Tag Archives: alaska politics

Loose Lips: Gay pride meets oilies and Libertarians. Bridges and Crossroads. IBU needs navigation?

18955141_mA mix of people marched downtown on Saturday in the gay pride parade. State senator and lite gov. candidate, Hollis French, who’s long been an advocate for gay rights, was part of the mélange, as was U.S. Democratic House hopeful Forrest Dunbar. More unlikely: The oilies made a showing. A group of BP employees marched with the best of them, and about 10 people carrying “No on 1” signs joined the rainbow. Libertarian Mark Fish was the only U.S. Senate hopeful to show. Continue reading


The week in Alaska politics: Lily Stevens speaks out, Parnell charms and oilies don’t.

From my column that was published in the Anchorage Daily News on Sunday:

Republicans in their finery gathered a week ago Saturday night at the Bridge Restaurant in Anchorage to celebrate Lincoln Day, courtesy of the Anchorage Republican Women’s Club. All the usual suspects gathered: Gov. Sean Parnell, former Lt. Gov. Loren Leman, who — with a top hat and a fake beard — looks amazingly like Lincoln. Lt. Gov. and Senate candidate Mead Treadwell sat with the governor, while his primary opponent, Dan Sullivan, sat with Rev. Jerry Prevo and his lieutenant, Glenn Clary. Even Joe Miller, the third member of the primary faceoff, showed. A certain low-level buzz follows Miller wherever he goes. Blame it on magnetism. Star power. Black helicopters.

Whatever it is, this was the pleasant Joe Miller. And he was well-dressed, more than can be said for at least one other politician in the room. Apparently, someone told mayoral candidate Dan Coffey that because he co-owns the Alaska ACES and was in charge of the ACES auction item, he should dress in ACES super-fan regalia. The gold beads for the games of “heads and tails” rounded out the image.

“This is embarrassing,” he said as someone in a tux walked by.

Parnell introduced Lily Stevens, daughter of the late U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, as the keynote speaker. Before that, if someone had told me Parnell could melt hearts, I’d have said the pot campaign must be going well. But there was a collective sigh when he quoted Lincoln: “(I)f all that has been said by orators and poets, since the creation of the world, in praise of women were applied to the women of America, it would not do them justice.”

Even Judy Eledge, one of the Alaska GOP’s grande dames, who’s likely heard all the praise and other things that a woman could hear, seemed to flutter.

Then it was Lily’s turn. The room erupted when she said, “I’m not going to mince words, my father should have never lost his seat.”

Another very different kind of fundraiser was held Thursday night at Cafe Del Mundo: This one for Anchorage Assembly candidate Pete Petersen, who used to be a Democratic state representative and doesn’t forget it. You can read all about what he did and what he would do if he were back in the House on his website.

Read the rest here. 

Contact Amanda Coyne at amanamcoyne@yahoo.com


Parnell plays with blunt honesty. Will we let him?

Like all politicians, and indeed like all of us, Gov. Sean Parnell has made his share of unfortunate comments. Mostly he’s been given a pass for his slip ups. However, one of them caught up with him on Friday, when it came out that he gave Ketchikan reporters a little lecture on realpolitik and appeared to be warning of retribution for a lawsuit that the city is involved in regarding school funding.

“I do want to address this issue of how the lawsuit is viewed by legislators and by me because it does shade or color the reaction to Ketchikan requests,” he told reporters. “When Ketchikan asks for money, but yet the state may be on the hook in the lawsuit for more money, there’s kind of a reluctance, or reticence, to step forward for other projects.”

It wasn’t the wisest thing to say, and it didn’t help that it was a slow news day on Friday, and that it’s an election year. Bill Walker, an independent candidate, jumped.

“Parnell has chosen the wrong time, the wrong issue, and the wrong people to show himself as a bulldog,”  Walker said. “We need a governor who knows when to go to battle and who he should be fighting for. The governor’s comments yesterday are a blatant, public attack on local government.”

On Saturday afternoon, Democratic challenger Byron Mallott, who doesn’t appear to have a rapid response team, also put out a release.

“The merits of the Ketchikan School funding lawsuit, education funding statewide and capital spending deserve careful and informed discussion and debate not threat or intimidation,” he said.

