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Anchorage municipal election results certified, new members join the body

The Anchorage Assembly voted on Tuesday night to certify the results of the municipality’s April 5 election, and two new members joined the body.
Published: Apr. 26, 2022 at 9:21 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The Anchorage Assembly voted on Tuesday night to certify the results of the municipality’s April 5 election, and two new members joined the body for their first meeting.

Members of the assembly voted unanimously to accept the results of the election, which saw over 70,000 people cast a vote, representing a nearly 30% voter turnout.

Former assembly member Crystal Kennedy, who represented District 2 and opted not to run for reelection this cycle, served for the last time at the previous assembly meeting. Kevin Cross took her place on the body during Tuesday’s meeting, and Randy Sulte took the place of former assembly member John Weddleton representing District 6 after new and reelected members took their oath of office.

In addition to new members Cross and Sulte, assembly members Forrest Dunbar of East Anchorage, Meg Zaletel of Midtown and Kameron Perez-Verdia of West Anchorage all won reelection to their seats.

Assembly Chair Suzanne LaFrance noted the strong turnout in this election during comments at the start of the meeting. She also thanked election officials and volunteers for all their work to execute the by-mail election.

“Over 70,000 people voted in this election,” LaFrance said. “Almost as much as in the previous mayoral election. Far more than the 49,000 who voted in 2017, the last non-mayoral election before mail-in, vote-at-home elections.”

Weddleton was the only incumbent to lose his bid for reelection, against a conservative challenger backed by Mayor Dave Bronson. Before he left the dias and was replaced by Sulte, who participated in Tuesday’s meeting telephonically, Weddleton’s fellow assembly members thanked him for his service and dedication to Anchorage.

“I have to say I’ve learned so much, and I guess I’m going to say — I’m going to kind of throw a little decorum out the window here, I hope the chair won’t get mad — but John, it’s been a pleasure,” Zaletel said.

She and others thanked Weddleton for his attention to detail as an assembly member and for his leadership within the larger Anchorage community. LaFrance, Weddleton’s fellow South Anchorage representative, said she’s seen his “unwavering commitment to helping all residents” of the municipality firsthand.

“You’re an exemplary public servant,” LaFrance told Weddleton. “And frankly, your shoes are unfillable.”

In his parting comments, Weddleton said “it’s been an amazing adventure” serving on the assembly.

“The job up here, the duty we have, the burdens we carry — you can’t understand until you sit in one of these seats,” he said. “And you should always remember that. I know I will.”

An assembly memorandum and election summary report from the Municipal Clerk’s Office provided additional details about voter turnout, complaints and rejected ballots. This election’s turnout of 29.95% was nearly that of the turnout during the last assembly election year in 2020, which saw a 30.77% turnout, according to the memo.

New provisions approved in municipal code allowed for complaints to be filed by election observers. According to the memorandum, a total of 42 complaints were submitted by observers in this election — 15 received ahead of election day, 22 received from April 6-April 25, four complaints that were renewed to the Election Commission and one omnibus complaint to the commission.

“Staff has addressed all but the Omnibus Complaint, which was referred to the Municipal Attorney,” the memo reads. “Many of the complaints concern the Vote at Home/Vote by Mail election system, which is established in Municipal code and which the Elections Team is trying to implement.”

Just over 210,000 ballot packages were mailed to registered voters for this election, the memo shows. The report of canvass shows that, in all, there were 1,269 rejected ballot envelopes in this election. According to the report, a notice will be sent to all voters whose ballots were rejected.

According to the most recent results updated Tuesday, Cross won the race for District 2 with 61.5% of the vote, and Perez-Verdia won his race for the West Anchorage seat with 52.5% of the vote. Zaletel won reelection in Midtown with 5,985 votes, or 52.58%, while her challenger Kathy Henslee got 5,397 votes, or 47.42%.

Dunbar won reelection with over 55% of the votes, compared to challenger Stephanie Taylor’s 42%. Sulte won election to District 6 with 51.25% of the vote, compared to Weddleton’s 47.14%.

A major $111 million bond proposition for capital improvements in the Anchorage School District narrowly failed, with 50.8% of voters rejecting the bond and 49.2% voting in favor it. A bond proposition for capital improvements to areawide facilities also failed, by a margin of 51.41% no votes to 48.59% in favor.

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