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, word is that the former governor has already rented office space where he’ll be hanging his shingle for legal and consulting work, and getting used to life in the private sector, which appears already to be challenging:
(Just wait until he realizes how much he’ll have to pay in insurance premiums. Mine, through Premera with a $2,500 deductible, is increasing from $580 a month to $783 a month.)
Suzanne Downing, the aforementioned Parnell speechwriter, and Heath Hilyard, whose name I have repeatedly misspelled in this column, will serve as legislative staffers for freshman Rep. Cathy Tilton.
Randy Ruaro, Parnell’s Deputy COS, will be joining Sen. Bert Stedman’s staff in mid-January.
I haven’t heard much in the way of names slated to be special assistants in the governor’s office. The rumor, unconfirmed of course, is that the Walker – Mallott team may be reorganizing the management structure that governors have used for the past 35+ years in Alaska by eliminating the bevy of gubernatorial special assistants that act as a buffer between the governor and cabinet members. People with third-floor experience roll their eyes at this notion and all say something along the lines of “that’ll work, until it doesn’t.”
Speaking of special assistants: Craig Fleener is now one for the Arctic. The announcement came somewhat as a surprise because as far as I know, he’s never made anyone’s list of having any special or significant expertise on the Arctic and most thought he was slated for an appointment for a cabinet seat. However, word is that there were real concerns about his ability to get legislative confirmation as a cabinet member. Why special assistant to the Arctic? Why not former Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, who forgot more about the Arctic than most of us will ever know? Maybe it was this Facebook exchange about Russia that cinched it:
Fleener, who used to refer to himself as “Johnny Appleseed” will be replacing Stephanie Moreland who was doing double-duty as Parnell’s Arctic advisor and Deputy Commissioner of ADF&G. Moreland previously worked for U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski.
I had heard rumors that Gov. Walker was thinking of changing up his security detail, one of whom has been guarding governors for more than 30 years. Let’s put that rumor to rest: the governor’s spokesperson said that it wasn’t true.
End Transition Buzz
On Thursday, the Alaska chapter for Americans for Prosperity held a dinner. Read about what was said at the event here. A view from a table in the back of the room confirmed that the seemingly impossible was actually happening:—the tea party and the establishment GOPers could actually eat a meal together without a pie being thrown in someone’s face. Unity must be contagious. Legislators spotted: Reps. Shelley Hughes, Lora Reinbold, and Sen. Cathy Giessel. Others: former Lt. Gov. Loran Leman, UAA’s Forrest Nabors, KFQD’s Glen Biegel, former and current GOP chair Randy Ruedrich and Peter Goldberg, former Mead Treadwell staffer Cale Green, Judy Eledge, conservative activist Mike Coons, Anand and Shivani Dubey, Brett Huber, Wasilla Assemblywoman Gretchen O’Barr, everywhere woman Angelina Burney, Cheryl Fresca, and Jeannie and Frank McQueary, among others.
Who of AFP’s general ilk wasn’t there on Thursday evening? Anchorage Assemblywoman Amy Demboski held her second fundraiser for her mayoral candidacy that night. This one was held in her hood in Eagle River. Surprisingly, I heard absolutely nothing about it.
State candidates have until December 19 to continue to raise funds for the 2014 election cycle. Sen. Mike Dunleavy is taking advantage of the extra time. He’ll be holding a reception
having a fundraiser on Dec. 15, from 5:00-7:00 p.m. at the New Horizons Hanger in Palmer. The event will feature Sen.-elect Dan Sullivan. Also, on December 16, former Gov. Bill Sheffield will be hosting an event at his Susitna View home in Turnagain for the Walker-Mallott ticket.
Political and corporate D.C.-based pollster Bill Cromer was spotted in Anchorage this week. Word is that he was here on corporate work for ConocoPhillips.
A hand full of legislators and staff traveled to the Heart of Dixie, Alabama, this week for Energy Council. The Yellowhammer State’s governor, lt. governor and speaker of the house all turned out to show their enthusiastic support for the event and to greet Alaska Reps. Charisse Millett, Dan Sadler, and Eric Feige, who were there along with staffers Rena Delbridge and Tom Wright. Wait…Eric Feige was there? Did someone forget to tell him that he lost to Jim Colver, and as such, perhaps he shouldn’t be attending conferences on the state dime in this time of fiscal uncertainty?
Speaking of belt-tightening: A bunch of legislators and staff are off to D.C. for the National Council of State Legislators Fall Forum December 9 – 12. Registration fees for legislators and legislative staff are between $425 and $500 per person and that doesn’t include airfare, hotel or meals.
You won’t see many Alaska Republican senators in D. C. next week. Beginning December 11th, most of them will be at the Alyeska Resort in Girdwood, where for two days they’ll hammer out their priorities and make plans for the upcoming session, which likely involve belt-tightening, and perhaps talk about how the state probably shouldn’t be paying for things like retreats at Alyeska.
Sunday, Pearl Harbor Day, was Sen. Bill Wielechowski’s 47th birthday.
Contact Amanda Coyne at email@example.com