This likely wasn’t Parnell’s intent, but if nothing else comes out of it, it was a gift for Ketchikan. It’ll be awfully difficult now for Parnell to veto funds for the city.

Parnell might be uncurious and sheltered. He’s overly cautious and captive to his right flank. But despite Walker’s characterization, Parnell’s far from a “bulldog.”  And he shouldn’t try to be one, if that’s what he was trying to do, which I doubt.

If he was truly trying to intimidate, he wouldn’t be doing so through the media. Those are the kinds of things that happen in back rooms, through a legislative liaison maybe, or a chief of staff. If he were trying to intimidate, he would be doing so at arm’s length. Think New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and his bridge. Or, closer to home, Sarah Palin’s jejune hit squad, and the kind of fist thumping that characterized all of Frank Murkowski’s administration.

It seems to me that Parnell was trying to be honest, and for that, he’s paying a price, which is too bad. Rightly or wrongly, lawmakers will look askance at Ketchikan’s request for funds as the city sues for potentially hundreds of millions of dollars. It’s going to be a tough year, and everybody’s looking for excuses to withhold money. That’s just the way it is.

And given his historic abhorrence at budget cutting, this fact likely pains Parnell as much as anyone.

Not withstanding some of his policies—namely denying insurance to tens of thousands of poor Alaskans—Parnell, at his best, is a nice, Christian man who runs as squeaky clean of an administration as such a system allows. Sometimes, he’ll even forget the political ramifications and he’ll open up and be brutally honest. Sometimes we should let him.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com


Cowbells, rain and drama won’t keep politicians from Juneau

Here’s the first part of my new weekly column that was published in today’s Anchorage Daily News. Please know that I’ll continue to update this blog throughout the week, so check early and often:

It’s an unstable world. Couples break up. Friendships die. Stars and governments form and then explode. A vital appendage, the Daily News’ Ear, up and falls off on us. But know this: Politicians will always descend on Juneau in January, where rain and sleet greet them, and so does a lonely microphone, just awaiting the speeches of Rep. Les Gara.

And, of course, you can count on drama mounting as the rain continues to fall, as men beat their chests and women weep over education reform, natural gas taxes, cutting out the Department of Revenue’s purview over cattle branding.

The latter is a bill by House Speaker Mike Chenault, who got a little write-up in the Washington Post, courtesy of Alaska Robotics, for welcoming the session with a cowbell, or as he put it, a “cow bill.” He smiled for the camera. But we all know that Chenault wouldn’t mind having a cattle prod or branding iron on hand, particularly as the session heats up.

It all makes you wonder why anybody, particularly the young, would want to get into politics. Maybe it’s a desire for conflict and drama, much of which was on display when the Young and the Restless Republicans chose their new officers. To the surprise of some, the once-demure Harmony Shields, staffer to Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux, turned Superwoman and snatched the No. 2 spot from the hands of those who wanted to keep it from her.

Read the rest here.


Loose Lips: Kerttula is leaving us. Obi-Wan Kenobi protects us, and Palin plays solitaire.

15770860_mThe big news, which I got off the record from numerous sources, is that House Minority Leader Beth Kerttula, D-Juneau, is going to resign to take a fellowship at Stanford University. It’s a huge loss for the state and for the Dems. Kerttula is one of the nicest, and smartest legislators in Alaska.

No word yet who will take her seat. The Juneau Dems, officially the Tongass Democrats, will make recommendations to Gov. Sean Parnell, who will pick. Jesse Kiehl, who declined comment until a later day, will likely be among many who are interested. Kiehl is a staffer for Sen. Dennis Egan and is on the Juneau Assembly. He put his name in for the Senate seat in 2009, when Kim Elton left for the Obama Administration. Kim Metcalfe’s name is also being floated.

Also no word yet on who will be the new House Minority Leader. Speculation is centered around Reps. Les Gara and David Guttenberg, although Chris Tuck might also be an interesting choice.

