Next holiday season, the U.S. Capitol will have a tree from Alaska for the first time. In 2015, the tree will be chopped down from the Chugach National Forest, unless the environmentalists get involved, of course.
Andrew Halcro has thrown his hat into what is turning into an exciting Anchorage mayoral race. He’s a big personality, as is the frontrunner Dan Coffey. And it’s made all the more interesting that Halcro’s father, Republican booster Bob Halcro, donated $500–the max– to Dan Coffey’s campaign shortly before the first of the year.
The Legislature has a new public website! Click here for information about past and current legislators, bills, floor schedules, and links to live streaming of hearings. This is the first redesign of its webpage since 2007.
Monique Martin from Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium has joined the DHSS commissioner’s office as the Deputy Director of Health Care Policy. This job was previously held by Josh Applebee.
Why is Matt Mackowiak still listed as a state employee? Mackowiak, the relentlessly self-promoting Republican communications consultant from Texas was hired by former Gov. Sean Parnell to provide “communications” advice, coincidentally during the campaign. We all know that it’s against ethics laws for a state employee to work on a campaign on state time. I’m sure that Mackowiak and Parnell and Parnell’s adviser Cindy Sims were all very careful to keep the two separate. Continue reading
Supposedly, there was a fair bit of noise and rancor in the House today, as Speaker John Boehner, once again, fended off a tea-party challenge to his Speaker’s position. But it wasn’t likely nearly as loud and boisterous as what was going on in room 235, the Commerce Committee room in the Russell Senate Office Building, where, from 10:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m, more than 300 Alaskans, from all across the state, and Alaska-wannabes and lobbyists and D.C. sycophants and loads of Senator Dan Sullivan’s family gathered for a reception hosted by Alaska’s new senator. They drank beer and coffee and soda and ate salmon and cheese and fruit. There were swearing-in receptions all over the Russell Senate Office Building. None were as large or as noisy as the one in room 235, and supposedly, word all around the Capitol was that it was those loud Alaskans down the hall who brought the snow and caused schools to be cancelled in the D.C. area.
Sullivan wore his new cufflinks given as a gift from the Mat-Su Republican Women’s Club for the big day. They were cufflinks signed by the late Sen. Ted Stevens, and were inscribed with his well-known saying: “To Hell with Politics. Do What’s Right for Alaska.” Continue reading
The session hasn’t begun and already the Senate majority is busy stepping in it. Senate President Kevin Meyer sent out a notice on Monday that the Senate majority hired McHugh Pierre “on a personal services contract, effective January 15 and terminating on May 15” as a communications specialist. He’ll be joining three others on the team and will be, in Meyer’s words, “promoting our priorities, our goals and our individual efforts and leadership on behalf of Alaskans.” Meyer wrote that Pierre “brings a vast amount of experience working in communications and journalism.” Indeed, he does have good experience, and at any other time, it would probably be a good hire. But for one: This is the very same Senate president who called on Gov. Bill Walker to enact a hiring freeze because we are facing an unprecedented fiscal crisis. Secondly, and most importantly, this is the very same McHugh Pierre who Gov. Sean Parnell asked to resign because of his potential involvement in the National Guard scandal. The very same scandal which will likely get hearings this upcoming session, and for which a special investigator will be assigned. The very same scandal that likely lost former Gov. Sean Parnell the race. One thing is clear: The Senate majority truly does need help, but perhaps communication isn’t the issue.
Friday was DNR’s Director of Oil and Gas Bill Barron’s last day. The new acting director of the division is Paul Decker, a geologist with the division. The new acting deputy director is Jim Shine.
Legislative staffer Brett Huber will be moving from the Senate Rules Committee to Senator Mike Dunleavy’s office for the 2015 legislative session. Continue reading
This Loose Lips is coming to you from Iowa, where all the nieces and nephews are good looking, and the siblings are above average, and where their U.S. senators might castrate pigs, but as far as I know, do not do things like jump into frozen waters, wearing a skirt. By now, many have seen and some have commented on the rather unflattering image that the Dispatch chose to use of Sen. Lisa Murkowski preparing to jump into those freezing Goose Lake waters last Monday to raise awareness of the Special Olympics. But the good news: she got more flattering coverage of the event on NBC’s Today Show Monday morning. And, according to TVEyes Media Monitoring, the local market viewership was 78,283 which amounted to a local publicity value of $4,516.75 for the thirty second spot.
