Bronson, LaFrance offer different views and priorities in Alaska Public Media-ADN mayoral runoff debate

A man and a woman ask each-other questions at a podium.
Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson (left) asks a question to his opponent Suzanne LaFrance (right) during a mayoral runoff debate held at the Alaska Public Media Building on Thursday, May 2, 2024. (Matt Faubion/Alaska public Media)

Anchorage mayoral candidates Dave Bronson and Suzanne LaFrance faced off in a debate hosted by Alaska Public Media and the Anchorage Daily News Thursday night. 

The two sparred over competing ideologies and priorities. 

Bronson, the incumbent, made homelessness a centerpiece of his debate performance, mentioning his proposed East Anchorage homeless shelter in six different answers. The shelter was rejected by the Assembly after his administration broke city code by proceeding with construction without Assembly approval. He also described homelessness as a major driver of pedestrian deaths and high rates of violence against women. 

“We need to protect these women by putting them into a shelter,” Bronson said. “And that’s why for three years, I’ve been trying to build a shelter. And somehow this shelter got political. I don’t know how, but at the end of the day, that’s the path forward.”

Meanwhile, former Assembly Chair Suzanne LaFrance focused on providing basic services during the debate. She said she’d prioritize local governance, rather than divisive state and national politics. 

“We’ve got to get the basics right,” LaFrance said. “And right now, you know, we’ve got a APD staffing shortage of over 50 sworn officers. We don’t have a plan on homelessness. And we’ve got to figure out a way to plow our streets of snow in the winter.”

The moderators asked both candidates questions specifically tailored to them. Bronson was asked about comments he’d made at an Anchorage Chamber debate this week where he described himself as “normal”, and his opponent as “woke.”

Bronson described wokeness as a harmful left-wing platform. 

“It’s a political ideology of the far left,” Bronson said. “I don’t think it’s healthy. I don’t think it reflects science. I don’t think it reflects, certainly, good public policy.”

Meanwhile, LaFrance was asked about concerns that she’s too closely aligned with the current Assembly. She said checks and balances would continue if she becomes mayor, and when she was on the Assembly, there were disagreements. 

“That is exactly what I would expect as mayor from the Assembly,” LaFrance said. “Because you’ve got 12 different people who are working to do their best to stand up for their constituents. And there’s going to be some healthy disagreement.”

A poll of debate viewers and listeners found that about 90 percent had already decided who they would vote for, with about nine percent saying they were undecided and one percent saying they weren’t voting.

Ballots for the mail-in runoff election are due May 14.

Watch the full debate:

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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