Anchorage chooses first woman, openly gay mayor after previous mayor resigns amid scandal

Austin Quinn-Davidson will serve as acting mayor of Anchorage starting on Friday after Mayor Ethan Berkowitz’s resignation. Quinn-Davidson, 40, is an attorney who was first elected to the Assembly in 2018. She will be the first woman and openly gay person to serve as mayor or acting mayor of Anchorage, CBS station KTVA reported.

“I received a text from my sister, who watched the meeting last night with a young girl, she’s about six, and she sent me a picture with the young girl looking at the screen saying ‘she looks like me,’ and I think that matters,” she told KTVA. “It matters for all kinds of folks.”

But she said the coronavirus pandemic and the damage it’s doing to public health and the economy is her top focus.

“To me, this is less about whether I’m a woman or whether I have a wife or a husband and more about solving the problems in Anchorage,” she said.

The city’s charter states that the chair of its Assembly will serve as acting mayor during a vacancy. The Assembly voted Friday to appoint Quinn-Davidson as the new chair, replacing Felix Rivera.

Berkowitz resigned after admitting to having an inappropriate relationship with a female reporter three days after she made online allegations against the married official.

Municipal attorney Kate Vogel said at the meeting Friday that the city’s charter is ambiguous as to how a permanent mayor should be selected. She said the Assembly has a few legally defensible choices on how to proceed. One would be to hold a special election in January, 90 days after Berkowitz’s resignation takes effect. The second option would be to skip a special election and have Quinn-Davidson serve as acting mayor until the regular election scheduled for April.

After, a newly elected mayor could take over earlier than July, when a mayoral term typically begins. Or, Quinn-Davidson could continue as acting mayor until July, when the elected mayor would take office.

If Rivera had been chosen acting mayor, he would have been the city’s first openly gay mayor. Rivera would also have been the first Latino mayor and at age 31, the youngest. The next youngest would be James Delaney Sr., who was either 32 or 33 when he was elected in 1929.

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