Walker Administration buzz: Word is that former ACS executive Sheldon Fisher will be tapped to be commissioner of Administration. The appointment is expected to be announced on Monday. Fisher ran to the right of Rep. Don Young in 2010, in large part running on a family values platform. He got 24 percent of the primary vote. (Watch him at his home then here.) Most recently Fisher’s been a COO at Bob Gillam’s money firm McKinley Capital Management. In 2010, he and Gov. Bill Walker hosted a fundraiser at Walker’s home to raise funds in support of Alaska Family Council’s Parental Rights Initiative. Currently former DMV director Amy Erickson is acting commissioner.
People are also saying that Bill Popp, the CEO of the Anchorage Economic Development Corporation, has been interviewed for Commerce commissioner.
If Popp and Fisher make the cut, that’ll make a gaggle of men and only two female commissioners. Not that we’re counting or anything, but Gov. Sean Parnell at one time appointed five female commissioners. Continue reading
At some point, Sen. Lisa Murkowski is going to have to face the Valley tea party masses, which isn’t often pretty. Those people are not above yelling and hissing and booing, which might be okay if they also didn’t have a set of facts on hand to justify it all. They know all about cloture, and filibusters, and why Obama purposely infected the nation with Ebola. They know not only what the debt ceiling is, but how much it is, and they know that it’s all leading to some sort of UN takeover that involves a one-world currency and FEMA camps. They also know that they, along with other Valley Republicans—and unfortunately you can’t pick and choose– are the ones who will likely have a big hand in deciding who wins a Republican primary. Anyway, apparently Murkowski has had better things to do, for months and months now. This weekend, the first weekend after Congress adjourned for the break, she opted for the relatively urban, friendly confines of Anchorage, where on Friday, you could find her at the annual Republican Women’s holiday lunch at the Captain Cook Hotel. The annual luncheon was started by Sen. Ted Stevens in 1978 and Murkowski has continued the tradition and added her own touch: each table was decorated with holiday cookies from a traditional Murkowski family recipe. Guests also found ornaments, created by an Alaskan artist, on their plates and each was signed by Alaska’s senior senator. The room was packed. Also spotted: U. S. Sen.-elect Dan Sullivan and his wife Julie, Reps. Dan Sadler and Gabrielle LeDoux, Rep.-elect Cathy Tilton, Marilyn Stewart, Art and April Hackney, mayoral candidate Dan Coffey, Wanda Green, Angelina Burney, Robin Phillips, and Kara Moriarty. Kay Linton’s daughter, Dawn, hosted a table at the event with an empty chair to honor her mother, who before her passing was always a fixture at the annual event. Continue reading
On Monday night at the New Horizon hanger in Palmer, over 100 Valley residents turned out to visit Sen.-elect Dan Sullivan and his wife Julie. Sen. Mike Dunleavy, who showed with his pistol but without his mule, helped organize the event. He and Palmer Mayor DeLana Johnson were the emcees, which they did a rather unique job of. As Sullivan stood on the sidelines waiting to talk, they continually passed the mic back and forth because they kept on forgetting that they had just one other thing to say. But Valley conservatives—many of whom leave their cushy government jobs at the office when they clock out at 4:30 p.m.—tend to be a patient bunch, and a plethora of cookies helped. Sen. Charlie Huggins also spoke before Sullivan had at it. He made some allusion to Dan Sullivan being the “last boy scout,” which may or may not have had something to do with a 1991 Bruce Willis film involving a pro-football team, a politician and a murder. But Huggins, as he always does, spoke with enough confidence and aplomb that everyone seemed convinced that something prophetic was being said. But the crowd—including Sullivan–was sincerely and understandably touched when Tammy Miller, president of the Mat-Su Republican Women’s Club, presented Sullivan with a pair of cuff links that were made by Sen. Ted Stevens that read, “To Hell with Politics. Do What’s Right for Alaska.” But what brought the crowd to their feet was when Sullivan paid tribute to Alaska’s veterans and introduced Wayne Woods, a gold star parent, and Cajun Bob Thoms, a Vietnam vet who is the recipient of a silver star, two bronze stars and six purple hearts. Other legislators spotted: Reps. Bill Stoltze. Shelley Hughes, Wes Keller and Lora Reinbold. Also there: Bethany Marcum, Mike Coons, Ben and Kathleen Rowell, MEA’s Joe Griffith, Sonya Walden, Joe Balash, John Shepherd, Dave and Dana Cruz, Becky Huggins, Rep.-elect Cathy Tilton, John Lee, Noel and Jean Woods, Curtis Thayer, John Harris, Otto and Nancy Feather, Myrna Maynard, Mat-Su Borough Mayor Larry DeVilbiss and Assemblyman Steve Colligan, former Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell and his mother Anne, and Wasilla City Council member Gretchen O’Barr.
