posted by Josh Goodman
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.
Plus, smaller cities, from Atlanta to Anchorage, also will host competitive races.
Incumbent: Matt Claman
Election Date: April 7, runoff May 5 if no one gets to 45%
Claman took over for Anchorage after Mayor Mark Begich was elected to the U.S. Senate last 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 conservatives, 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. 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 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 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 woman who fired him, will make for great political theatre.
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