Lesbian makes history as city’s first gay, female mayor after straight male predecessor resigned over sex scandal

Austin Quinn-Davidson, the new acting mayor of Anchorage, Alaska

An out lesbian has been picked to serve as the acting mayor of Anchorage, Alaska after her straight male predecessor resigned over a sex scandal.

Austin Quinn-Davidson made history with her appointment as the city’s new acting mayor, after a vote by the city assembly on Friday (October 16) picked her for the role.

The politician, who has served on the Anchorage assembly since 2018, will take over after the resignation of Ethan Berkowitz, who quit after admitting to an a “consensual, inappropriate messaging relationship” with a local TV anchor.

Her appointment as the city’s first woman and first gay mayor was backed by assembly chair Felix Rivera, who is also gay and had been tipped to take over the role himself beforehand.

Rivera, who is Latino and would have been the first person of colour to serve in the role, praised Quinn-Davidson as a “compassionate and dedicated public servant”, and assured those disappointed by the city’s record of all-white office holders: “Don’t you worry. It will happen sooner or later. If I were a betting person, I’d bet on sooner.”

He lauded the incoming acting mayor as an “an excellent communicator who sincerely cares about what you have to say, and will listen to all parts of our community”.

New Anchorage mayor Austin Quinn-Davidson has a lot of work to do.

Quinn-Davidson will have a lot of work in her in-tray, with COVID-19 cases rising in the city and its economy faltering.

She told the Anchorage Daily News: “At first, I was very resistant, because it is a big task.

“I think the most important role of a mayor right now is to inspire trust in government, and to make people feel at ease during a time that is pretty tumultuous.

“I think revitalizing the economy and ensuring that small businesses can survive and that people can get back to work is key. Of course, that interplays with public health and safety, and those two are so aligned, we need to work together on both.”

Austin Quinn-Davidson, the new acting mayor of Anchorage, Alaska

Austin Quinn-Davidson (left), the new acting mayor of Anchorage, Alaska (Facebook)

One supporter tweeted: “Ancorage is very lucky that Austin agreed to serve. We have stormy seas ahead economically and on public health, but I’m so glad we will have Mayor Quinn-Davidson to restore trust and guide us through the next several months. Bonus: about time we had a woman mayor!”

Another wrote: “Austin Quinn-Davidson is being handed a pile of problems she did not cause, and she will handle it well because she is a good, talented, dedicated person who ran for office for the right reasons.”

City has seen ugly anti-LGBT smears against gay politicians before.

LGBT+ representation is a significant milestone in the city, which was the centre of ugly homophobic smears when Rivera stood for election three years ago.

At the time, Rivera’s opponent suggested the candidate’s agenda “revolves around inflicting his moral and religious ideology onto your family” — though the smears failed to stop the candidate from becoming one of the only out officials in all of Alaska.