Anchorage Mayor: A Fifteen Candidate Free-for-All

Last year, the nation was fixated on the presidential race. Next year, Congress and 36 governorships will be up for grabs. This year, though, belongs to ...
by | March 2, 2009

Last year, the nation was fixated on the presidential race. Next year, Congress and 36 governorships will be up for grabs. This year, though, belongs to the mayors.

Eleven of the nation's twenty-four largest cities hold mayoral elections this year. Plus, smaller big cities, from Atlanta to Anchorage, will host competitive races.

The fabulous thing about mayoral elections is that you don't have to wait until November for many of them. Many cities hold their elections on earlier dates, meaning that, starting tomorrow when Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is expected to breeze to reelection, we will have nine months to enjoy mayoral election results.

For that reason, it's definitely not too soon to start previewing the year's hot mayoral elections. So, let's start in Anchorage and I'll focus on more cities in the weeks ahead.

Anchorage Mayor Matt Claman, a Democrat (though the office is officially non-partisan), is running for a full term April 7. All candidates appear on a single ballot and if no one reaches 45% a runoff will be held May 5.

Claman recently took over after Mayor Mark Begich was elected to the U.S. Senate in November. But, ambitious Alaska pols certainly aren't giving the new mayor a free pass. In fact, the field includes 15 candidates, although not all of them are serious contenders.

The most important one to know is Dan Sullivan, a former member of the Anchorage Assembly (in effect, the city council). Sullivan has been running for mayor the longest, has raised the most money and led in one early poll.

A favorite of Republicans, he's clashed in the past with Claman. The two ran against each other for an Anchorage Assembly seat in 2005, with Sullivan winning. Sullivan appears likely to have one of the spots in the runoff (presumably, with such a big field, no one is reaching 45% in the first round).

It's not clear, though, that the runoff will be a Claman-Sullivan rematch. Claman faces a stiff challenge from two fellow Democrats -- former State Rep. Eric Croft and Sheila Selkregg, a member of the Anchorage Assembly.

That's four candidates and I haven't even mentioned the biggest name in the field, at least for those of us in the lower 48. Without a doubt, it's Walt Monegan. Monegan, you might remember, was Gov. Sarah Palin's state Public Safety Commissioner until she removed him from office, sparking the Troopergate scandal. Monegan is also a former Anchorage police chief. He could sneak into the runoff, if Croft, Selkregg and Claman split the Democratic vote.

Even if, for some strange reason, you don't take a personal interest in Anchorage politics, there are a couple of reasons to care about this election. One is that the Anchorage mayoralty is a good launching pad for higher office.

Just more than 40% of Alaska residents live in Anchorage, which is a ratio that's similar to New York City to New York State. The two most successful Alaska Democrats of the past 15 years, Begich and former Governor Tony Knowles, both started out as Anchorage mayors.

The other reason is Monegan. If he does somehow sneak into the mayor's office, watching him interact with Palin, the governor who fired him, will make for great political theater.

Josh Goodman
Josh Goodman  |  Former Staff Writer

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