Assemblymen Forrest Dunbar and Chris Constant have seen the polling, and it’s not pretty for Dunbar, who is running for Anchorage mayor in the May 11 runoff election.
Dunbar is one of the most strident opponents of restoring normalcy to the Anchorage economy. It has hurt him with voters, according to polling seen by Must Read Alaska.
On Tuesday, the two men crafted an amendment to Emergency Order 20 that removes all requirements on businesses and lifts all gathering limitations. Constant offered it to the Assembly, it was seconded by Dunbar, and the Assembly passed it. This, after a year of refusing to lift the lockdowns.
The only lockdown measure that remains after Sunday night is the mayor’s mask mandate.
With public sentiment strongly against the acting mayor’s emergency powers, which has been in effect for over a year, Dunbar has worried. His campaign has no energy and has not been able to get traction due to his record of more than 20 votes to keep Anchorage in restraints.
Constant and Dunbar are joined at the hip on the Assembly and vote in lock step during every meeting. Constant did the heavy lifting on the amendment; he explained that he has been watching the death counts in Anchorage and that deaths have dropped off since December.
Constant said he has been all over the municipality and “I witnessed various stages of commitment to the mandates and requirements that exist, 50-50 at best, and still the numbers are coming down. Deaths has ceased at this time. Hospitalization down to a couple a day.”
Using his feelings as a barometer, he said it was time to rescind the restrictions. Constant also volunteers for the Dunbar campaign in his spare time and is his closest political ally.
The business community likely agrees. It has been vocal and visible in its opposition to Dunbar and this weekend a massive business-initiated fundraiser for Dunbar’s opponent, Dave Bronson, saw 450-500 business people come together to support Bronson. The group raised $39,000, even with the $500 per donor limit. No one remembers such a huge political rally in the history of Alaska since Sarah Palin was nominated for vice president.
Momentum has clearly been in the Bronson campaign, and a Hail Mary was needed for Dunbar.
Dunbar, in his campaign literature, has stated that 70 percent vaccination of the population is required to get the economy back on its feet. 70 percent is also the goal the acting mayor set in March for when she might lift the restrictions on Anchorage businesses.
But meanwhile, Anchorage shoppers have voted with their feet and are heading to the MatSu Valley for shopping, dining, and recreation. Some Valley businesses report their best year ever, while Anchorage businesses have closed by the dozens.
Now, Dunbar and Constant say they are ready for indoor gatherings to resume normally. That means graduations and proms, and it means sporting events can proceed with spectators.
This will also give Dunbar more of an opportunity to campaign, something he has been reluctant to do in person. Most of his campaign events have been via Zoom teleconference.
Constant pointed out that he has discovered that people in Anchorage are not complying anymore with the mandates anyway. It “is just not happening,” he said. Later in the meeting, he proposed converting all the mandates that had been lifted into recommendations.
Assemblywoman Allard said the vast majority of people testifying over the past many months have been opposed to the lockdowns. Allard asked for an amendment to terminate the emergency proclamation altogether, but her amendment failed 6-4.
Constant disagreed with Allard that the community opposes lockdowns.
“My constituents are telling me they are no longer coming to this chamber because it is not a safe environment for them,” Constant said into the record. His constituents do, in fact, support the mandates, but now, “We’re ready to move forward.”
Assemblywoman Meg Zalatel said it was too soon to lift the restrictions. She wanted a later date, effective at 12 am May 3, 2021, and her amendment passed, even though Dunbar wanted the easing of mandates to go into effect immediately, and he questioned her repeatedly as to why the city would have to wait.
The voters are already turning in ballots this week, and Dunbar is keenly aware that more than 4,300 ballots in the runoff have already been received by the Municipal Election Office.
There is nothing preventing the next mayor from going back into lockdown after the May 11 election, but for now, a frightened candidate will get the credit for what is at least a temporary lifting of the Anchorage lockdowns.