Speaking of Mead Treadwell: He told me on Monday night that he was “not ruling out” running for Anchorage mayor. Continue reading
JFK’s Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara once said that you can judge the quality of an administration by where the people go to work after they leave the administration. Using this standard, my hat is off to former DNR commissioner Joe Balash who, it’s said, will be joining Sen.-elect Dan Sullivan in D.C. as his chief of staff. Expect an official announcement soon. It’s an interesting choice for Sullivan. Although Balash doesn’t have D.C. experience, he worked under Sullivan at DNR and has long and deep experience in state government, which began in 1998. He’s worked for legislators, committees, and two governors. He’s smart, canny and knows Alaska politics, which is going to be really important to Sullivan who’s new to this game.
Speaking of former Parnell staffers: It’s been two weeks and they must already miss each other. A closed Facebook page has been established for Parnell alumni to stay in touch. As of Sunday night, 24 have joined.
Two of those staffers, Parnell speechwriter Suzanne Downing and former deputy commissioner for the AK DMVA McHugh Pierre were spotted having coffee on Friday at Café Del Mundo.
More from the Friday episode of “As the Café Del Mundo Turns:” Wendy Chamberlain and mayoral candidate Dan Coffey were at another table, while at another sat Sen. Mike Dunleavy with Anchorage School Board member Natasha von Imhof, who is “seriously considering” running for state Sen. Lesil McGuire’s seat in 2016, who is rumored to be planning on not running again. Dunleay left and was replaced by Sen. Anna MacKinnon, the senator formerly known as Anna Fairclough. And Roger Shaw and his wife and new Walker administration deputy chief of staff Marcia Davis made a cameo. There was a thick plot somewhere in all of this, something that likely involved amnesia.
As his former staffers are commiserating over coffee and on Facebook, Continue reading
Over 100 people turned out Monday evening in Palmer to show their support at a fundraiser for Gov-elect Bill Walker at John Lee’s New Horizons’ hangar. Normally, you don’t see a lot of Democrats in the Mat-Su, but I’m told there was a gaggle of them on that night. In fact, the only member of the all- Republican Mat-Su legislative delegation who showed was Rep. Lynn Gattis. Some familiar faces spotted: Palmer Mayor DeLana Johnson, Dave and Dana Cruz, Mat-Su School Superintendent Deena Paramo, John and Linda Combs, school board member Ole Larson, Terry Snyder, Bob Williams, Diane Straub, Eddie Grasser, Doug Glenn, Mat-Su Borough Assemblymen Steve Colligan and Ron Arvin, Janet Kincaid and John Shepherd.
Sen.-elect Bill Stoltze has added DEC Legislative Liaison Brandon Brefczynski to his 2015 legislative session staff. Prior to joining DEC, Brefczynski worked as a legislative aide to Rep. Tammie Wilson (R – North Pole).
Both of outgoing Rep. Lindsey Holmes’ staffers will be working for members of the House leadership. Grace Abbott will work for Rep. Charisse Millett and Robert Ervine is going to Rep. Craig Johnson’s office.
There was another fundraiser on Tuesday evening for Gov.-elect Bill Walker. This one was held at the AGC’s offices in Anchorage. About 80 guests, give or take, showed for the event including: Derald Schoon, Mark Pfeffer, Sen. Cathy Giessel, Joey Merrick, Aves Thompson from the Trucking Association, Meg Nordale, AK AFL-CIO’s Vince Beltrami, Dave Cruz, Ross Thompson from Pruhs Construction, John MacKinnon, and former Palin COS Mike Tibbles to name a few. Word is that a few Parnell administration types obviously hoping to make nice and keep their jobs also showed. Continue reading
Did Alaska feel a bit empty to you last week? A bit lighter? A bit less filled with, say, hot air? I felt it and I wasn’t even here. Neither were Rep. Craig Johnson and Sen. Kevin Meyer, who were in Phoenix for some government thing. Sen. Lesil McGuire was in Seattle for a meeting. House Majority Leader Charisse Millett was in D.C. Rep. Scott Kawasaki’s head was in Hawaii, where he arrived on Friday. Rep. Lynn Gattis was somewhere. And 11 Alaskans were in Oregon, for the National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses meeting, including. Sen. Click Bishop and Charlie Huggins, Sen.-elect Bill Stoltze, and Reps. Mark Neuman and Wes Keller. Other Alaskans included ADF&G Director of Wildlife Conservation Doug Vincent-Lang, Kenai River Sportfishing Association Executive Director Ricky Gease and Safari Club International Veep Eddie Grasser. Surprise: They talked a lot about fishing and shooting things and the feds who were keeping them from doing so.
