Former Mayor Ethan Berkowitz, who resigned in shame in October after a nude photo of what looked like him in his office bathroom surfaced on Facebook, is a looming problem for Forrest Dunbar, who was one of his strongest allies and who is now running to replace him.
Voters want anything but a Berkowitz this year, if early returns are an indication. Some 57,378 ballots had been received by the Anchorage Election Office by Thursday night, and they are trending away from Dunbar and toward Dave Bronson, according to a Must Read Alaska analysis.
Residents in Anchorage remember when former news anchor Maria Athens splashed a backside selfie of Berkowitz on Facebook and accused him of all kinds of heinous acts. It became an international story.
Dunbar, running for mayor now to replace Berkowitz, rushed to Berkowitz’ defense right away. Without evidence, he said Berkowitz could never have done such a thing. By Oct. 11, Dunbar had circled the wagons and declared Athens “unwell.”
By Oct. 23, it was all over but the shouting. Berkowitz resigned and Dunbar clammed up about his friend.
Berkowitz and Dunbar became fast friends when Dunbar volunteered on both the 2008 and 2010 Berkowitz campaigns.
Berkowitz was a man who had endorsed Dunbar in 2014, when Berkowitz said, “I’ve known Forrest for years and value his friendship because he is energetic, smart and compassionate. You can count on him to do the right job and do it well. He is an Alaskan who will make us all proud.”
“I’m deeply honored to have Ethan’s endorsement,” said Dunbar in 2014 during his run against Congressman Don Young. “It’s crucial that we have support and advice from established Alaskan policy leaders like Ethan.”
Dunbar and Berkowitz worked together to pass the controversial bag ban in 2018. That was one of their most infamous policy-leader outcomes.
Although he may have wanted a Berkowitz endorsement before, now it’s the kiss of death. Between the unpopular bag ban and the butt shots, Berkowitz may be an anvil, rather than an albatross, around Dunbar’s neck this year.
Dunbar is now playing an 11th-hour game of catch up, including in his role as assemblyman, voting last week 180-degrees differently than he had just two weeks before on the mayor’s emergency orders. Dunbar all but heralded that the pandemic as essentially over and said restrictions on gatherings must be lifted immediately.
The election ends on May 11. The Election office is open today and processing ballot thousands of envelopes. The election workers will log ballots and begin to adjudicate them, but will not count them until polls close on Tuesday.