Early returns in the recall election in Midtown Anchorage show voters are choosing to retain Assemblywoman Meg Zaletel by a margin of 61.2% to 38.8%.
Ballots will continue to come in for several days in this mail-in only election; the deadline was 8 pm on Tuesday, but it’s unlikely the results will be reversed with such a large margin.
9,320 votes were counted Tuesday night out of the approximately 36,000 ballots that were mailed to voters in the Midtown district — and across the country. 5,702 votes were counted to retain Zaletel, while 3,618 voters want her gone. Sources say that at least another 4,000 ballots may come in.
Zaletel is the second Assembly member from midtown to survive a recall election in seven months. Felix Rivera faced a recall election in April during the regular municipal election, and survived it 56.5% to 43.5%.
Zaletel’s defense received enormous financial support from a New York union fund called UNITE HERE, which provided $70,000 to a local independent expenditure group called Stand Up for Meg Zaletel. That group was led by AFL-CIO President Joelle Hall. Another group led by Zaletel herself had raised about $60,000 to defend the assemblywoman, for a total of more than $130,000.
That historic spending to retain a member of the Assembly worked for her. The group that launched the recall had local donations, including a $75,000 contribution from Mark McKenna, of McKenna Brothers Paving in Anchorage and $15,000 from James Protzman, of Pacific Properties of Anchorage.
The challenge for those mounting recall elections in Anchorage is clear — getting signatures on a petition is one thing, but getting a win is of an entirely different order. Even an assemblywoman who rarely shows up to in-person meetings, who authored a punishing mask ordinance with draconian penalties (amended out by others in the final version), and who consistently votes to shut down the public process was able to survive being recalled.
The District 4 area of Anchorage stretches from the Rogers Park neighborhood south to Abbott Road, west to C Street, with parts of Spenard. That portion of Anchorage also majority voted for President Joe Biden in last year’s presidential election.
The group trying to boot Zaletel from the Assembly was comprised of those who were angry with the Assembly for using CARES Act funds to build out a homeless network of housing and drug abuse services. It was a plan that Zaletel had her fingerprints on with former Mayor Ethan Berkowitz, who left office early one year ago on Oct. 23, after scandalous allegations.
The homeless plan never came to fruition, although the Assembly approved purchasing the Golden Lion hotel using proceeds from the sale of Municipal Light and Power to Chugach Electric, with some members of the public saw as a misuse of the funds from the sale.