On to happier news: Say what you want about how sites like BuzzFeed and Zimbio have contributed to the decline of society, but they sure know how to get people’s attention. The various made-for-Facebook personality quizzes are all the rage. You know, the kind that young girls used to pour over in Seventeen Magazine? Yes, those ones have been basically repackaged for a co-ed audience. The most recent is Zimbio’s Star Wars personality test. Everyone’s doing it! And it’s, like, super fun! Even DNR commissioner Joe Balash, was like, I’ll go for it. YOLO. Turns out his Star Wars doppelganger is Obi-Wan Kenobi. Perhaps that will give the public some confidence that the governor has chosen Balash, AKA Obi, to negotiate terms with the largest private companies in the world, under which multi-billion, 800 mile natural gas pipeline might be built. House Majority spokesperson Will Vandergriff was Chewbacca.

How does Sarah Palin try to get attention on Martin Luther King day? She plays the race card by telling others not to. Here’s what she posted on Facebook: “Mr. President, in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. and all who commit to ending any racial divide, no more playing the race card.” Perhaps someone should suggest to Palin that playing all that solitaire during those long dark winter days can make you a little nutty. In other words, Palin, stop playing cards.

The Department of Health and Social Services computer software transition is going about as well as the federal government’s health exchange site was before it got fixed. The department has been having problems paying Medicaid providers since September and unlike the feds, state officials are mum as to when the problem is expected to be fixed. Meanwhile the frustration and grumbling amongst Medicaid health care providers has been growing. Word is that Fairbanks Republican Rep. Pete Higgins, who is chair of the House Health and Social Services committee, is considering having hearings.

Former Anchorage school board member Crystal Kennedy has joined Rep. Lynn Gattis’ staff. Kennedy served as the campaign manager in Larry Woods’ race against Lora Reinbold. Gattis and Reinbold are both Republican freshman legislators who could be sisters. But they’re not. Not even close. Besides, Reinbold seems to have plenty enough sisters, one of whom is a doctor and is continually invited by Reinbold to testify at committee hearings to slam ObamaCare. The other is Reinbold’s twin.

State law prohibits legislators from fundraising when the Legislature is in session. And the governor cannot raise money from Juneau residents during session either. The laws seem screwy, if not blatantly unconstitutional. Regardless of my opinions on the matter, Monday was a big money day. House and Senate Democrats had a fundraiser at the Juneau-Douglas City Museum. Meantime, House and Senate Republican majority members were at the Hangar Ballroom on Juneau’s waterfront. Gov. Sean Parnell hosted an event at the Baranof’s Gastineau suite.

And that was how our lawmakers and our governor spent the night before session.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com 


GOP official and Keithley take their fight to Facebook

men fighting Some sort of public brouhaha was bound to transpire between Brad Keithley, who is threatening to run for governor, and Frank McQueary, who’s fast becoming the whole trust in Alaska’s GOP shrinking braintrust. They’ve been griping about each other through intermediaries, one of whom would be me, for months.

Now, it’s spread onto Facebook. (Read here and here.)

To be fair, McQueary is the one doing the griping, and Keithley is the one defending himself, but I do detect a gripe in his voice as he does so. As there should be.

Keithley has been touting a message, and it’s one that Republicans, especially Republicans in the governor’s office, don’t much like. Namely, he’s been criticizing Gov. Sean Parnell for overspending and has been calling on him to walk his fiscal conservative talk and to substantially cut the budget. He has said on numerous occasions that if Parnell’s budget isn’t substantially decreased, then he’d consider taking a shot at running as an independent candidate.

By substantial he’s talking about $1.5 billion. That’s a lot of money. Keithley’s been taking his message to the people, armed with charts and graphs, which lay out a worst-case scenario if the budget isn’t cut.

McQueary doesn’t believe that our economy can sustain such a serious budget cut. Besides, he’s suspicious of Keithley’s motives. He’s long been wondering if Keithley isn’t a Democratic spoiler. He points to contributions that Keithley has made to the Dems. Further, he points out that the Alaska Constitution mandates that a candidate for governor be a resident of Alaska for seven years. Keithley says that by the time he runs, if he runs, he will have fulfilled the residency requirements. McQueary isn’t buying it. He points out that Keithley didn’t registered to vote here until 2010.

Keithley argues back that residency doesn’t require voter registration.

