Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson touts his record and experienced team in reelection bid

Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson is running for reelection in 2024. (Matt Faubion/Alaska Public Media)

Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson faces nine challengers in his bid for reelection.

The election is April 2, with ballots mailed out March 12. 

Bronson was elected Anchorage mayor in 2021. He says his experience and his executive team make him deserving of reelection.


Alaska Public Media interviewed the four major candidates for Anchorage mayor. The candidates had to have raised at least $10,000, had at least 15 donors and a campaign website. For more, listen to our interviews with Chris Tuck, Suzanne LaFrance and Bill Popp.

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.

Wesley Early: So what’s one thing you’re most proud of accomplishing during your first term? And is there anything that you’d want to do differently in your second term?

Dave Bronson: Well I think some big projects, the port certainly is the most significant. That was a project that had gotten a little off track. And we basically compelled some municipal employees to manage a $2 billion construction project, and they’ve never done that. So I changed that. And I put a very successful engineering firm that has built ports before around the world in charge of it. And so we’re back on time back on schedule. You know, 90-plus percent of the people of this state are fed from that port. A failure of that port would be an existential threat, during an earthquake or a bad docking because it’s so fragile right now, would be devastating. The other thing is recently, you know, starting last summer, the Cook Inlet natural gas shortage issue is a big threat. The homeless issue and housing issues, a lot of that in coordination with ACEH (Anchorage Coalition to End Homelessness) and the Assembly, we’ve made some great progress, especially on housing. The sheltering issue is still a challenge. We’ve got some real threats coming up. On June 1, 874 people are gonna hit the streets. Where do they go? They’re supposed to go to a shelter, we don’t have a shelter. This is why three years ago, as I was coming into office, I proposed building a 1,000-person shelter at Tudor and Elmore (roads). A year later, we had built it, or we had financed it and the construction started, and the Assembly stopped it. And that’s a problem.

WE: I guess, going into your second term, is there anything that you’re aiming to do a little differently? Or maybe, you know, with three years of experience, you might approach differently?

DB: Well, we are experienced. You know, the first year was tough. We had, you know, people don’t work out, you’re building a team. I’m new to politics, I came out of the corporate world, out of the military world. I didn’t have this legacy team that was available to me. I built my own team. I brought in several former Assembly members, which was helpful. But some people just don’t work to get well together. But every administration goes through this. We went through it, but I don’t think I’ve had a changeout since last summer when our CFO left, but he just retired. He just wanted to go golfing. So. But I look at our CFO now, Alden Thern, many years of experience at the Anchorage School District and in the Municipality. Sharon Lechner… she was a former CFO for the city. She’s the OMB director. She was the CFO for two other mayors. I mean, you can go down the list. From snow removal, we got Paul VanLandingham, 27 years. Kent Kohlhase, municipal manager. This team is very stable, very experienced. I’d put them up against any administrative team, senior executive team in the state, corporate or government.

WE: So the average home price in Anchorage surged to about $481,000 last year and buying a home remains difficult for a lot of residents. How would your administration make housing more available and affordable?

DB: Well, housing is a combination of money, a piece of dirt somewhere in a space and then building, and you got to bring all that in and you got to make the building of that profitable. And that’s for the people who are willing to risk their capital and the builders. So I’ve signed a modified methane gas agreement several months ago with the Eklutna Corporation that freed up 1,100-plus lots at part of Reserve West in Eagle River. We’ve been supporting for at least two years the Holtan Hills project in Girdwood. There was some wrangling going on, some fighting with the Assembly, but this year, we got it done. And we’re very proud of that. We supported the Block 96 downtown, which is the Shaun Debenham project that brought in some high-end apartments downtown, which we need more and more of the building of the homes. And we’re actually focused now on, with the assembly, Title 21 and Title 23 changes, which are going to make the building more easy, quicker. Time is money, so it cuts down. We’ve spent decades creating this mess. It’s going to take a little bit of time to undo it. There’s vested interest in some of the problematic areas. But we’re getting there, we’re making a lot of progress. And that’s what government can do, quite frankly, is get out of the way of the marketplace. And because if we think government can solve all these problems, we’re sorely mistaken. They can’t.

