3 takeaways from the last campaign finance disclosures before voting begins in Anchorage

Campaign signs supporting mayoral candidate Suzanne LaFrance
Campaign signs supporting mayoral candidate Suzanne LaFrance face traffic on I Street in Anchorage on March 11, 2024. (Jeremy Hsieh/Alaska Public Media)

Candidates for elected office in Anchorage last week disclosed how much money they’ve raised. The reports, the last batch before voting begins, provide insights into the state of the mayor’s race, the mood of donors and the fundraising might of a challenger in a school board contest.

  1. So far, mayoral candidate Suzanne LaFrance is this election’s top fundraiser. 

“We’re not taking anything for granted,” she said on Feb. 26. “We’re very focused on fundraising and running a strong campaign. I feel good about the position we’re in and we are just very focused on, you know, getting to the runoff and winning this election.”

She’s raised a little more than half of what Dave Bronson collected in 2021, when he was the top fundraiser and won his first term as mayor. Now he’s seeking a second term. 

  1. Bronson’s 2024 campaign isn’t raising funds as well as his 2021 campaign. 

“The incumbent mayor isn’t raising very well, considering he’s the incumbent,” said left-of-center Alaska political consultant Jim Lottsfeldt, a LaFrance supporter. 

Lottsfeldt said he thinks Bronson’s conservative base isn’t enthusiastic about him anymore. 

However, 2021 was an outlier for fundraising, Lottsfeldt said. That year, the candidates collectively raised and spent nearly $2 million on their campaigns. 

“It was fueled by, you know, anti-COVID fervor and frustration about how (Mayor Ethan) Berkowitz left office,” Lottsfeldt said. “I mean, it was sort of a maelstrom of political anger.”

He said this mayoral election feels pretty normal by comparison. If no candidate gets 45% of the vote and the two leaders go to a runoff, Lottsfeldt said he expects to see more money pour in. 

Bronson’s fundraising is behind LaFrance, but still far ahead of the eight remaining candidates. Together, Bronson and LaFrance have brought in $7 out of every $10 raised among the candidates for mayor. 

  1. Campaign finance reports also indicate a particularly competitive race is underway for Seat E on the Anchorage School Board. That’s between incumbent Pat Higgins and Kay Schuster. 

Schuster has a big fundraising lead on Higgins because of a single, $15,000 donation from a local businessman named John Haxby. That’s more than half of her total campaign income. Individual donations used to be capped at $500, but because of a change in Alaska’s campaign finance rules, there’s now no limit on the amount an individual or business can give a candidate. 

Still, Lottsfeldt said that few perennial campaign donors – even very wealthy ones – are cutting big checks. 

“There’s very few among us, even if we have the ability to, who are going to sit down and write a $10,000 or $50,000 check,” he said. “It’s just not our behavior. So even though the limits are gone, the behavior remains.”

This is Schuster’s third try for a school board seat. She ran in 2016 and 2017, losing both times by a fraction of a percentage point. Schuster is a registered Republican and Higgins a Democrat, though Anchorage’s local elections are all nonpartisan.

Most ballots are being mailed Tuesday, the same day ballot drop boxes open. Voting closes on April 2. 

Learn more about where the candidates for Anchorage mayor and school board stand with our comparison tool, and watch the top four mayoral candidates face off in our debate, which aired live on March 21. For more coverage visit alaskapublic.org/elections.

If you have additional questions about the April 2 election, please fill out the form below.

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Jeremy Hsieh covers Anchorage with an emphasis on housing, homelessness, infrastructure and development. Reach him atjhsieh@alaskapublic.orgor 907-550-8428. Read more about Jeremyhere.

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