Liberal Democrats took over the Anchorage Assembly last night, giving Mayor Ethan Berkowitz a veto proof majority, 9-2. They ran the tables on conservatives.
Voters also chose to tax homes and property for things they don’t necessarily need — such as parks and recreation expansion and public building renovations. Proposition 2 — the ambulance bond — failed largely because of a rally of credible conservative arguments, but the rest of the borrowing expenditures passed. No groups formed to oppose them.
Evidently, voters didn’t get the memo that taxation is on the upswing from every direction in the state, that their cost of living in Anchorage is going to go up, their Permanent Fund dividends are going to be reduced, and Alaska is moving into a construction season where backhoes will remain idle.
What does this election result say about Anchorage? Does the second-lowest turnout in its municipal election history — 19.66 percent — have anything to do with the outcome? Are conservatives too busy packing to vote?
Or have the petroleum engineers and their coworkers already left Alaska’s largest city for jobs Down South, and voters who remain are trending toward Big Government?
Probably all of the above.
SOUTH ANCHORAGE WENT SIDEWAYS
To be sure, the south Anchorage Assembly seat that Republican Al Fogle might have won was lost to Suzanne LaFrance, a hard-left Democrat who in 2014 signed the petition to repeal SB 21, oil tax reform, and also supported marijuana legalization and increased minimum wage. The outcome in this week’s election is an oddity, but there are explanations.
Voters in that district reported receiving robocalls prior to election day warning them that Fogle, who is reportedly gay, would favor transgender bathrooms, and LaFrance did her own followup robocall calling herself the social conservative.
That was all part of the Democratic sneak attack, and it worked. Social conservatives voted for the hard left Democrat or stayed home. It was ironic for Democrats to outfox conservative south Anchorage by opposing a supposedly gay Republican. And using homophobic fear mongering with a heavy dose of divisive misinformation to do so.
The winner, LaFrance, likely does not represent that district as well as Fogle might have, but we’ll park that analysis for now.
But take a look at the LGBTQ ordinance that passed Anchorage in 2015. The ordinance added protections to Anchorage equal rights laws for gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual people in housing and employment and public accommodations, which would include bathrooms.
In the two years since that ordinance passed, no significant effort has been made to repeal it. A reasonable person might come to the conclusion that social conservatives are waning in Anchorage. And a reasonable person might be right about that.
ALASKA’S FAT-TIRE CITY
There appear to be a lot more fat-tire bikes in Anchorage than Cadillac Escalades these days. And these bike riders are voting.
The 2016 General Election says it all. Take out Eagle River (House District 13, 14), and the race between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump was white-knuckle close.
Trump won Anchorage by just 25 votes — about the size of one Sunday school class. On a good Sunday.
That trend is reflected in Anchorage’s legislative team as well: Anchorage is represented by three Democrat senators (out of eight in Anchorage), eight Democrat House members, (nine if Gabrielle LeDoux is counted), five Republican House members.
That’s Anchorage today: Resource jobs have left, and health care and social service workers have moved in. Resource workers tend to vote Republican, while nurses, aides and caseworkers tend to vote Democrat.
Statewide, Trump slaughtered Clinton in Alaska — Clinton took 36.6 percent of the vote, to Trump’s 51.3 percent.
But as for the state’s most metropolitan area, if you take Eagle River Districts 13 and 14 out, Anchorage was dead even.
ANCHORAGE LOOKING MORE LIKE URBAN AMERICA
The pattern across the nation is that urban areas trend Democrat, and Anchorage is following the pattern. A diverse community that was once home to oil and construction jobs has changed over the past five years. After Gov. Bill Walker signed Medicaid expansion into law, a couple of thousand health care jobs were created, and mostly in Southcentral, mostly in Anchorage.
With the anti-oil policies trending in the Governor’s Office, and a bitter “indivisible” Bernie Sanders faction eager to resist anything resembling a Trump policy, Anchorage may be drifting even further left.
That leftward trend in Anchorage will pose a challenge to conservatives who hope to take back the mayor’s office in 2018.