And it goes on.

This piece is on the verge of epitomizing the kind of “he-said-she-said” reporting for which sites like this were supposed to provide an antidote.

But I have no great insights here, except to say that perhaps they should get together and have a cup coffee. They’re both smart people and agree on more than they disagree, and if they used their brain powers to figure out HOW to cut to the budget, then we’ll all be in better shape.

Keithley: Since you brought it up, this one’s mostly on you.

As McQueary said when I talked to him, quod erat demonstrandum. Spenard translation: Them’s fightin’ words.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com


Lester Lunceford: Down but not out in Whittier, Alaska.

Whittier It’s been a big news day. The wind whipped up on a few houses. The governor spoke to a business group in Wasilla. The Anchorage mayor gave up on plans to build a homeless housing project on the west side of town. President Obama gave a speech about the shutdown. And then there was the possibility of a big Lester Lunceford comeback.

Lester Lunceford, some of the readers of this blog might know, is the former, ousted mayor of Whittier, Alaska, which should not to be confused with Whittier, Calif., the sunny, vibrant, boyhood home of President Richard Nixon. Our Whittier is a dot of a town hugging Prince William Sound with about 220 residents, most of whom live in one of two buildings in the city. To get there, you have to drive through a 2.5 mile tunnel. In the winter, the city sees about 22 feet of snow every year. Our Whittier is filled with residents with very strong feelings about their town, particularly when the snow piles, the tunnel only opens part time, and the towers begin to feel like crypts.

Last winter, during one of those spates of strong feelings, the city council held a meeting where Lunceford and other council members allegedly violated the open meetings act by going into executive session to discuss the hiring of the new city manager.

Lunceford got recalled in July. Out of a total of 134 votes, Lunceford lost by 15.

Some politicians would have hung it up after getting recalled, moved to sunny Whittier, Calif. perhaps. Our Whittier’s Lunceford hung in there and began a write-in campaign for city council.

Last Tuesday, Oct. 2, when the polls closed, Lunceford appeared to have lost his bid, coming in third in a three-way race. Even I wrote a column wishing him well in his future endeavors.

Au contraire mon cheri! It appears that Whittier has not seen that last of Lester Lunceford. Turns out that Lunceford got half of the absentee votes cast for the council seat. At last count, according to Lunceford, it was Peter Denmark with 45, Lunceford with 25, and Arnie Arneson with 24. Because no one candidate got 40 percent of the vote, there will be a runoff election in three weeks, right about the time the snow begins to pile up.

One of Whittier’s political analysts, which would be me, thinks he has a shot.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com


Thank God it’s Friday: The wishing Lester Lunceford well edition

Thank god it's fridayWhat a busy week. With the government shutdown on Tuesday, I have mostly been focused on the shores of the Potomac and our nation’s capitol. That, and trying and failing to sign up for the federal health exchange. So, I thought that my Friday’s facts column would cover all the things this week that I wanted to write about, but didn’t get around to.

