More results are in: Most Anchorage incumbents maintain lead, school bonds now narrowly failing

a person smiles while holding a sign that say "Forrest" on a snowy day. Others behind him wave and hold signs that say "Forrest Dunbar - Assembly - dedicated leadership"
Forrest Dunbar, an Anchorage assembly member representing East Anchorage, with supporters Tuesday morning. (Jeff Chen/Alaska Public Media)

The second batch of results are in for the Anchorage municipal election, and the Assembly and school board incumbents continue to largely hold off their conservative challengers. 

School bonds however are now narrowly failing, and the gap has widened for the only incumbent losing his race. Assemblyman John Weddleton is 347 votes behind Randy Sulte.

The updated results posted Wednesday evening include about 5,000 more ballots. Thousands still must be counted.

This year’s municipal election saw progressive-leaning incumbents face a slate of well-funded, conservative challengers who were backed by Mayor Dave Bronson.

The AFL-CIO, the state’s largest union, backed the incumbents. President Joelle Hall said Tuesday night’s initial results were promising. 

“I’m cautiously optimistic that these results will hold,” she said.

By Wednesday night, Assembly incumbents Forrest Dunbar, Kameron Perez-Verdia and Meg Zaletel held the lead in their races. Dunbar, who represents East Anchorage, was up 15 points over his closest competitor Stephanie Taylor. Perez-Verdia, of West Anchorage, had a 13-point lead over Liz Vazquez. Midtown’s Zaletel had a six-point lead over her challenger Kathy Henslee.

A campaign sign for Randy Sulte. Sulte is currently leading incumbent John Weddleton to represent South Anchorage on the Assembly. (Wesley Early/Alaska Public Media)

In South Anchorage, Sulte now has a three-point lead over incumbent Weddleton. Weddleton said he’s not surprised at the narrow contest.

“I expected it to be close, and it obviously is,” he said in an interview Wednesday afternoon. “There’s lots of votes to be counted.”

Sulte is one of several conservative candidates who campaigned together to unseat incumbents. Sulte said that partnership helped through the election season. 

“It kind of started with Kathy, Stephanie and myself, as rookie candidates,” he said. “We started sharing lessons learned and our mistakes on how to run a campaign.”

Sulte said he’s happy to have a lead in his race, but he’s not claiming victory just yet.

“It’s probably a lot closer than I want, but John’s a tough competitor and we’re just hoping the results… of course, we’re optimistic they’ll come our way,” he said.

Read the full results here.

While that race is still up in the air, the conservative candidate in the race to replace Eagle River member Crystal Kennedy has a sizable lead. Kevin Cross had a 23-point lead over his closest challenger Gretchen Wehmhoff. 

In the school board races, incumbents Margo Bellamy and Kelly Lessens both have significant leads over their respective challengers Mark Anthony Cox and Rachel Ries.

Further down the ballot, two bonds have gone from barely passing to barely failing. The bond for the Anchorage School District and another for capital improvements to city facilities both have just barely under 50 percent of support.

While candidates wait for more results to be released, Hall with the union said this year’s municipal election generated a lot of interest and money, compared to years past.   

“The level of professionalism that is coming to these races is a little unprecedented. And when what I mean by professionalism is they hire full-time campaign managers,” she said. “They hire firms to do their media, firms to do their digital. And, you know, ten years ago, somebody might not have done that.”

She said issues related to the pandemic have brought a lot of attention to local government, and she expects that as things return to normal, elections will be less fraught. 

The city clerk’s office is set to continue to update results by 5 p.m. every night this week until all votes are counted. Election results are set to be certified on April 26.

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Wesley Early covers municipal politics and Anchorage life for Alaska Public Media. Reach him at wearly@alaskapublic.org.

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