Giving thanks to politics in Alaska

It’s 11:30 on Thanksgiving Eve, and I’m wrung out and I still have to figure out how to cook the moose roast that’s thawing and dripping blood over my counter. And I have to write this piece about what some of our politicians are doing this Thanksgiving and I have to try to put some heart into it, because, if I’m going to write about them at all, they deserve some heart. They’ve worked so hard in the last few months. And if I’m wrung out, imagine how they and their families must feel.

I took a trip to Hawaii alone recently where I tried not to think about politics, because thinking about politics, day and night like I have been, is relatively new to me, and I wonder if I approve of what it’s doing to me. Politics can be a nasty business, and sometimes I don’t know if I have the guts for it, which are constantly roiling.  You might not know this from my writing, but I hate–more than I hate licorice or cigarettes or snobbery–watching people who are trying to do good things for the state writhe under scrutiny. And it’s particularly torturous when I’m the one who’s doing the scrutinizing, which I often have to do. I also hate watching people lose, even the politicians who I really don’t like. I hate the crestfallen expressions, the fallen hopes and dreams. I hate gotcha moments. (I hate sometimes enjoying reporting gotcha moments.) I hate the nasty comments on my site. Sometimes I just hate politics.

All of which might makes me wonder, a lot, if I’m particularly ill-suited to do what I’m doing.

But then sometimes I love politics. Or maybe it’s better to say that I love the way that Alaskans love politics. It can give people, including me, an excuse to be more tribal and smaller than we would otherwise would be. But I also think that it can bring out the best in us, particularly here in Alaska, where it’s so close and intimate, and where we’re all needed.

I loved politics today. I had lunch with a group of long-time Alaska conservatives, all of whom I respect immensely. I also had coffee with Dan Coffey–which I love saying–at Café Del Mundo, where he talked about his 36 years of sobriety, and about with mixed-use zoning, which he knows a lot about. I tried to pay attention to the zoning stuff, but I wasn’t very good at it because Jane Angvik was a few tables down, and her face is so mesmerizing, particularly when she’s saying something important, which is often, that I couldn’t stop staring. I talked to Cindy Roberts about the aerospace industry, while across the room, Robert Shaw, who makes nearly all the food at Democratic events, was talking to Malcom Roberts about something important, likely about how to make the state a better place.

When I left the coffee shop, I rushed to Carrs to buy side-dish fixings because, let’s face it, the moose roast will be nearly inedible, and my brother and my mother and I will choke down small bites and fill up on mashed potatoes.

There, in front of the canned fruit section, all by himself, acting like a man out on a last minute Thanksgiving grocery-store mission, just like one of us, was Gov.-elect Bill Walker. We talked for a while. It had been a long time since I chatted with him, and I had forgotten how very easy he is to talk to, how very normal and comfortable and so unlike a politician, in the best way.

I’m thankful that I live in a place that still has the ability to take my breath away, and that we have so many good politicians looking after us. Seriously. I am. I’m grateful to the readers of this little blog and for the way they’ve given me permission to have a front-row seat to it all.

I left the governor-elect to pick out his canned fruit for the special dish that’s a holiday tradition in his family. Here’s the story of that, and what some other politicians are up to this Thanksgiving:

Bill Walker, via his daughter, Lindsay Hobson Walker:

(W)e will spend Thanksgiving at my brother’s house in Anchorage. My dad’s family had a Thanksgiving tradition of serving “heavenly hash” back in the day where they had very little fresh fruit so it was cans of fruit cocktail mixed in with whipped cream, nuts & coconut.  We have sort of replaced that with the cranberry mold which my mom says we have had every year for at least 30 years.

Two people responded to Lt. Gov.-elect Byron Mallott’s Thanksgiving plans. The first is from Mallott himself. The next is from Amanda Mallott, his daughter-in-law:

My family will be sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner at our Juneau home at 4ish to a traditional spread but also including a venison roast from a deer recently taken during a hunt on Admiralty Island by sons Anthony and Joe. There will be 15 family members at table including son BJ and family who are down from Yakutat to join us.