  • Earlier this week, the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority – Alaska Energy Authority board of directors met and elected new officers. The two new leaders are among the three newest members of the board. The new chair is Dana Pruhs, President of Pruhs Construction and Meridian Investments. The vice-chair is Russell Dick of Juneau and is employed by Sealaska Corporation.
  • The DOD decision to keep the F-16 squadron in Fairbanks was heralded by Alaska’s statewide officials and local officials in Fairbanks and North Pole. Another voice, who testified earlier in support of keeping the squadron in Fairbanks and praised the decision was Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan – – or should I say, Dan Sullivan for Lt. Governor. It’s funny how parochialism goes the way of the dodo when you’re running for statewide office.
  • Tuesday was local election day for many. Probably the most covered race was the liquor tax referendum in the Matanuska-Susitna borough which failed overwhelmingly. While much of the coverage of this race was really good, solid reporting, I felt that a big piece of the story was never told. Conventional wisdom might suggest that the Valley is a hot bed of anti-tax sentiment; but, look what happened in this election alone – – Wasilla passed a tax increase, Houston voters had a chance to eliminate a sales tax on fireworks and didn’t , the borough voters approved a bond package and according to polls, 54 percent of Valley voters supported the proposed liquor tax increase referendum. Even the Frontiersmen and Anchorage Daily News provided editorial support to the referendum. So, what possessed voters to kill the liquor tax increase by a margin of 63.7 percent to 36.3 percent? My answer is that Republican campaign consultant Art Hackney enlisted an Obama style door-to-door campaign that identified and targeted voters. It is a quiet type campaign that flies under the radar, like a drone. The other side was totally outgunned. Its political consultant didn’t know what hit him. Until it did.
  • Probably the other most interesting and watched race in the Valley was the Wasilla City Council race where former state Rep. Vic Kohring, a convicted felon, attempted a political comeback only to be rebuffed by his neighbors by a 2 to 1 margin.
  • Other Valley races of note included the Palmer mayor’s race where incumbent DeLana Johnson narrowly defeated challenger Linda Combs, whose husband preceded Johnson as mayor. To many people’s surprise, former Green Party U.S. Senate candidate Jim Sykes appears to have narrowly won a seat on the Mat-Su borough assembly. Even with all the talk of patriotism that comes out of the Valley, less than 20 percent of the registered voters in the borough voted.
  • In Fairbanks with one of the lowest turnouts for the city in at least a decade, John Eberhart, an attorney for the Tanana Chiefs Conference, appears to have a lead over downtown business owner and political conservative, Vivian Stiver, with plenty of absentee ballots that could still change the outcome of the election.
  • In Homer, the electorate voted to repeal a city code banning plastic shopping bags and Juneau elected Kate Troll to their assembly.  Troll has previously served on the Ketchikan borough assembly before relocating to Juneau. And finally with some sadness, I have to report that Lester Lunceford, who was the mayor of Whittier that got recalled just a few weeks ago, lost in his write-in bid for city council.
  • For many Alaskans, receipt of their Permanent Fund Dividend checks was probably the most significant event of the week. A lot of checks worth $900 each hit mail boxes or were direct deposits for many Alaskans. Already many businesses are clamoring for our checks by advertising “special pfd offers”. Here’s a trivia data point about pfd offers: Neal Bergt’s Markair, which is now defunct, was the company that pioneered the first PFD deal. Many companies quickly followed suit that year and have continued to do so every October since. This year, even Slayer, an American thrash metal band known for their colorful lyrics, are offering a PFD special for their Sullivan arena concert scheduled for later this month and Alaska Airlines is offering all sorts of specials.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com


Wielechowski wants state Medicaid report released. Says he’ll go to court if necessary.

Gov. Sean Parnell’s administration has for six months declined to make public a report that the state paid for to analyze the effect Medicaid expansion would have on the state. The Department of Health and Social Services paid $80,000 to the Lewin Group, a consulting firm based in Virginia, to write the report. It’s been completed since April, but DHSS won’t release the report until the agency analyzes it.

Alaska state Sen. Bill Wielechowski recently requested the report from DHSS. He was denied. He’s appealing that decision. If he doesn’t receive it, he’ll take it to court, he said.

Wielechowski was told that the report will be made public “once DHSS has completed its analysis and submitted its recommendations to the governor.” Others, including this reporter, have requested the report and have received the same response.

Parnell has not made clear whether or not he would accept funding from the federal government in order to expand Medicaid, a state program that pitches in for health insurance for low income Alaskans and that receives matching federal funds. The report, presumably, will have some impact on Parnell’s decision.

As part of the Affordable Care Act, the federal government has offered up to 90 percent of the money to expand the program. The Lewin Group has completed a similar study for New Hampshire. It found that although not accepting the funds would reduce state Medicaid spending, it would reduce the number of uninsured in the state, and increase federal revenues by $1.8 to $2.7 billion in New Hampshire between 2014 and 2020.

A separate report commissioned by the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium estimated that if the state accepts expansion, 41,500 uninsured Alaskans will become eligible for Medicaid in 2014 and bring an estimated $1.1 billion in new federal revenue to the state over the next seven years,.

Parnell has said that he’ll make his decision on whether or not to expand the program when he presents his budget at the end of the year.

