The week in politics: Parnell’s light is dimming, Palin drama, and the culturally sensitive left

Until recently, Gov. Sean Parnell has had a relatively soft ride, with the public and Alaska media taking it comparatively easy on our well-coiffed, unassuming governor. The one who declared during his 2008 race against U.S. Rep. Don Young that “I just want to be a light.” A little odd, and he wasn’t elected, but it sounded good. Who doesn’t like light?

Besides, after Frank Murkowski and Sarah Palin, hiring someone whose highest aspiration was to be a light sounded relaxing. Like sitting on a beach in California, where perhaps he met the oil industry exec he wanted to appoint to sit on a board that decides the value of the trans-Alaska pipeline and how much local taxes the oil companies pay. Where else would he have gotten the name? Parnell won’t say.

All we know is whoever sits on the board has the ability to cost or save the oil companies hundreds of millions of dollars.

Anyhow, after a sudden storm of apparently unexpected public outrage, the Californian withdrew his name and flew back to the light.

And that’s not all: The governor also appointed a former Exxon Mobil executive to the board of the Alaska Gasline Development Corp. You know, the one that is going to partner with Exxon Mobil to manage Alaska’s share of the gas line? This one lives in Texas, where there’s also lots of light.

Then there’s HB 77, which came from the governor. In the Senate Resources Committee, more than 100 people from across the state gathered at legislative offices to testify against it on Wednesday. For 90 minutes, fishermen and tribal leaders, environmentalists and sportsmen spoke against the bill.

“Please kill this bill now and send a Senate resolution to Gov. Parnell asking him to apologize to Alaskans for introducing this ‘Muzzling Alaskans Act,’ ” said 64-year-old fisherman Eric Jordon of Sitka. Legislative offices across the state erupted in cheers. They came back and did it again on Friday.

More stormy forecasts: School choice, which Parnell was willing to fight for until he wasn’t, appears dead, and the women’s groups and socially liberal independents are beginning to organize over abortion.

In short: Parnell’s light increasingly looks like it’s coming from one of those energy-efficient bulbs.

Parnell’s response to all of this? Bash the EPA over a mine, not, it should be noted, over the comments that the EPA chief made about throwing away a “f…ing” pin that was given to her by a North Pole official, and saying that a gift of moose meat that she got from an Alaska Native girl “could gag a maggot.”

Perhaps we need Don Young to give Washington bureaucrats a seminar on class and manners, especially when boorish bureaucrats deal with civilized people who were on the land before there was a Washington.

Speaking of the culturally sensitive left: The environmentalists are coordinating a campaign against Lisa Murkowski over her fight to build a potentially life-saving road between King Cove and Cold Bay. They claim that she is “politicizing real medical emergencies.” Got her on that one. Yep. She’s a politician. And yep, she’s fighting for a road through a slice of a wilderness refuge in order to save lives. But birds, apparently, are more important than people who eat things that “could gag a maggot.”

Lightening up, here’s one for you: There’s talk about a brewing custody fight between Bristol Palin and Levi Johnston. Word is that Bristol has taken the child, contrary to a court order, to Arizona. At least we know they aren’t going to be traveling through the Southwest in the Palin RV, up for sale for $279,000.

Gov. Parnell might think about buying it. There’s a sunroof in the bedroom that allows the light to flood in.

Last week in this column, I wrote it had been rumored that my favorite Facebook poster, Rep. Bob Lynn, would be retiring after he got his bill on immigration and driver’s licenses passed. As you-know-who might say, au contraire, mon cher. Lynn isn’t going anywhere. Never.

Former Knowles chief of staff Jim Ayers has signed on as an adviser to Byron Mallott’s campaign. And this is a little late in coming but independent candidate Bill Walker hired rural adviser Paulette Schuerch from Kotzebue. Nancy Peterson, most recently from Unalaska, is his campaign manager.

In the lieutenant governor’s race: Energetic Wasilla math teacher and Democratic candidate Bob Williams spent his spring break pushing a new poll that he commissioned that shows he has a chance, pressing the flesh wherever he went.

On to the mighty Senate: GOPers are wondering if Joe Miller is going to attend the Republican state convention. Big endorsements for DNR Dan this week: Club for Growth and the Alaska Associated Builders and Contractors, though what he’s doing with all this support is anybody’s guess. Finally, my deepest sympathy to Mead Treadwell over the death of his brother-in-law.