WE: On a similar topic, can you talk about any specific steps you plan on taking if re-elected to better address homelessness in Anchorage? That’s been a really hot topic the last few years.

DB: Well, we’ve made some real good progress on housing. Housing is part of the solution. But this is what I’d like your listeners to know. If you walked downtown one day, and saw no homeless people, camping, sleeping, you’d say, “Aha! We solved the problem.” We wouldn’t have solved the problem, because we got about 3,700 homeless people in the city, and there’s about 250 that are visibly homeless. But if we took those 250 off, we would think we’d settled it. We hadn’t. The law prevents me from enforcing municipal code — federal law, the Ninth Circuit Court decision — prevents me from enforcing our municipal code because you don’t want to criminalize… we’re not allowed to criminalize homelessness. We don’t want to either. But if I can provide shelter space, so if I have 500 homeless, and if I provide 501 shelter beds, then we can compel those people not to camp in our parks and our trails in our downtown, then we’re legal, then we get to force me to enforce our municipal code. Without the shelter space, and that’s why I wanted to build a large shelter and Tudor and Elmore, it’s math. You have this many people. And so you know, and I think we mentioned, well, maybe we didn’t to you… but June 1, we have 874 homeless people hitting the streets, because we’ve got some hotels that have been homeless shelters, functionally, and they’re coming off contract. So we have 250 right now. June 1, we will have officially 874. This is why I wanted to build a 1,000-person shelter. Is that a perfect solution? Oh, heck no. But it is, by far, the least worst solution. And so now I’m really focused on what happens in late October, early November. This winter is over. I want to make sure we don’t have people die of exposure, of drug overdose on the streets. We lost 52 people in the city, one per week, in Anchorage in 2023. That’s a tragedy. Didn’t have to happen. Alert shelter would have prevented that. Because the people who died, not just of exposure, but say of drug overdose, had they been in a shelter and under supervision, we could have got to them with say Narcan, or we could have revived them. When they’re alone, cold on the street and they overdose, they’re gonna die. And there’s a moral component to this, there really is. And that’s why I wanted to build a large shelter. And then maybe someday we wouldn’t need the large shelter, and I’ll turn it over to… I’ll sell it or give it to the police department or something, because it’s right next to the police headquarters. But in the meantime, we got to get this done. And we had the money that we had. We had a couple hundred million dollars of federal funds flowing in because of COVID. And we didn’t use it for that. We just didn’t. Housing can’t be the only answer. Sheltering is a big part of this. And we’ve ignored… the Assembly ignored it. I didn’t. I mean, that was the genesis of all the conflict, I think between us, or most of it, with the Assembly, was the shelter. And I’m going, “it makes sense.” It’s a numbers game. So we’ll keep moving forward. 

WE: Keeping on that topic, your first term had been marked by a pretty testy relationship with the Assembly. If reelected, you’d likely still have an Assembly supermajority that’s politically different from you. How do you plan on getting priorities of yours through while dealing with that partisan divide?

DB: Well, we’ve had some good victories. This is the thing. I agree with the Assembly roughly 70% of the time, because if you look at the stuff that we don’t fight on, it passes on a Tuesday night at the Assembly meetings. We disagree on about 30%. And here’s what it does, it comes down to issues of spending and how we deal with homelessness. And we agree on the housing component. So it’s the sheltering component of the housing. That’s the nexus, that’s again, the genesis of this conflict. But yes, I’m a center-right conservative libertarian, if you want to put me in a box. I’m center-right. I’m not far right. I’m not center-left. I’m center-right. And I actually take great pride in that. We’ve got to, we’ve got to come to solutions together. However, that doesn’t mean I capitulate. 

