Give a politician a mic and they’ll certainly use it. Give it to a dozen or so, each having his or her turn, and that’s a lot of mic time. It’s a lot easier to listen to politicians talking into those mics with a beer in hand, and it was a good thing they had plenty of those at the Democrat’s annual chili cook off contest on Wednesday night at the IBEW hall in Anchorage.
Don’t get me wrong: it’s not that the Dems are hard to listen to, and the 150 or so there seemed to enjoy doing so. Joe Griffith, the President of MEA, was there.Lobbyist Jim Lottsfeldt was there. As was Anchorage Assemblyman Pat Flynn, Dean and Rhonda Roberts, and Jake Metcalf, Jane and Norman Schlittler, Malcom and Cindy Roberts, to name a few, all there, smiling and fired up.
In fact, the Dems were about as happy as I’ve seen them for a long time. They have a good candidate for governor in Byron Mallott, who was there briefly. Former Rep. Harry Crawford announced that he’s going to run again. He said he’ll wait until the redistricting mess is worked out before making the final decision about whether to run for House or Senate. As the district is drawn now, it will be against either Rep. Lance Pruitt or Sen. Cathy Giessel. In any case, he’s going to be a strong candidate.
The Dems also feel that they have an issue to rally around in repealing SB 21, or, in their words, the “oil tax give away.” The issue has turned into a Democratic litmus test of sorts, and even Byron Mallott, who has historically supported business, has gone along.
Going against an industry that supports 90 percent of your state budget, say nothing of an industry with no end of pockets, probably isn’t, in the long run, a winning strategy. But for the moment at least, it makes good politics. In the same way that repealing ObamaCare is, at the moment, good politics, among a certain crowd. But that’s a small crowd. In the middle, where most of us live, those who are arguing to fix, rather than repeal, are making the most sense.
The speeches went on too long, but it helped that Hollis French knows how to entertain an audience. He was electrifying. Johnny Ellis made people in the room feel special through introductions and recognition. Bill Wielechowski used his boyish charm. Berta Gardner has enough moral authority to smack down Ted Cruz with a smile, and it showed.
They spoke about health care, about more money for education, about social programs, about women’s rights. But most of the discussion centered around the repeal of SB 21. Buttons, proclaiming that “It’s our oil,” were even made in the repeal’s honor.
I’ve been told that the oil companies will spend whatever it takes to make sure that the law isn’t repealed. The repeal effort will not be able to match them in funds. But money doesn’t always win. The public, the reasonable ones, is pretty good at listening to both sides and ferreting out the truth.
The award for the best chili of the night went Heidi Drygas who is a labor union lawyer and has a food blog. She deserved the win. It had just the right amount of spices. It wasn’t too spicy, nor too mild.
It appealed to the middle.
Contact Amanda Coyne at firstname.lastname@example.org
Correction: The original piece said that Drygas worked for the IBEW.