Anchorage’s municipal elections Tuesday saw almost all of its Assembly and School Board incumbents, as well as bonds and propositions, amass marked leads among voters over the course of the evening.
Polls in Anchorage opened at 7 a.m. Tuesday and closed at 8 p.m., with the first results posted at 8:30 p.m. Earlier Tuesday, city officials had said more than 6,000 absentee ballots were out as of Monday, representing a slight increase in turnout from 2013’s absentee vote count.
While ballots included a total of six Assembly seats, two School Board seats and nine propositions, a few have emerged in recent weeks among this year’s more closely followed items. As of 10:23 p.m., 98 percent of precincts have reported their returns.
The East Anchorage Assembly contest, already an expensive challenge of incumbent Adam Trombley by former Democratic state representative Pete Petersen, became a hard-fought three-way race when Northway Mall manager and community activist Mao Tosi threw his hat into the ring. Late returns had Petersen slightly ahead of Trombley with 3,085 votes to Trombley's 2,749, with Tosi trailing at 1,498 votes.
Asked about how he pulled ahead of Trombley, Petersen said he had paid attention to the district's constituents.
"I think I listened to their concerns, and I think that paid off for the campaign," Petersen said.
In another fiercely contested three-way race, Bill Evans was leading Bruce Dougherty and Pete Nolan by 3,869 votes to Dougherty's 3,657 votes and Nolan's 1,848 votes, in an open contest for Assembly member Chris Birch’s seat which is vacant due to term limits. Each of the three political newcomers had a different take on last year’s Assembly Ordinance 37, Mayor Dan Sullivan’s contentious measure to limit city unions’ power, but also brought up local improvement projects for fire and road service in the area.
Easily the highest-profile Anchorage School Board race on the ballot, Seat D’s faceoff between incumbent Kameron Perez-Verdia and challenger Don Smith, had Perez-Verdia leading Smith with 57 percent of the vote, by 19,943 votes to Smith’s 14,512. The contest drew accusations of racism against Smith after he appeared on Alaska Public Media’s “Running” last week and said foreign students were turning Anchorage into a “refugee city.” Smith defended his comments, saying he meant to focus attention on the costs foreign students bring to the district, but refused to back down from them.
In the Seat C race, evening returns had incumbent Pat Higgins well ahead of challengers Dean Williams and Liz Ross, capturing a commanding lead of nearly 52 percent of the vote -- 16,842 ballots -- to 9,103 votes for Williams and 6,039 for Ross.
ASD’s only bonds package on the ballot, a lone $57.2 million yes-or-no item at a time when the district is facing a $23 million budget shortfall, is succeeding with about 58 percent of the vote, at 22,435 yes votes to 16,038 against it. Proposition 1 was primarily focused on renovation projects at five elementary and middle schools, including $24 million for work at Airport Heights Elementary School. If passed, it would also fund repairs to extend the service lives of more than a dozen other ASD facilities.
This is a developing story. Please check KTUU.com’s special Anchorage election section for updates.