DHSS did not say when it would release the report. According to the Alaska’s Public Records Act, public records need to be released no later than 10 days after requesting them. Not all records are public, however. Some can remain private because they are considered “deliberative” and contain “opinions, recommendations, or advice about policy.”

Legislative lawyers told Wielechowski that the report is not a deliberative document because it contains no advice about policy.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com


Government shutdown: Begich has harsh words for Republicans

Senate race fightIn a wide ranging telephonic town hall meeting on Wednesday evening, U.S. Sen. Mark Begich answered questions from Alaskans across the state about the government shutdown, the Affordable Care Act, the debt ceiling, and the effects all of this has on Alaska.

Begich has clashed in the past with Democrats. However, on the shutdown, he’s sticking with his party and he had harsh words for Republicans on Wednesday. “All the gimmicks are coming from the other side,” he said. “These are the kind of shenanigans that Alaskans and Americans all across the country are fed up with.”

The shutdown is in its third day. Federal employees all across the country are furloughed. Veterans’ benefits are being held up, so are checks for those applying for Social Security and disability. According to J.P. Morgan analysts, furloughs will reduce national income by a total of $1.3 billion per week. As a result, the shutdown could shave 0.12 percent off fourth quarter GDP growth for each week it goes on.

Why? Because House Republicans want to defund or delay the onset of the Affordable Care Act as a condition of allowing a budget bill to pass.

To be more specific, an increasingly shrinking number of House Republicans, including Speaker of the House John Boehner, won’t allow a bill on the House floor that would separate funding for the Affordable Care Act from the rest of the budget.

If allowed, such a bill, or a “clean continuing resolution,” would likely pass with the support of more centrist Republicans and those who are up for reelection in more moderate districts.

Begich urged callers to email and call the rest of the congressional delegation to push to get a bill on the floor, particularly Rep. Don Young. He indicated that Young might vote for such a measure, but hasn’t yet said so publicly.

Young was unavailable for comment late on Wednesday evening. In response to a question about whether or not Young would vote for a budget absent conditions on the health care bill, Young’s spokesperson Mike Anderson said that there hasn’t been such a bill yet offered. However, in response to a question about the shutdown on Wednesday afternoon, Young told reporters that if it were up to the Alaska delegation, the crisis would be averted.

Begich also spent time busting a myth: neither Begich, nor any member of Congress get exemptions from signing up for insurance through the exchanges. In fact , he said, they are the only employees in the country who are actually required to get their insurance through the exchanges.

The federal exchange website has been overwhelmed and glitches have been widely reported. One caller expressed frustration over the glitches. Begich said that he too experienced problems when he tried to sign up.

Unlike many other states, Parnell opted to allow the federal government to create the exchange for the state. Had Alaska chosen to create its own exchange, like Washington state did, there would likely be fewer issues, Begich said.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com


Palin and Koch brothers make shutdown jokes while children are turned away for cancer treatment

You might have seen Sarah Palin’s supposed “funny” Facebook post about how the government shutdown will affect the country. With the government shut down, who will, “block responsible resource development, spy on me, waste my money…” she posted. The Alaskan chapter of Americans for Prosperity, the Koch brother-funded political group, also had fun with the federal-workers-are-worthless meme on its Facebook page.

Palin can afford to have fun, and the Koch brothers have enough money to buy fun all around. Others can’t. Not all Americans are spending their days in a Wasilla fortress or in mansions across the country. To some, the shutdown is life or death. The following heartbreaking paragraph from the The Wall Street Journal highlights what the government shutdown means for some Americans:

At the National Institutes of Health, nearly three-quarters of the staff was furloughed. One result: director Francis Collins said about 200 patients who otherwise would be admitted to the NIH Clinical Center into clinical trials each week will be turned away. This includes about 30 children, most of them cancer patients, he said.

Not so funny now, huh?

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com


Begich holds fast with Democrats over shutdown

chess moveSince being elected in 2008, Sen. Mark Begich has often bumped heads with his Democratic Senate colleagues. He did so over gun control, for one. He’s repeatedly voted against environmental issues that Democrats have pushed for.

But now, he’s holding fast and true with his fellow Democrats who are blaming Republicans for shutting the federal government down over the funding of the Affordable Care Act, an act, it should be noted, that Congress passed, has been litigated up to the Supreme court, and has gone through an election cycle.

