Tag Archives: alaska governor’s race

Weekly roundup: Aloha moderate malarkey flu

aloha It’s still very early in the election season. The sun is still low and coy, objects hidden under the snow haven’t even begun to think of stirring, and most Alaskans haven’t even begun to think about who they’re going to vote for in the upcoming elections.

It feels a lot like Joe Miller time.

I know that many of you common-sense conservatives have written Miller off. But common-sense conservatives have never been accused of being commonly sensitive enough to feel the fury of that small group of primary voters, the ones that Sarah Palin awoke from their long slumber and the ones that are now gathering during these long winter nights to plan for a Miller win, much like they did in the early days of 2010.

Word is that the meetings are happening with increasing frequency, particularly in the Mat-Su Valley, where there’s something in the water which makes everyone feel dispossessed. The meetings are revivalesque, I’m told. In other words: those people vote.

In the meantime, Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell , who also tries really hard to act like he’s dispossessed, is plugging along, sending out press releases accusing Begich of being soft on energy and not “enthusiastically” supporting Murkowski’s bid to end exports on oil. I say be careful of what you wish for. Any more enthusiasm from Begich and he’ll be knocking at your door, using that soon-to-be-grating,  folksy voice to try and convince you that he’s as “independent as Alaska.”

And he’ll keep going until you agree.

Speaking of Begich. How’s this for his new moniker, a la Art Hackney: “Malarkey Mark.” And isn’t it interesting that the national Republicans are bashing him giving a speech in Hawaii rather than being in D.C., voting to extend unemployment benefits? Maybe they’ve been employed for so long that those same Republicans forgot they don’t like the bill?

Besides, in addition to attending fundraisers and giving a speech, Begich likely spent the rest of his waking hours in Hawaii convincing Alaskans that he’s as independent as they are. Indeed, you can’t throw a stone this time of year in Hawaii without hitting an Alaskan. Former Mayor Tom Fink is reportedly there, giving lectures to anyone who will listen on laissez faire economics and school choice. Rep. Les Gara is riding a girl’s 10 speed bike around Oahu. It was the affordable one available, he said.

From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.

Speaking of throwing stones, neither of the two Republican candidates running for lieutenant governor showed at the first state-wide candidate forum in Anchorage on Tuesday night. Mayor Dan Sullivan had other plans, so he declined immediately. Sen. Lesil McGuire called in sick right before it started. Malarkey? Who can blame her? I’d be sick too if I were a moderate Republican in that crowd, in this state, where to win statewide office, you have to get at least a handful of those Valley folks to cast their vote for you. Maybe the remedy is in the Valley water.

Anyway, because no Republican showed, the show was left to Democrats Sen. Hollis French and Palmer teacher Bob Williams, and independent Craig Fleener. As expected, Gov. Sean Parnell took a beating.

Sen. Hollis French, as usual, was like, “au contraire Parnell!” He was like, “Oil companies j’en peux plus!”

I don’t know Craig Fleener well enough to poke fun at him. He seems really nice, smart. Besides, he’s a former Marine.

But the line of the night belonged to Bob Williams.

Bob Williams? I hadn’t heard of him either, and yet he has blue eyes and even comes with props! On Tuesday night, there was a red cup, yellow cup and green cup, and some sort of piece of cloth all of which represented something important enough to warrant them. I can’t remember what it was, however. (My dog ate my notes, and then I suddenly came down with the moderate malarkey Republican flu.)

What I do remember, perhaps the only thing I remember, is when Blue Eyes called Parnell a wimp.

That got the requisite, snide, liberal chuckle. But Williams wasn’t done. Because it’s so uncool in school to call anybody a name, he went on to explain what he meant was that Parnell is “Wildly Inaccurate, Misleading, and Partisan.” It doesn’t quite work as an acrostic, but nobody, least of all Parnell, is going to challenge him.

What else is going on out there? Mayor Dan hired his buddy, high school friend and chief-of-staff Dan Kendall to run ML&P. His qualifications for running one of the state’s largest electrical utilities? For 30 years he was a corrosion technician for ENSTAR. For 30 years, he did nothing but drive around in his truck, getting a big union paycheck to check for cronyism. Oops! I mean corrosion.

Whispers of Eagle River Rep. Lora Reinbold, and Valley Rep. Wes Keller organizing what’s being called a “conservative caucus” in the House to push out the moderates. Because, you know, Alaska’s Republican dominated House is so full of moderates. Must be something in the water.

And there’s lots of talk about the good bureaucrats at Revenue and DNR, who could probably use a chug or two of Valley water, trying to untangle the state from the very last vestige of the Palin regime. Next session, the Alaska Gasline Inducement Act, or AGIA, will be likely be a goner, taking its hundreds of millions with it, and one of the countless big dreams of a big natural gasline. Aloha AGIA.