Byron and Toni will be celebrating with family and friends in Juneau this year. We appreciate the chance for a quiet day to be together and reflect on all we are grateful for, including an ability to include traditional foods we have gathered throughout the year from the land into our meals.  On Thanksgiving, we do cook a turkey, but also include a deer roast, moose sausage, bog cranberry relish and blueberry pie (grandkids love picking berries!).  He has enjoyed going hunting early in the day with his sons in the past, and an afternoon hike with his grandkids and family is always part of the day.

From Gov. Sean Parnell, via his spokesperson:

He will be in Anchorage spending the holiday with his family and new grandson. His daughters- in-law will be at Thanksgiving dinner as well. Everyone will bring a dish and the meal will definitely be over by the time the Seahawks play.

Senate-elect Dan Sullivan:

We are driving to Fairbanks to spend Thanksgiving with Julie’s parents, Hugh “Bud” and Mary Jane Fate– and her sisters, nieces and nephews, aunts and uncles, too. Every day is truly a gift, and we’re so thankful to be spending it with our loved ones and with some of the kindest and most giving caregivers at the Denali Center. We’ll be enjoying the usual Thanksgiving fixings and some smoked salmon and low-bush cranberry sauce — and a good poker game, too! The drive on the Parks Highway from Anchorage to Fairbanks is one of our favorite Thanksgiving family traditions — it’s one of the most beautiful drives in the world.

Rep. Don Young:

Traditionally, I’ve always spent Thanksgiving in Alaska with my two daughters and grandkids, but this year I will be headed south to celebrate the holiday with my fiancée and her extended family. It’s never easy being away from home during the holidays, but this year I’m looking forward to sharing a little bit of Alaska and our history with new friends and family. Like many, I like to count my blessings and take a moment to reflect on the many things I’m thankful for: the love of friends and family, the support of the Alaskan people, and the good health God has blessed me with.

I didn’t properly ask Sen. Lisa Murkowski what her plans were, but her spokesperson said that she’s enjoying the holiday with her husband and sons. Here’s a video that she put out last year, which is still timely and really nice:

I didn’t ask Sen. Lesil McGuire what her plans where either, but I thought I’d share her famous Thanksgiving apple pie recipe that she sent me last year, because this, too, is still timely and really nice:

You need 2 c chopped and peeled Granny Smith apples, 2/3 c sugar, 2 T if flour, 1 egg beaten with whisk, 1 tsp vanilla extract, 1 cup of sour cream, 1/4 tsp salt. Chop apples set aside. Beat egg with whisk and add flour and flavoring, add in sugar the stir in sour cream and salt. Pour in apples and mix well. Pour into unbaked pie crust and bake at 375 for glass or 400 for metal for 20-25 minutes or till set. Remove from oven and drop temp to 350 degrees. Mix 1/2 stick of butter, with 1/3 c flour and 1/3 c brown sugar to get crumble topping. Sprinkle with cinnamon and cardamom or use ground nutmeg if none, cardamom! Sprinkle evenly over top of pie and put back into oven for 20 minutes!

Eat well. Happy Thanksgiving.

Contact Amanda Coyne at


20 thoughts on “Giving thanks to politics in Alaska

  1. Bonnie Cameron

    I might not always agree with you, but I sure do appreciate the time and emotional expense you put into your blog. It is most impressive! We are all Alaskans and Americans and at the end of the day we’re just trying to do what we think is best – we just go about it in different ways. I , too, have a love/hate relationship with politics. Keep up the good work, Amanda!

  2. ron

    Amanda, what a wonderful and enjoyable post. Your site has become a “must” read for anyone interested in Alaska’s politics and government. I so like the color stories that you do. They are sharply written, insightful and you don’t write a lot of needless words.
    Your old publication has become pretty much of an embarrassment. The Dispatch is in some serious need of quality leadership and journalism. Who would have ever thought that the Anchorage Daily News could be made to look really good and be missed.