The Anchorage Assembly race is heating up. Pete Petersen is getting lots of love from the unions, at least two of which are putting at least $50,000 into his campaign. Word is that incumbent Assemblyman Adam Trombley’s comparatively disorganized business supporters are scrambling to raise PAC funds. A Friday night fundraiser featuring Sen. Lisa Murkowski should help.

Finally, whoever wins which races, it probably won’t be someone like Fairbanks Borough Assemblyman Lance Roberts, who tried to get the Fairbanks Co-op Market to no longer carry Ms. Magazine.

Perhaps he’d benefit from a little enlightening here: Not only do women now have the right to vote, they exercise it.


This column was first published in the Anchorage Daily News 

Contact Amanda Coyne at


4 thoughts on “The week in politics: Parnell’s light is dimming, Palin drama, and the culturally sensitive left

  1. I'm a light too

    More great writing. Poor Governor. I sometimes think he doesn’t know why people get so mad about everything all the time.

  2. Lynn Willis

    Thank you Amanda for a valid observation about the guy who wanted to be a light for Alaska and how that bulb is dimming every day . After 5 years of Sean Parnell, we deserve a better Governor. Either Walker or Mallot can only do better. First and foremost after his record breaking state budgets we are now in deficit spending while facing declining resources of oil on state land and probable lower oil prices which will offset any revenue gain from temporary increase in production that may result from the new tax law.. And what do we have to show for all that spending? We didn’t really build any large infrastructure project for future generations. We just hired more government employees or created temporary jobs for those who might have been a beneficiary of a state contract. Governor Parnell refuses to criticize legislative pork spending or control spending by use of the line item veto… A prime example is his tolerating fiscal abuse is his stunning silence on the LIO and Tennis Court pork fests. .
    After five years of Governor Parnell we still have no state energy plan identifying the primary source of energy for each area of the state for electrical generation, mobility fuel, space heating fuel, energy for industrial use and energy resources for export.. If you think his SB 21 created all those jobs in and of itself please note that the increase in employment by the producers has been increasing since 2010.
    Governor Parnell ignored the AGIA fiasco when the entire world knew shale gas had killed the Canadian option years ago. AGIA has cost us to date 330 million dollars with more owed to Trans Canada unless we keep ;them on the payroll for yet another gas line proposed by the Governor- the AKLNG pipeline project.. Under Sean Parnell the State now has three gas pipeline projects that are drawing public funds ; AGIA, AGDC/ASAP and AKLNG. None of them are anywhere near actual construction yet we keep paying for them.
    After 5 years of Governor Parnell we still do not have transportation corridors identified that will link various capital transportation projects to some rational plan.
    The Governor has twice violated the law to by first creating a state job for a sitting state legislator in direct violation of the State Constitution and recently by violating state statute by hiring a non- Alaskan for a critical administration position.
    There are other issues but I will end with the preventable disaster at North Pole Alaska where for Parnell’s entire term in office he refused to address the Sulfolane groundwater contamination from the Flint Hills Refinery. Now an entire community faces a contamination zone 3 miles long by 2 miles wide and 300 feet deep.
    And that bulb just keeps getting dimmer and dimmer. .

  3. 357

    Governor Parnell, in my estimation, made a mistake on the SARBS appointment. In fact, I would argue that the mistakes associated with this appointment were more the fault of hiis staff who either didn’t vet the candidate very well or who didn’t understand the political ramifications. Regardless, it was a mistake and behind all of us. What I do appreciate about Parnell is his steady hand at the wheel of government. He has brought integrity to the office and let the contentious nature and the drama of some of his predecessors at the door. Is he perfect? No one is; however, given the choices, I am planning to vote for him for four more years. He has made some tough decisions, took the heat for them and has the state on a good path forward. Because of his leadership on SB 21, I know that more of my friends are working on the North Slope than ever before.

  4. End of the Road

    HB 77 was heard in Senate Resources on Wednesday and Friday. Testimony was ovwerwhelmingly in opposition of the bill. The committee chair Cathy Geisel could have cared less what the people were saying. She is a terrible elected official. I appreciated the work my Senator , Peter Micciche, did. During the interim. Senator Micciche is pro-development but is reasonable and knows the difference between fair and unfair legislation. Senatoe Geisel should try to be more like him.

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