The April, 2022 Anchorage Municipal ballot could be a barn-burner.
The Anchorage Municipal Charter says that after the state redistricting process is complete and the final report is issued, if the Anchorage Assembly determines that Assembly seats are malapportioned, it must reapportion itself within five months.
In addition to the redistricting process that must occur, Anchorage voters accepted a proposal by Assemblyman Chris Constant to add a 12th Assembly seat, which will be located in downtown Anchorage. That alone forces changes to some of the 11 existing districts, happening the same time the decennial redrawing of lines happens; there is a legal requirement for equal representation.
Although still unclear, it appears that all seats on the Anchorage Assembly could be up for reelection as a consequence, if the Assembly gets its work done. That’s a big “if.”
Some seats were already set to be on the ballot in April, 2022:
- District 2, Eagle River, (Crystal Kennedy, incumbent)
- District 3, West Anchorage, (Kameron Perez-Verdia incumbent)
- District 4, Midtown, (Meg Zalatel, incumbent)
- District 5, East Anchorage, (Forrest Dunbar, incumbent)
- District 6, South Anchorage, (John Weddleton, incumbent)
As the Assembly begins its work on redistricting and wedging in the 12th seat, the changes put District 1, Downtown, represented now only by Chris Constant, into the mix, which could have a domino effect in the West Anchorage seats, and that could reverberate through to Midtown and South Anchorage.
If all the seats end up on the ballot, some would be for full their usual three-year terms, while others would be partial terms, requiring those serving to run again in 2023, if they chose to continue in public office.
The Assembly has a work session scheduled for June 25 from 11 am to noon to continue preparing for the realignment of Anchorage Assembly districts. Their redistricting schedule for the year depends on when the federal Census Bureau releases its data to the State Redistricting Board. In years past, that would have been done by this past April, but with the pandemic, the work has been delayed and now the data is not expected until the end of August.
The delay may mean the State Redistricting Board won’t finalize its work until November, casting uncertainty among both incumbents and those who may wish to run for the Assembly. Generally, those running in April would want to start their door-knocking in the previous summer, because winter campaigning is a slog.
It could be argued that the Assembly simply doesn’t have time to reapportion Anchorage in time for the April election. The charter gives them one month to decide if reapportionment is needed and five months to get develop the plan, which at this point puts them past the April, 2022, if they end up in boundary disputes among themselves, almost a certainty.
With so much uncertainty about whether all 12 seats will be up for grabs in 2022, it makes sense that Eagle River Assemblywoman Jamie Allard has already filed a letter of intent to run for reelection, even though her seat is technically not open until 2023. She’s apparently betting that the Assembly will be able to get its work done on reapportionment, and that the April 2022 ballot will be epic.
In addition to Allard, Midtown’s Meg Zaletel has filed for reelection, and Randy Sulte has filed as a candidate for the South Anchorage District 6 seat held by John Weddleton. Rachel Ries has filed a letter of intent to run for Assembly District 6.