Sen. Hollis French was also out of town, on his own dime even, which merits its own entry because if there’s anybody who deserves a state junket during the Walker-Mallott transition it’s French, who’s handled everything impressive je ne sais quoi. Remember that French gave up his Senate seat to run for governor. Then, under pressure from the party and others, he gave up that bid to Byron Mallott. And then under pressure, he gave up his lite gov.’s bid to Bryon Mallott. And now he and Peggy are in Los Angeles, among other things, checking out the Warhol exhibit at MOCA, and likely thinking a lot about a certain ticket’s 15 minutes of fame, a phrase coined by Andy Warhol.
Wondering what former state Sen. Dave Donley’s been up to lately? Well, if you go to the Thursday Night Fights you’ll likely run into him. He’s a scorer at ringside. Continue reading
Monday was the last cabinet meeting of the Parnell administration. It was held in Anchorage. All of the commissioners were there but two. Department of Labor’s Diane Blumer and DHSS Bill Streur participated telephonically.
Congratulations to the governor and first lady who are now new grandparents. Rowan was born in Tuesday in Anchorage to Grace, and son-in-law Austin
Unity radio: Gov.-elect Bill Walker and Joe Miller will be the guests on the Eddie Burke show on KOAN 1080 AM and 95.1 FM from 4:00-6:00 pm on Wednesday. Eddie Burke, however, will not be there. In his stead will be libertarian Michael Chambers along with Craig Fleener and trooper Terrence Shanigan. The three are inexplicably calling themselves “Fin, Feathers, and Foil.”
It’s official: Former state legislator and former Fairbanks North Star Borough Mayor Jim Whitaker will be Gov.-elect Bill Walker’s chief of staff. Continue reading
This Loose Lips is coming to you from the Big Island, where I’m currently holed up alone, ostensibly engaging in “deep thoughts” which will lead to “serious writing.” It’s been three days and I’ve entertained long, deep thoughts about a sample of macadamia nut cream pie that I had at the Waimea farmer’s market the other day. There’s love, there’s hate, there’s dread in those thoughts, say nothing of deep regret that I didn’t buy at least a slice. In fact, it has the makings of the great American novel. But I will never write the great American novel because for one, I don’t have the talent and secondly, I’m constantly interrupted by phone calls, emails and texts about Gov.-elect Bill Walker’s transition team, and potential bodies in his cabinet, which has elicited a fascination heretofore unseen by me. (By the way, I just read that Walker is also in Hawaii. So is Anchorage lobbyist Jim Lottsfeldt. And heaven help me Judy Eledge is coming this way. Say what you will about the three of them: they would have bought the whole damn pie.)
Anyway, here’s what we know for sure as of Sunday night: Ana Hoffman, president of Bethel Native Corp., and former Sen. Rick Halford have been named co-chairs of the transition team and that there are going to be 17 transition task forces named to make policy recommendations.
Here are some rumors that are of the mostly solid variety: Former Juneau Mayor and Knowles’ AG Bruce Bothelo, who knows a lot about government, is playing a significant role with the Walker-Mallott transition (thank God); Koch Brothers’ Jeff Cook from Flint Hills Refinery and chair of Fairbanks Memorial Hospital will head up the Department of Health and Social Services transition task force and former ASHNA president and Knowles’ DHSS commissioner Karen Perdue along with Elizabeth Ripley of the Mat-Su Health Foundation will serve with him, among others, on the task force. Continue reading
By now, we’ve all heard about the House majority caucus, and know that Rep. Mike Chenault was elected to an unprecedented fourth term as Speaker. We know that Rep. Charisse Millett was voted in as Majority Leader, which is smart because she looks good for the camera, and is reasonable and articulate enough to counter the foaming mouthed, bible-thumping Republican stereotype, a stereotype that isn’t completely unjustified. Just look at the newest caucus that has formed in the House, called “The Freedom Caucus.” The charter members include Wes Keller, Lora Reinbold, Shelley Hughes, and Cathy Tilton. I’ve been told that there’s rules and terms of membership, which include something about bringing a bible to the meetings and reading aloud a verse. Because, you know, it’s always a good idea to defend the nation’s freedom by mixing church and state.
