It’s been quite a year for Dave Bronson, and for the rest of us, the worst is yet to come.
Bronson was a founding member of the Alaska Family Council (AFC). For almost 10 years, he supported Anchorage Baptist Temple and AFC’s efforts to ensure discrimination against LGBTQ+ people was legal in Anchorage. The political know nothing had previously been rejected for a municipal advisory board in 2010 for being too conservative. Then, Bronson ran and lost against Elvi Gray-Jackson for a Midtown Assembly seat.
Little known to the wider public is that Bronson forced his Republican party district to vote him out as chair in 2016 in protest of the party’s decision to endorse Lisa Murkowski instead of Joe Miller.
Bronson’s rise to power came as he attended assembly meetings throughout the summer of 2020 — making efforts to build a name for himself at his “pre-launch” rally outside last year’s August 11 assembly meeting where he rubbed elbows with regular citizens like “Save Anchorage” member Jamie Allard, former Mayor Dan Sullivan and the frenzied “grassroots” crowd that had become “Save Anchorage” just a few weeks prior. Then, fresh off his retirement as a union-card-carrying airline pilot, Bronson offered “A New Direction.”
On August 25, 2020, outside the Assembly Chambers at Loussac Library backed by the “Save Anchorage” group — Dave Bronson launched his mayoral campaign as a “fresh face” in Anchorage politics. The Alaskan Public Offices Commission (APOC) would later determine that he began making campaign expenditures before permissible — fining him for purchasing a web domain, having a website created and campaign signs printed before registering. APOC determined that Bronson’s Letter of Intent was due on July 29, 2020…just 19 days…after “Save Anchorage” was created.
On August 12, 2020, some members of the “grassroots Save Anchorage” group followed Mayor Berkowitz to his car — threatening to block him from leaving the parking lot — crossing a line of unprecedented behavior toward a public official. A woman shouted at the mayor, “I am going to burn your house down!” Berkowitz would later resign in October after a scandal involving “Save Anchorage” members Maria Athens and Molly Blakeley shook the city.
The choreographed launch of Bronson’s campaign, promoted on Must Read Alaska and all over local conservative social media, created the conditions necessary to make his “I will Save Anchorage” candidacy look like a spontaneous outpouring of civic energy.
On August 25, 2020, the Facebook group “Take a Stand for Law Enforcement and Parental Rights” held a rally. The description for the event conveniently contained the greatest-hits of conservative hot-button issues designed to rile up the base:
- “CARES Act Misappropriation” (against building purchases, and more generally against using COVID relief funding for people experiencing homelessness).
- “Taking away parental rights for counseling” a reference to the proposed ban on conversion therapy for LGBTQ+ youth — a known favorite with the church folks.
- “Anti-police policies” referring to an ordinance limiting use of force against Anchorage residents, a week after an equally orchestrated “Back the Blue Rally.”
- At least one wannabe militia member patrolled the Loussac Library grounds with a semi-automatic weapon.
Dave Bronson had a pretty good year even if his campaign did flout campaign finance laws, blinding the public. Last August, he was retired, with a pretty poor track record in Anchorage politics. Now he’s the mayor, hiring or appointing many of the same people who propelled him onto the public stage — securing him his narrow victory whether they were behind the scenes, writing the checks, protesting at Assembly meetings month after month in the middle of a global pandemic and stoking various political fires in “Save Anchorage.”
Bronson turned out his hard-right base in Eagle River/Chugiak, with people going door to door, lying about Forrest Dunbar’s record — winning over low-information voters with an “open Anchorage,” pro-COVID message. Look what that’s gotten us.
Until a few months ago, the response to the pandemic — and it is a pandemic — was strong, thanks to the Assembly and two prior administrations who placed a substantial value on public health. Now, cases are going back up, and Anchorage faces a healthcare crisis as Bronson continues to cater to “Save Anchorage” and its secretive associated key figure — placing their “grassroots” loyalty above the safety of everyone else.