As William’s might put it: “Alaska Gets It in the….Abdomen again.”

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com


Democrats rally for Byron Mallott

byron mallottIn front of a crowd of about 80 people, Byron Mallott held a rally in downtown Anchorage on Wednesday to officially announce his entrance into the 2014 governor’s race. If he wins the Democratic primary, which is likely, he’ll be facing Republican Gov. Sean Parnell in the general, along with independent candidate Bill Walker.

He was introduced by Democratic activist Jane Angvik as well as Alaska state Sen. Hollis French, who also announced his run for lieutenant governor. French had planned on running for the top of the ticket, but he said that he’s “taking a step back for the team because Byron Mallott can win the election.”

Indeed, there was an air of optimism at the rally. It’s been a long time since the Democrats had such a strong candidate and certainly the first time in a long time that they have had one with such wide-ranging experience, a phrase that Angvik used repeatedly throughout her introduction.

Mallott is a young 70-year-old and brings a unique understanding and perspective to both government service and the private sector, as well as to the rural/urban divide that plagues Alaska. At 22 he was the mayor of Yakutat. He was commissioner of the Alaska Department of Community and Regional Affairs under Gov. Bill Egan. He served as mayor of Juneau before becoming the executive director of the Alaska Permanent Fund. He was the CEO of Sealaska Corp, president of the Alaska Federation of Natives, and has served on the board of many corporations, including Alaska Airlines and the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. He’s clan leader of the KwaashKiKwaan clan of the Raven tribe of Yakutat. His wife Toni is a retired elementary school teacher.

While Mallott is accomplished, he also has a reputation of being volatile. But if that’s true, he kept that tendency at bay during his understated and humble announcement speech, the theme of which was about unifying the state.

Mallott said he wants a place where future generations can say that it “reached out to the least amongst us,” a state where its citizens worked to turn it into a “laboratory to those things that were unique to it,” a place that helped every child born into it.

After his speech, Mallott, in contrast to Dan Sullivan’s Senate announcement on Tuesday, spent some time with the media answering questions. Mallott’s nothing if not adept at wrapping answers in platitudes. However, when asked directly if he would personally vote to repeal SB 21, the controversial oil tax bill passed last legislative session, he said he would.

He pointed to the more than 50,000 Alaskans who signed the petition to repeal the bill as evidence that something isn’t right with the new tax law, and that if it weren’t rewritten, it would “color everything.”

“We still need to work for the best balance,” he said, noting how important oil is to the state’s economy and how he would work with the companies and the citizens to create that balance.

The repeal effort is likely to take center-stage in the upcoming race. The oil companies and companies which depend on oil industry revenue—including some Alaska Native Corporations– will likely spend millions of dollars to make sure that the repeal doesn’t happen, and will likely try to make sure that a candidate who supports the repeal isn’t elected.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com


State Sen. Hollis French has filed to run for governor

Democratic Alaska state Sen. Hollis French has announced his intentions to run for governor against Gov. Sean Parnell. French filed papers with the Division of Elections on Tuesday. He’s “strongly leaning towards it,” but as of yet it’s a preliminary move to see how deep his support runs in the state, French said.

If he does run, he’ll cede his Senate seat, which is up in 2014. So far, only Republican Rep. Mia Costello has filed to run for that seat.

French, a former oil field worker and Anchorage prosecutor, has been a legislator since 2002. In the field of ever-shrinking Democratic lawmakers, he’s been known to be one of the most outspoken. He played a large role in the Sarah Palin saga known as “troopergate.”  Since, he’s been particularly critical of Parnell’s oil tax break. As a member of what was formerly a bipartisan majority in the Senate, French did support oil tax reform, but fought hard against Parnell’s attempts at cutting taxes for the big three oil companies in the legacy fields.

With a Republican majority in the Senate, Parnell got his bill passed during the last legislative session, cutting taxes up to $650 million to more than $1 billion a year at current projected prices and at current production. The companies have said that such relief will help stem the decline of Alaska’s largest oil fields and incentivize production of the smaller fields.

French, however, sees it as a give away. If he runs and is elected, that’s the first thing he will try to undo.

“There’s a way to reform oil taxes that benefits both the state and industry in a business-like manner,” he said. He’s particularly critical of doing away with the windfall tax, commonly called progressivity, which increased taxes based on the price of oil.

“It was an enormous give for what we got in exchange,” he said. “We got nothing.”

