On Saturday, February 5th, District 6 Assembly members Suzanne LaFrance and John Weddleton hosted a South Anchorage constituent meeting on the topic of Anchorage reapportionment. During the meeting, Deputy Chief of Staff for the Bronson administration Brice Wilkins revealed a map proposal on behalf of the Mayor.
It has not been officially published by the Reapportionment Committee, nor is the attribution to the Mayor’s office official; this is just what was said and presented during the meeting.
By all accounts, the map has the strongest partisan effect of all of the proposed maps. It could possibly lead to the Westside district flipping one or both of its seats to a conservative Assembly candidate.
To understand why, it’s helpful to know what the current Assembly map’s partisanship looks like to determine what’s being done to new maps being proposed.
Anchorage Presidential ’20 (Biden +2)
Anchorage Mayoral Runoff ’21 (Bronson +1.3)
The current map features one solidly Democratic district (Downtown), one solidly Republican district (Eagle River-Chugiak), one safely leaning Republican district (South-Girdwood), and 3 Democratic leaning districts (West, East, and Midtown).
|District||Area||Pres ’20, Runoff ’21, *Composite ’16-’20|
|1||Downtown||Biden +31.6, Dunbar +45, Composite D+ 31|
|2||Eagle River-Chugiak||Trump +25, Bronson +32, Composite R+ 30|
|3||West||Biden +12, Dunbar +7.6, Composite D+ 7|
|4||Midtown||Biden +10, Dunbar +10, Composite D +8|
|5||East||Biden +8, Dunbar +5, Composite D+ 4.5|
|6||South-Girdwood||Trump +4, Bronson +9.5, Composite R+ 9|
Before we look at the Mayor’s map, it’s only fair to look at what other map proposals do to change partisanship numbers in each district. Since none of the muni-made maps have gained traction during the process, we’ll focus on publicly-submitted maps.
Some numbers stand out, but the most important changes are to the East, West, and Midtown districts. Because of their deep partisanship, changes even in the double digits to Downtown and Eagle River-Chugiak will not change the outcome of those seats. But the 3 Democratic-leaning swing seats in Anchorage can be more competitive for local conservatives.
In 2020, Christine Hill, who later became famous after crafting the Star of David symbols that became a focal point of the 2021 mask mandate debates in the Assembly, nearly unseated progressive Midtown member Felix Rivera. Hill came within less than 200 votes, which would have put a far-right conservative on the Assembly.
Most of the maps push Midtown south into places like Independence Park and areas south of Dimond/Abbott, which could make the district just competitive enough to swing to a Republican in a red wave year. I think this is unlikely, but it’s certainly possible.
Additionally, East’s district votes Democratic by just 4-5 points. Slight changes could have big political impacts.
West has trended left recently, but there are a lot of conservative areas in the south part of the district (Jewel & Sand Lakes), as well as conservative areas south of Campbell Lake that are currently part of District 6. A new map could capitalize on those areas to change the politics of West’s district dramatically.
It’s only fair to mention that the map drawn by Alaskans for Fair Redistricting uniquely advantages liberal-leaning Assembly districts by shoring up Democratic votes in all 3 Democratic-leaning districts. It also protects their incumbents by leaving them in the districts they currently belong to, preventing them from having to run against each other in another election.
The remaining maps have a rather innocuous effect on the broader partisanship of these maps. As of now, this is the first map submitted by a conservative-leaning source.
Now, let’s look at the map submitted on behalf of the Bronson administration.
Brice Wilbanks (Bronson Map)
A look at the map shows that Brice pushes Downtown into West Anchorage and Turnagain, forcing West to be pushed southward into the Bayshore/Klatt and Oceanview areas that currently belong to District 6 (South-Girdwood). These areas may not be as deep red as Huffman or Eagle River, but they are clearly conservative and suspiciously placed into West’s District as opposed to South where they belong.
On the presidential level, the Mayor’s new map makes every single district redder compared to the current map. Denny Wells’ Map B does this as well, but not in any way that is different from other maps: Midtown typically gets redder because Downtown must expand, pushing Midtown south making them more competitive for conservatives. But the Mayor’s map stands out in targeting West’s district.
Under the Mayor’s map, West would go from voting Biden +12 to Biden +4. More importantly, it would move West from a 2016-2020 Composite Average of D +7 to R +0.6. The district still slightly favors a moderate-to-liberal Assembly candidate, but without as much voting power in deep-blue Westside and a solidly-Republican voting block in the south, conservatives could pull off a flip.
Thanks to the passage of Prop 12, there will soon be 12 Assembly members as soon as Downtown elects a second member of the district— which will overwhelmingly likely to be another progressive. Once that happens, lets assume the majority on the Assembly is now 10-2. If you managed to unseat both Austin Quinn-Davidson and Kameron Perez-Verdia in a red wave year, the Assembly would go to 8-4— barely enough for a veto-proof majority assuming every single Southside representative votes with progressive members of the Assembly.
Arguably, the map also carves out some odd areas of Midtown that seemingly cut down on liberal-leaning margins in the current District 4. It removed nearly 700 voters from Abbott near Service High, which give huge margins to liberal-leaning candidates, including voting against Assemblywoman Meg Zaletel’s recall by 250 votes. It also splits up the deep-blue Spenard area, diluting their voting power and taking more liberal-leaning voters out of Midtown.
The new maps stay in effect until population changes trigger the need for reapportionment again, which won’t be evaluated until the next Census in 10 years. Whatever will be decided will be consequential for Anchorage’s municipal elections for at least a decade.
On a February 4th episode of the conservative talk-radio show The Dan Fagan Show, ER-Chugiak Assemblywoman Jamie Allard said she was working with another person (or group?) to submit a map of their own.
Read more about the reapportionment process here. The next action to be taken is an Assembly meeting on February 15th, where a final map will be introduced to the Assembly for deliberation. Public hearings and work sessions follow, concluding with a final meeting to adopt the plan on March 1st.