Judge Jennifer Henderson denied Dustin Darden his request to be placed on the Anchorage Municipality ballot for the District 3E seat, which has been vacant since Oct. 23, when Austin Quinn-Davidson became acting mayor.
Darden, an activist and frequent candidate, filed for the seat in January, and his paperwork was all in order and filed by the Municipality’s deadline. But the Anchorage Municipal Clerk said the position is not open, and she denied his request.
On Wednesday, Henderson heard his administrative appeal and his request for a preliminary injunction, but ruled that the municipality would suffer irreparable harm.
Darden, and his colleague Nial Williams, pointed out to the judge that the municipality was a full day late, missing a filing deadline set by the judge for the municipality’s response last Thursday. Unspoken was the insinuation that if Darden had been late with his filing, the Muni would have asked for the case to be tossed. The judge said it was not important that the Muni lawyers had missed their deadline.
Williams was the subject of the Muni’s counter complaint: The lawyers said that he had no standing in the case, which is an administrative appeal and they claimed he was acting illegally as Darden’s attorney.
Not so, said Williams. He is an aggrieved voter in the district. But Henderson agreed with the Muni, and removed him from the case.
Darden asked that the case move forward, even without the relief he had sought, which was to be placed on the ballot that is being mailed out on Monday to Anchorage voters.
This means he will be back in court on March 31 to argue that the Muni has allowed Quinn-Davidson to hold two seats simultaneously.
Henderson, in her rambling 15-minute ruling, thought it was unfair that Darden would be the only one on the ballot, and that others would not have the chance to file for office if she declared the seat open. She did not give the two appellants much hope for success in their case.
Williams had argued, on behalf of Darden, that anyone could have read the municipal charter and could see for themselves the seat was open, and they also have the additional remedy of running a write-in campaign, as Sen. Lisa Murkowski successfully did.
Williams explained how the two had been denied by the Municipality at every juncture: They filed on time. They were denied. They asked the Anchorage Clerk for a hearing on their filing. They were denied. At the next available date, they filed their case before Anchorage court.
“We are entitled to an Assembly of 11. Since October 23, there have been only 10 members. This is unequal representation,” Williams argued. “The fact remains that Ms. Quinn-Davidson is holding two seats — in a mayoral capacity and a legislative capacity.”
Henderson was unmoved, although she did allow that there seems to be no sideboards on how long a person could hold onto her Assembly seat, while also serving as mayor. She did not rule that the seat was, in fact, vacant.
Rather, Henderson appeared to have made her decision by the time the proceedings began on Wednesday, agreeing with the Municipal attorneys on every point, including that the Municipality “faces enormous irreparable harm,” if Darden were allowed to run for what the Muni has determined is not an open seat.
Darden also pointed out to the court that records presented by the Municipality’s attorneys were signed and notarized for March, 2020, over one year ago, clearly another error by the Municipality. The judge ignored the clerical error, as she had also ignored the missed filing deadline by the Municipal attorneys.
“Our argument is that Quinn-Davidson is usurping power,” Williams said. “So Ms. Quinn-Davidson can’t have her cake and eat it too.”
Evidently, according to Judge Henderson, Quinn-Davidson can do just that.