And there’s only one thing worse than the mayor and the Assembly, squabbling. Our system is designed to create this hostility. Because that’s, you know, that’s the best way to do government. There’s one thing worse, and that’s where everybody agrees. And everyone is on the far left, the woke side of things. And this isn’t a Democrat-Republican thing. It just isn’t. I got a lot of Democrats supporting me, and they sit there and they tell me, “Where did my party go? I lost… somebody took my party.” And it’s this woke ideology. It’s not labor, like in the good old days, the Republicans were anti-labor. It seemed like unions… I’m a Republican, and I am a card-carrying union member. I’m an AFL-CIO represented laborer. I was with ALPA (Air Line Pilots Association) for 30 years. And so that’s kind of the old-guard Republicans. I’m a new Republican, I guess, for lack of a better phrase. And we can’t have a single party… and if you pick any of the other three candidates, you will have single-party governance in this city, indefinitely. And that’s bad because you know where this has happened? Seattle, Portland, Tacoma, Los Angeles, San Francisco. And look what those cities are, look what they look like. Look at California at large. You got a woke-left extreme, woke-left governor. You’ve got Sacramento, the Legislature is dominated by woke leftists. I’m not talking Democrats again, I’m talking woke leftists. I don’t care what party they’re from. And you got a mess. You got huge messes. This is what happens when everyone agrees with everyone else. And I don’t want the — all of government to be all conservative either. Because that’s another set of problems. And I would like about two thirds conservative or center-right, and then the woke left is like one third, that’s roughly. Because I want them talking. I want everyone to understand how bad this woke left, leftism is. And I shouldn’t even say left, because left isn’t necessarily always a problem. But this woke thing that we’ve come up with in the last eight or 10 years it seems like, this is not good for us. It just isn’t, and the Assembly is quite woke in varying degrees. Some of them are less so.

WE: Well, during your administration, there have been numerous wrongful termination lawsuits, which cost taxpayer money. Additionally, specific complaints allege sexism and racism from you and members of your administration. I guess what would you say to voters concerned over the alleged conduct in the city’s government, people who are concerned that this is out there?

DB: Sexism and racism? 

WE: Yeah. 

DB: I know, and I can’t talk about individual cases. It’s an HR thing. 

WE: I understand that, but I know that there are concerns. There are the lawsuits out there that don’t necessarily paint your administration flatteringly. What would you say to people? 

DB: Well, there’s one lawsuit, a lot of them I’m not familiar with, but there’s one I am particularly, I think I’m named. And a reporter can go find this, it’s in the public. We’ve denied every last thing. And we have the documentation to prove that I am right. So these are accusations, and everyone lives with those accusations. There’s another side of the story, my story. We’ve denied all those charges. We have the documentation, the government documentation to prove that I’m right. And my attorneys, municipal attorneys, the word they use, “We are ‘giddy’ to prosecute this case.”

WE: We’re just about out of time. But before we wrap up, can you give listeners the 30-second version of why you think Anchorage residents should vote for you? What sets you apart from the other candidates?

DB: One is experience. I’ve been doing this for nearly three years. It took a while. We built a very experienced team. Again, I’d put this team up against any team corporate or government in this state easily. We know what we’re doing. This team has expertise. It’s not me. It’s the people I’ve hired and the measurement of my success is who I hire. I think I’ve gotten to a point where I’ve hired the best from CFO to OMB to municipal manager all the way down. And we brought up, or brought with I should say, a lot of the bureaucratic expertise. And I don’t say bureaucratic pejoratively. I believe a skilled bureaucrat is an incredibly valued asset. Folks like Lance Wilbur, Paul Vanlandingham, Dave Whitfield, they’re bureaucrats and they’re essential to the proper functioning of government and government is essential. I think it should be as little as possible. But guess what? We’re really little right now. We don’t have enough people. So I know on the right they’re saying well, we got to cut government. Guess what you don’t need to cut government in Anchorage. We need to fill some positions. We really do and I gave the largest pay increase in the history of the city to the Anchorage Police Department, because I need to grow the police department.

Wesley Early covers Anchorage life and city politics for Alaska Public Media. Reach him at and follow him on X at @wesley_early. Read more about Wesley here.

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