French would also forward fund education, and accept federal money to expand Medicaid, something that Parnell has been on the fence about. Not accepting the money, is “as wrong as wrong can be,” French said, citing the harmful effects that not accepting the funds could have on Alaskans and particularly on small businesses.

“There are tens of millions of free dollars to the state that he’s turned his back on,” French said.

It’s unclear what effect French’s move will have on the nascent movement to draft the other outspoken Democratic senator, Bill Wielechowski, to run with independent candidate Bill Walker. Pollster Ivan Moore has been pushing the ticket, and has warned that it’s all but doomed if a Democrat runs.

French declined to comment on Wielechowski’s role in the race, but he did say that he thinks an independent running helps him. He pointed to 1994, when former Gov. Knowles squeaked with a win, beating the Republican candidate Jim Campbell by only 536 votes. In that race, Lt. Governor Jack Coghill ran on the Alaskan Independence Party ticket and received 13 percent of the vote. Had Coghill not been in the race, many of those votes would have likely gone to Campbell.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com


BW2 : A “squared” idea that sounds cool to some of Parnell’s opponents

Bill W2Fourteen percent of Alaska voters are registered Democrats. About 27 percent are Republicans. The rest belong to the Libertarians, Alaska Independent Party and the vast majority are undeclared. So those who want to beat Republican Gov. Sean Parnell, whose term is up next year, had an idea: put parties aside and join the independent candidate for governor with the likely Democratic nominee.

And if those candidates are both named Bill, and both have last names that start with W, you’ve at the very least a good campaign logo: Meet “BW2.”

It also doesn’t hurt that Bill Walker, the gubernatorial candidate, is a Republican at heart and that he’s friends with Democrat Sen. Bill Wielechowski, the potential lieutenant governor, and that both have the potential for populist appeal.

To be clear: right now, the scheme seems more of a quixotic Facebook campaign than anything. But the two have been talking about the possibility. Walker said that although he’s a Republican, he and Wielechowski agree on more issues than they disagree, particularly oil taxes.

Walker isn’t the firebrand on the issue that Wielechowski is, but he doesn’t think that the bill that passed, SB21, had the necessary investment assurances and said that he wouldn’t have voted for it if he were in a position to do so.

Pollster Ivan Moore, whose been pushing the BW2 idea, is sure that this is the only chance to beat Parnell, whose support is relatively strong statewide and especially among Republicans.

“The only ticket that could possibly beat Parnell right now is a ticket that unites moderate Republicans, independents and Democrats,” Moore said.

“If the Democrats put someone in the race now, it dooms the Democrats and independents and instantly reelects Parnell,” he said.

Word is that the Democratic Party is none-too-happy about the possibility and has been trying to pressure Wielechowski to abandon the idea. But the party doesn’t really have that much leverage these days. Its numbers are down. Campaign finance reform that the Dems pushed for has greatly limited its fundraising ability. And its bench of candidates is dismally short.

If nothing else, it would be fun and could provide the kind of excitement that Parnell seems incapable of generating.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com


The ‘quiet governor’ creates noise

Early evening Friday announcements are normally reserved for bad news and document dumps. So, that Gov. Sean Parnell would announce his future intentions on a Friday after 5 p.m. struck many, including this writer, as flatfooted. Then again, Parnell’s not known for his ability to generate excitement. In fact Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell once called him a “quiet governor” in front of a group of businessmen and officials from all across the globe visiting Alaska to discuss opportunities in the Arctic. The president of Iceland was there. Parnell was somewhere else being quiet.

But sometimes—well at least once anyway—he gets it right. In the weeks leading up to Parnell’s announcement, nearly all of Alaska’s political establishment had assumed that he would forgo a run for U.S. Senate against Sen. Mark Begich and instead stay the course. But in the hours leading up to Parnell’s 5:50 p.m. announcement in Fairbanks, the political trap lines were buzzing. Had everyone been wrong?  In the past weeks, had Parnell been able to muster the political courage to take Begich on?

Why else would he choose to make an announcement at an event—the Alaska Republican Women’s Convention– where both Rep. Don Young and Sen. Lisa Murkowski were in attendance?

Even those who should have known were second guessing their assumptions. The backbone of Alaska’s Republican Party was in Fairbanks waiting to hear his plans. Party stalwarts like don’t-mess-with-Paulette Simpson from Juneau was there.  Rhonda Boyles from Fairbanks and newly elected Rep. Lynn Gattis from Wasilla, were there.  (Everyone knows that you shouldn’t mess with them either.) Sen. President Charlie Huggins and House Speaker Mike Chenault showed. The room was packed. Everyone waited and whispered.

So, an announcement that might have been as exciting as waiting for water to boil-turned into an event. It might just be the most exciting one of the governor’s race.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com