  3. Jim Wehde

    I know so much more about politics in Alaska, because you keep drawing me in with that very personable writing style. The Seahawks victory was the whipped cream.
    We hope your day was great, including the moose roast.
    Jim & Heidi

  4. Girdwood Grand

    This blogg rocks.
    We appreciate what you do everyday. Your coverage of politics makes the Dispatch look like a silly joke. Keep rocking.

  5. Jennifer Coyne

    Our national political climate invites polarization and it’s so refreshing to read someone who is able step back and celebrate our similarity, instead of harping on our differences.

    Sitting on my red couch in Wisconsin, I’m grateful for my family and the creature comforts I’m given. A simple accident of birth brought me into an amazing family–one I did nothing to deserve–and I’m feeling particularly proud of my younger sister, Amanda Coyne, for her thoughts and her writing.

    Amanda, your question of whether you’re “ill-suited for what you are doing” is exactly why you should be doing it. Alaska is in good hands, made just a little bit better by your presence.

    I love you.

    Your proud big sister, Jennifer.

  6. AH HA

    I had thought that this year I might take the family to Haines to share thanksgiving with friends who live there but, when the price tag to get there and back turned out to be more than $600 I decided that perhaps we should stay home in Juneau instead.

    I wonder if anyone in Haines realizes that the cost of travel to and from Haines is a major factor in their sucky economy?

  7. John WB

    Your efforts have been a contribution of service. So, thank you.

    In the words of a wise man – great seats, eh buddy?

  8. Claire W

    Mayor Dan and Lynnette-classy move to offer help the new administration. You’ve been a great Mayor for our city. Blessings to your family today.
    Amanda, keep this little blog going. I adore your perspective, your humor and your sweet and humble nature. The synical journalist is just one layer. Take the roast out early and allow time to rest.

  9. Lynn Willis

    Thank you Amanda for your efforts, your objectivity, and for providing this forum. Have a happy Thanksgiving and holiday season .

  10. Kyle Johansen

    Your first four paragraphs are wonderful (and familiar)’s called addiction. Love it, hate it you can’t leave it alone. Southeast Alaska truly benefits from all your hard work on this site. Happy Thanksgiving!

  11. Mayor Dan

    Lynnette and I would like to wish all Alaskans a very Happy Thanksgiving! We are very thankful ourselves for the opportunity to serve the city we love and for the kindness and support shown us during the recent campaign. Thanks Amanda for your insightful commentary on the people and politics of this great state. Finally, good luck to the Walker/Mallott team – we are here to help you in any way we can – your success is Alaska’s success.

  12. J.R.Myers, ACP Chairman

    Thanks to all those who ran for office. Thanks to those Alaskans who took the time to educate themselves on the issues and vote. Thanks to those who report the truth. Thanks to the Creator of Heaven & Earth for another Blessed Day!

  13. Sam F.

    Too often, we forget that our elected officials are people too, with families and feelings. They subject themselves to our ridicule and criticism. Fortunately for us, most of our elected officials here in Alaska are good and decent people. While we may disagree on philosophies, approaches and beliefs, most public officials try to do their best, or what they believe is best, for the state.

    I want to express my appreciation, gratitude and respect for the hard work that Governor Parnell did on behalf of the state the past four years. Also, I want to extend my best wishes to Governor Walker and his running mate Byron Mallott. God bless and Happy Thanksgiving to all.

  14. Kent

    What a wondeful hearfelt story. We all have so much to be thankful for. The bounty of Alaska enriches our lives, each and every one of us, in many ways. I also want to express my appreciation and thankfulness for your hardwork and this blog. Your work also enriches our politics, perspective and understanding of our government and our leaders. I suspect, like me, there are many Alaskans that are thankful for
    I hope and trust your moose roast turns out well and the mashed potatoes better. If you cook half as well as you write, it’ll be a wonderful dinner.

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