Mayor Dan’s veto could create problems for all Dan Sullivans and other GOP candidates

U.S. Sen. Mark Begich’s campaign got a boost Monday when Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan announced that he was going to veto a highly controversial labor bill. The bill, originally A037, which morphed into “A037 light,” was passed by the Anchorage Assembly last week, and was intended to be a compromise. It wasn’t a big enough one for Sullivan however, who has gone to war with the unions like no other mayor in recent history.

Unless the Anchorage Assembly overrides his veto, which is unlikely, voters will get to decide in November’s general election whether or not to repeal the original A037, which was anathema to the unions and which will galvanize them across the state, particularly in Anchorage, the state’s main population center. If the unions win, the Sullivan-era law will go away and will send a strong message to public officials not to take strident stands against the unions.

This will likely help all Democrats on the ballot and might even help independent gubernatorial candidate Bill Walker, who has gone out of his way to court the union vote. Mayor Sullivan will be on the ticked as Gov. Sean Parnell’s running mate. But Begich will likely get the most out of it. The unions were always going to support him heavily, but if it goes on the ballot, members have more incentive to get to the polls.

“It’s certainly going to affect motivation,” said Jim Lottsfeldt, who lobbies for unions and runs Begich’s super-PAC Put Alaska First. “The guy that was only going to knock on 20 doors will now knock on 60,” he said.

And if the other Dan Sullivan wins the GOP Senate primary? “My messaging get easier,” Lottsfeldt said.

If nothing else, the unions will spend heavy on an anti-Sullivan campaign.

Even Dan Coffey, who is running for Anchorage mayor and has been a Sullivan supporter, says that it will increase enthusiasm and will help Begich, and will hurt the other Sullivan, if he’s also on the ballot. “The unions are going to be mad at anybody named Dan Sullivan,” he said.

Coffey, it should be noted, said that if he were mayor, he wouldn’t have used his veto pen on this one. He’s not necessarily a fan of public sector unions, nor of “A037 light,” but he doesn’t share Sullivan’s antipathy. And this compromise is a step in the right direction. “Change and better solutions come incrementally,” Coffey said.

Too, Coffey thinks the unions are going to win, as they have repeatedly in the past. Indeed, talk radio and some in the business community have and will continue to spout anti-union sentiment. But they simply don’t put money into their words.

If that happens, labor contracts will be negotiated under the pre-Sullivan code for at least two years after repeal, during Coffey’s first term as mayor, were he to win.

Contact Amanda Coyne at


10 thoughts on “Mayor Dan’s veto could create problems for all Dan Sullivans and other GOP candidates

  1. Lynn Willis

    I agree that this is unintentional and unnecessary brinksmanship on the part of Mayor Sullivan. Unless the Assembly can override the veto, I agree with Amanda and Dan Coffey that this decision has repercussions beyond the Municipality of Anchorage. This veto action will draw the interest in November of single issue voters who might have been more than content to stay home and savor their increased PFD. Many of these voters are not inspired by issues relating to guns, abortions and federal overreach. Nor would they agree that public sector unions are a problem or oil tax reform was necessary and beneficial. They care about their paychecks and jobs and could well lash out at all those who appear to threaten them especially those with the name “Sullivan”.
    I generally have been satisfied with the performance of Mayor Sullivan. He has a stubborn streak as was aptly demonstrated with the tennis court debacle; however, Mayor Sullivan has been exponentially more responsible with spending than was Mayor Begich. That said, Alaskan politicians understand that nobody wants to be among those pushed away from the trough even if it means deficit spending. The current crop of state politicians, despite claims of being fiscal conservatives, (especially Governor Parnell who has line item veto power), live by that understanding.

  2. Jerry Hood

    Amanda – your analysis appears to be on point. However, AO 37 is an Anchorage issue and will not appear on the statewide ballot. I think that minimizes impact on the Senate race either for Begich or against Sullivan. Observers of elections in Alaska will tell you we are much different than say Washington state where elections can be determined by King County alone. “So goes Anchorage” does not mean “so goes Alaska”. In general the areas outside Anchorage are much more conservative and are inclined to vote that way. It will be interesting to watch this play out.

    As a former labor leader (yes, I’m a usedtowas) my advice to organized labor would be to campaign on the merits of the issue – not get into a name calling contest with the Mayor. We’ve seen too much of that already this campaign season.

    Enjoy your blog. Keep up the good work.

  3. John Smith

    The opposite could be true as well. If parts of Alaska not called Anchorage see this veto as a sign of leadership and something that they could support, then the name recognition works in both candidates favor, does it not? The assumption that this is all bad for anyone named Dan Sullivan is a little short sighted in my opinion.

  4. DB

    Wait till the public sees what public union members are compensated when the Alaska Policy Forum distributes a 47 page insert in the ADN and to 91,000 households in Anchorage. They will be astounded that the median compensation is more than $130,000. Facts are facts. Median household income in anchorage is $74,000. Public employees compensation is way out of whack. Shining the light on the facts should inspire people one way or the other. Go to homepage of to see for yourself.

  5. Garand Fellow

    I must say that the media do a poor job of explaining just what this city code does and does not contain. Most often they don’t try to explain what it does at all. Is this the remnant of Mayor Mark Begich breaking the bank by giving in to unions so he could better defeat Ted Stevens? If so, does Begich benefit by this dust-up?

    There are lots of union families in Alaska but there are lots of conservative taxpayers who believe that public employee unions have sold Alaska down the drain during the now subsiding petroleum era. Union leaders always go with elected officials that give in to union demands but rank and file union members, especially the trades as opposed to the teachers unions for example, have the same concerns about abortion, gun control and federal overreach that is shared with most Alaskans.

    The Alaska/Anchorage Dispatch says this will now be on the November state ballot. The article doesn’t say (poor job, that) but I presume that means the ballot given only to Anchorage voters. Of course, as I understand it, the term Anchorage voters encompasses lots of locations that are part of Anchorage but don’t want the rest of Alaska to know it; Chugiak, Eagle River, Peters Creek, Girdwood, etc.

    I think that on balance, Mark Begich left a mess for Anchorage taxpayers. Whether Anchorage Dan Sullivan has done a good job of dealing with it is something I don’t know. Maybe this mess and the Bill Sheffield Anchorage port debacle were too much for one mayor to resolve.

  6. mae

    My Way or The Highway Dan is not the sharpest tool in the shed.
    Perhaps he should stick to serving drinks at the bar?

  7. D49

    The unions will spend big bucks to defeat this referendum. In the process, as you point out, they’ll slime both Dan’s. The mayor’s insistence on having this on the ballot is demonstrative of how dumb the guy is.
    From my vantage, long live Mayor Dan and all his stupor.

  8. HB

    Mayor Dan isn’t what you call a big thinker. He doesn’t lay awake at night trying to figure out his best poliitical moves. Ms. Coyne, you did a great job of telling this story, its relevance and what we can expect. Your blog site is killer. Keep up the great work.

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