There’s a chance that Republican Anand Dubey will win his House seat in West Anchorage. He and Democrat Matt Claman are only 35 votes apart. If Dubey does win, it’ll be interesting to see if he gets invited into the Freedom Caucus, and if so, whether he will be able to bring and quote from The Vedas instead of the bible.
Now that the Legislature is organized, this is the time that new staffers are being hired and veterans are moving around. The new House Finance co-chairs have each picked up veteran staffers. Rep. Mark Neuman has hired Pete Ecklund, who worked most recently for Rep. Alan Austerman, and Joe Michel will be moving from Rep. Bill Stoltze’s office to Rep. Steve Thompson’s.
The Alaska Chapter of the National Education Association can’t be happy that Rep. Wes Keller is chair of the House Education Committee and that Sen. Mike Dunleavy is chair of the Senate Education Committee. Both are avid school choice advocates and neither is vulnerable in his respective district. Continue reading
Confession: I usually hate going to political fundraisers. I normally feel out of place, and it can feel really uncomfortable sitting in a corner, squinting at nametags, scratching on my notebook. But I always felt at home at Walker-Mallott fundraisers, and now that they’re over, I’ll miss them. For one, the food’s usually good, and though I never eat anything at these things, I like to be around good food. And good people, who talk about interesting things. At Walker fundraisers, I’ve talked existentialism and German literature with Bruce Botelho, constitutional law with Charlie Cole, and the state of the media with Hal Gazaway. I’ve talked about the good old Valdez days with former Lt. Gov. Stephen McApline, who I always call Steve. I’ve talked about Wally Hickel’s vision for Alaska with Malcom and Cindy Roberts. I’ve talked about subsistence issues with Craig Fleener, and fashion with Donna Walker. I’ve talked about the Catholic church with Cal Williams and about fisheries with Clem Tillion. I’ve talked women’s rights with Rep. Harriet Drummond and the human condition with her husband Elstun Lauesen. If I do something horrible in my life, and my punishment is that I have to spend the rest of eternity at a political fundraiser, I would hope that She will have mercy enough to put me at a Walker/Mallott fundraiser. The last one I went to was last Monday, and the campaign outdid themselves. All the usual suspects were there—plus Jerry Ward, for whom I will always have a fondness after he saved me from the wrath of a group of media hating Tea Partiers in 2012. But this time, there were more. Hundreds, of people of color, ethnicities, and sizes and political leanings were crammed upstairs at Gallos Mexican Restaurant in Anchorage. It was hot crowded and interesting.
With the election less than a week away, I’m told that people are tired of fundraisers. Continue reading
Local realtors, smarting over the fact that the National Realtors PAC is supporting Sen. Mark Begich, had a fundraiser for GOP Senate candidate Dan Sullivan on Thursday night that drew about 75 people. Sen. Lisa Murkowski showed and reportedly gave a rousing speech. The hosts included Michael Droege, Bob Baer, the recent named Realtor of the Year in Anchorage, and Buddy Bailey of Bailey’s Furniture fame, sans basketball. Others spotted: Dan Wolf, Mike Mosesian, Gabe Stephan, state Sen. Lesil McGuire, Kevin Sweeney, Frank McQueary and a gaggle of real estate agents.
With just a little over a week to go until Election Day, many candidates are at each other’s throats. Not so with Fairbanks candidates in Senate District C. The incumbent Republican candidate Sen. Click Bishop was seen having lunch on Friday at the Lucky Wishbone Restaurant in Anchorage with his Democratic opponent Dorothy Shockley who is also a cousin to Bishop’s wife. Others seen at The Bone during the same lunch hour: Barrow resident and former ASRC executive Oliver Leavitt and, DOA commissioner Curtis Thayer and his son Matthew.
From the grumbly and disgruntled: Did an APOC commissioner really move to North Carolina and is still serving on the Commission? Is the state going to have to pay for the travel?
Is peace in the Middle East at hand? Don’t count on it. Rev. Jerry Prevo and a group of about 50 Anchorage Baptist Temple parishioners are in Israel this week. Continue reading