In Anchorage’s LaFrance-Bronson runoff election, the incumbent mayor is the underdog

A smiling woman at a podium and a man holding a campaign sign with a snowy backdrop
Left: Anchorage mayoral candidate Suzanne LaFrance speaks to supporters at a rally on April 12, 2024, at the IBEW Hall in Anchorage. (James Oh/Alaska Public Media) Right: Incumbent Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson waves to passing traffic on April 2, 2024. (Matt Faubion/Alaska Public Media)

Anchorage’s incumbent Mayor Dave Bronson is facing an uphill battle against frontrunner and former Anchorage Assembly Chair Suzanne LaFrance in the upcoming runoff election. 

“We got a lot of doors to knock. We got a lot of calls to make, texts to send, postcards to write and votes to win over,” LaFrance told about 40 supporters at a campaign event on April 12 at an Anchorage labor union hall. She counts a lot of labor interests among her endorsements

“I’m excited about working with you all to build a better future for our community, and I’m ready to get to work,” she told her cheering audience. 

The Anchorage Assembly just certified the results of the regular election. Ballot packages for the runoff will be mailed next Tuesday and residents can cast their vote through Election Day, May 14.

LaFrance has outperformed Bronson, who’s seeking a second term as mayor of Alaska’s biggest city, in campaign fundraising, the regular election results and a post-election poll

Her lead in the regular election wasn’t huge, just 473 votes, which is less than 1%. But it was a crowded ballot, and a few days after the regular election from April 5 to 7, Alaska Survey Research polled 1,408 Anchorage adults and found that among the likely voters in an either-or runoff, LaFrance led Bronson about 56% to 44%. 

And that was before the third-place finisher in the regular election, Bill Popp, endorsed LaFrance. Popp got nearly 17% of the vote. 

Neither campaign would share much about their strategy to win the runoff. 

“There’s targeting and there’s strategy,” LaFrance said in an interview last week. “And, you know, we’ll be focusing our efforts on those folks who are likely to be supportive. And, you know, we’ll be taking a broad look from, you know, south of Girdwood there, all the way to north of Eagle River as we get out our message.”

The Bronson campaign would not comment on the poll or address questions about its path to victory for this story. In a text message, campaign manager Blake Stieren said, “While LaFrance and friends are measuring the drapes the Bronson campaign is working hard to earn votes. We don’t have any comment beyond that.” 

Since its second-place finish in the regular election, the Bronson campaign appears to be ramping up its advertising around one specific theme: balance. 

“This election is about balance,” Bronson says in one video. “A choice between Suzanne LaFrance and a far left Assembly who are in complete lockstep on every single issue, or a balanced government that represents and respects both sides of the political spectrum. I stand for balance and I think most Anchorage residents do, too.” 

The city’s elections are nonpartisan, but nine out of 12 current Assembly members identify as Democrats or politically left-of-center. LaFrance is a nonpartisan, endorsed by the local chapter of the Alaska Democratic Party. Bronson and a few members who often align with him on controversial issues are Republicans or conservatives. 

The Democrats also endorsed the fourth-place candidate for mayor, Chris Tuck. 

Tuck, who got about 8% of the vote, said he’s holding off on an endorsement. He’s watching the campaigns for what he said Anchorage needs: civility. Some of his supporters have alleged that some LaFrance supporters have tried to bully or intimidate his backers. 

Tuck doesn’t think his voters will fall cleanly into the Bronson or LaFrance camps for the runoff.

“Man, it’s a really tough one due to the fact that I had a lot of people that voted for Bronson originally, that ended up voting for me this last time around,” Tuck said. “I think it’s pretty well split.”

He said his campaign concentrated on people who turn out for primary elections and general elections, but tend to miss municipal elections. 

“It was still surprising to me with all of our efforts, the difficulty we had in getting people to vote,” Tuck said. 

Tuck said he had several supporters tell him recently that they were planning to vote for him or work on his campaign. He didn’t have the heart to tell them the election was already over. 

“People are unaware,” he said. “They don’t know. I think that’s just the nature of our municipal races, our municipal elections, is just very low voter turnout.” 

Anchorage switched to a vote-by-mail system in 2018. Since then, about 1 in 3 registered voters has turned out for mayoral elections. This year’s regular election had the lowest mayoral election turnout since the switch, at 30.4%. 

Longtime friend, former Democratic legislator and Tuck campaign co-chair Tom Begich is backing LaFrance. He thinks it’s unlikely an endorsement from Tuck will swing the outcome of the runoff.

He said Bronson has virtually 100% name recognition in the city. But across multiple polls, Begich said he has “horrific” approval ratings. 

“He’s sitting incumbent mayor, and he didn’t even get the most votes,” he said. “And I even thought he’d get a few more votes than Suzanne LaFrance. But I didn’t expect him to be in second position. That is a terrible deficit to come back from.”

Bronson is Anchorage’s ninth elected mayor since the city and borough unified in 1975. So far, only one has failed to win a second term. That was George Wuerch, who, like Bronson, is a Republican. He lost to Mark Begich (who is Tom’s brother) in 2003. Mark Begich, like LaFrance, was a liberal challenger and also a former Anchorage Assembly chair at the time. 

This cycle, Wuerch has endorsed Bronson.

Jeremy Hsieh covers Anchorage with an emphasis on housing, homelessness, infrastructure and development. Reach him at or 907-550-8428. Read more about Jeremy here.

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