percent; Bill Evans with 999 votes or 9 percent; Mike Robbins at 741 votes of 7 percent, and George Martinez at 321 votes or 3 percent.
There were nine other candidates which received small share of the votes cast so far. Under Anchorage’s election rules a candidate must obtain 45 percent of votes cast to avoid a runoff.
In a related development, Assembly Member Felix Rivera appears to have survived an attempted recall in Assembly district four, which is in midtown. Rivera was targeted by an opposition group over his support for pandemic control measures in the city including business lockdowns. The initial count showed 638 voters favoring the recall and 939 against it.
The Anchorage clerk's office said it will take time to go through ballots received Monday, and before any meaningful results can be released.
Along with candidates for mayor and the recall question on Rivera in one district ballot there were other measures approving bonds for public facilities, public safety, parks and other purposes.
Based on preliminary counts all of the bond issues appear to be passing except for one of two municipal capital improvement bonds. The margin on that was close, so the result could change as the count proceeds.
Anchorage's election is being closely watched as an indicator of the political mood of a city with about half the state's population. Municipal elections are nonpartisan but several conservative candidates for mayor are running and how well they do will indicate a possible swing of voters toward conservatives, with implications for the 2022 races for governor, U.S. Senate and local legislative seats.
The election is also a referendum on the city’s aggressive response to the COVID-19 pandemic and municipal control measures. Even though the recall targeted only Rivera, public attitudes will have filtered through all of the election results.
A runoff race, if it pits Dunbar against Bronson, will offer voters a more clear-cut choice of a progressive-leaning candidate, Dunbar, and an ultraconservative Bronson.