The race to be Anchorage’s next mayor is on.
Friday was the first official day of filing, and two major candidates both turned in their paperwork, kicking off the campaign ahead of this year’s municipal elections in April.
Incumbent Ethan Berkowitz is running for a second term, saying he wants to finish the work his administration has started in improving public safety and shoring up the local economy.
“I’ve spent a large part of the first term cleaning up the mess that we inherited,” Berkowitz said outside City Hall after submitting his forms. “We will be done cleaning up the mess in fairly short order, which will allow us to launch on some of the initiatives that we would like to do an actually start moving the city forward faster.”
Berkowitz has aggressively expanded hiring to grow the police department. But much of his term has been shadowed by widespread complaints about worsening crime, from small offenses like theft to multiple years of record-setting homicide rates. Berkowitz is sympathetic to residents’ concerns, and explained running to continue policies that are beginning to show progress.
“There’s an increased level of service. We still have a-ways to go. But we’ve also seen (that) at the same time that the city’s been stepping up, the state is in retreat,” Berkowitz said. “They’ve cut the number of troopers, they’ve cut the number of prosecutors, they’ve cut the number of detox facilities that are available. And as a consequence, the city is able to move forward only incrementally.”
Berkowitz says his administration has diversified Anchorage’s economy at a time when state funds and industry spending have been evaporating. He is asking voters to approve the sale of a municipal utility ML&P to the Chugach Electric Association, saying it will help reduce local energy prices in the long-term. On the same ballot, residents will also vote on the controversial “bathroom bill,” which would regulate public restrooms by biological sex at birth, rather than a person’s self-identified gender, a move Berkowitz firmly opposes.
“I think it’s a divisive measure that is based on stereotyping and unfounded fears,” Berkowitz said.
That’s a position generally shared by that the mayor’s chief opponent, Rebecca Logan. As of right now, she is the main challenger in the race for mayor.
“I’m not going to vote for it,” Logan said.
Logan is the head of the Alaska Support Industry Alliance and former small business owner who’s lived in Anchorage for 28 years.
Speaking at city hall just after dropping off her official paperwork, Logan described a platform similar to her opponent’s, putting public safety and the local economy at the center of the campaign.
“I’m very, very adamant about not imposing more taxes on small businesses and businesses in this town when we’re just starting to come out of a recession,” Logan said.
Logan has earned the endorsement of the Alaska Republican party and several prominent conservatives, though municipal races are technically non-partisan. She is calling for budget reductions through seeking out operational efficiencies. And she wants the city to take a tougher stance on crime, including changes to SB 91, the state’s comprehensive crime reform bill, amending provisions that could add more local control and resources to handle misdemeanor offenses.
“Public safety is the number one priority,” Logan said of her candidacy to represent Anchorage. “We want to be somebody people look at for best practices. So, here’s the best public safety program, here’s what it requires to fund it–and it’s not always financial, right–but provide the resources, changing laws, and so we can work toward that.”
Candidates for the mayor’s race have until February 2nd to file. This is Anchorage’s first election conducted by mail, with ballots sent out in mid-March, and tallied on April 3rd.