In a crowded race, Anchorage campaign volunteers tell us how they chose their candidate for mayor

people hold up signs that spell out "VOTE"
Volunteers and organizers with the Alaska Civic Engagement State (AKCES) Table gather on Election Day 2020 in Mountain View to remind residents to vote. (Jeff Chen/Alaska Public Media)

Anchorage’s municipal election is just a few days away and thousands of residents are still choosing between 15 candidates for mayor.

For months, campaign volunteers have called and texted voters, dropped off pamphlets, put up signs and knocked on doors in the hopes of encouraging their neighbors to vote for their pick for Anchorage mayor. Some have been politically active for years, but for others, organizing is a new pursuit. 

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Deirdre Goins, a volunteer for Assembly member Forrest Dunbar’s campaign, said she wasn’t politically involved until the November elections. She and her family moved to Alaska two years ago with the military and now she’s studying to become a social worker at the University of Alaska Anchorage.

“I really want to be dedicated to this city. And I think that he’s just going to make it a community where everybody feels like they can be involved,” said Goins. 

Goins first looked up Dunbar after spotting one of his signs around town and said she was impressed with his work on homelessness issues and improving her neighborhood in East Anchorage. 

“While he was working as an Assembly member, he would go knock on doors in his district, and ask people if there were things that he could improve,” she said. “I think that shows a great dedication to the people that he’s serving.”

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Goins said she was initially choosing whether to back Dunbar or former city manager Bill Falsey, but settled on Dunbar, who she said shows a better motivation to run. 

A few months ago Anne Marie Moylan, operations manager at Bridge Seafood Restaurant, was also choosing between Dunbar and Falsey, but after a Zoom meet and greet, she ultimately settled on Falsey. 

“I listened to Bill Falsey, and I realized, this is the same guy that I had seen during the earthquake. This was the guy who was centered, was calm, was making the best decisions. And I really thought he had the potential to be mayor.”

Moylan said she admires Falsey’s track record in government and that he is clear and realistic with his plans for Anchorage.

“He has the trust of people who have seen his work in an ethical, responsible way,” said Moylan.

Jennifer Johnston used to serve on the Assembly with former South Anchorage Assembly member Bill Evans, who she helped talk into running for mayor. From the beginning, Johnston said she was impressed with how humble Evans is.

“That humility is amazing, since he’s also so very competent. He doesn’t need to be a public servant, he just feels that it’s very important to give back. He encompasses everything I believe about public service,” she said.

Johnston said Evans, a lawyer and former police officer, will bring a realistic, fiscally responsible approach to governing Anchorage.

“I get very weary of people that have this ‘pie in the sky’ approach to government, because especially if they’ve never been elected before, they don’t know what they can do and what they can’t do, so they promise the world,” she said.

Ed Wesley, a former DNC committeeman for the Alaska Democratic Party, said he knew from the beginning of the race he wanted to support a different candidate, Alaska Humanities Forum Director of Leadership Programs and a former special assistant to Mayor Berkowitz, George Martinez.

Wesley said he picked Martinez for his varied government experience and his work to get Anchorage youth involved in government and in community projects. He says he doesn’t think the legislative experience of other candidates necessarily translates to the skills needed to be mayor. 

“I just think that George is one of those people who will work with the people on the right, on the left, and help move us forward,” Wesley said.

Wesley said whatever happens with Tuesday’s race, he’s optimistic the campaign’s diverse coalition will help pave the way for a future candidate like Martinez. 

“We started from the bottom. So there’s only one way, and that’s up,” he laughed.

We also reached out to former Air Force and commercial pilot Dave Bronson and businessman Mike Robbins’ campaigns to speak to their volunteers, but neither candidate responded.

Each volunteer said they are hopeful — if a little nervous — for Tuesday’s election. Results for the mayoral election, which will likely go into a runoff, are expected to begin coming out after 8 p.m. Tuesday evening.

Correction: We misstated the title for campaign volunteer Ed Wesley, saying he was a retired labor organizer. He is retired from Local 341 and a former DNC committeeman for the Alaska Democratic Party.