It’s also something that Alaskans are against, by and large, for now at least.

So why is Begich, who’s up for a tough reelection in 2014 sticking with the Dems on this? Principle no doubt plays into it. He likely truly believes that Republican entrenchment on this is wrong for the country. But Begich is nothing if not a political animal. He has one of the best political noses in the state, and the political winds he’s smelling are telling him that this one is a winner.

I couldn’t find anybody who’s polled on the shutdown in Alaska, but feelings here aren’t likely radically different than feelings across the country: no matter how much people object to the health care law, they have consistently told pollsters that they are not in favor of tying government operations to defunding the law. Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake probably put it best when he said, “Obamacare is not popular, but we’ve managed to find the one thing that’s less popular than Obamacare.”

Republican Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, who’s running for Begich’s seat, believes otherwise, apparently. He has said that if he were elected, he would “stand” with those Republican senators most entrenched, senators that even Republican stalwarts like John McCain and Richard Burr, to name just a few, believe have gone too far.

He’s since walked some of that back, maybe, although it’s been hard figure out exactly where he stands. Indeed, Roll Call writer Stu Rothenberg, who interviewed four Republican Senate candidates about the shutdown, said that among all of them, Mead was the most “difficult to pin down.”

Tea Party favorite Joe Miller, who is also running, is not difficult to pin down. He’d fight to end the health care law for as long as they’d have him in the Senate.

Former Department of Natural Resources Commissioner, Dan Sullivan, who has for weeks dithered about running, may be the smartest of the three. He’s not answering questions about the mess. He doesn’t have to. For now, he’s a private citizen dithering away like the rest of us. And by the time he might have to, the worst will likely be over, and he’ll get to play statesman.

Begich is holding a telephonic town hall on the government shutdown on Wednesday evening. Expect strong words from him about entrenched Republicans. It’s a winner and he knows it.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.ccom 


Byron Mallott announces campaign kickoff

MallottSome candidates start their campaigns off with a bang, announcing their candidacy and then immediately traveling around the state on a 24 hour whirlwind tour kicking off their campaign. Other candidates seem to meander to the starting line.

Byron Mallott meandered. Mallott, who is running as a Democrat against Gov. Sean Parnell, first told the media his plans on Sept. 2. On Saturday, more than three weeks later, his campaign has announced a campaign kick-off scheduled for October 16th in Anchorage at the Alaska Experience Theater on 4th Avenue.

Mallott is 70 years 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.

Given his history, reputation, and his ties to Native corporations, the slow start won’t likely impede his fundraising abilities. The primary reason for state candidates seeking statewide office to announce over a year before the election is to raise money . State campaign finance laws allow individuals to give $500 and political action committees, or PACs, $1000 per calendar year. Corporate contributions are prohibited. Total out of state contributions for a gubernatorial candidate is limited to $20,000 per calendar year as well

By announcing in 2013 for the 2014 election cycle, candidates can get financial support from large and out of state donors both this year and next. Given the high costs of a statewide campaign, the low maximum contribution level, and our small population base, every day and every dollar counts.

Just last week alone, Gov. Sean Parnell had three fundraisers, two in Anchorage and one in Fairbanks, rumored to have raised collectively in the neighborhood of $40,000 – $50,000. Mayor Dan Sullivan, who is running for lieutenant governor, had a fundraising event in Palmer attended by almost 100 people.

You can bet that starting soon, Mallott will hit the campaign fund raising circuit hard.

Contact Amanda Coyne at  Amandamcoyne(at)yahoo.com


Mead Treadwell courts tea party and applauds Ted Cruz

Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell posted on his Facebook page that he “applauded” Sen. Ted Cruz’s attempt at defunding the Affordable Care Act. He said that “when” he’s elected, he would “stand and work with Senators like Ted Cruz and Mike Lee.”

Treadwell is running in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate. So far, the only other declared candidate is tea party favorite Joe Miller. For years in Alaska, Treadwell had a reputation as being a moderate Republican. He gave money to liberal Democrats, talked about global warming being at least in part caused by human activity, and worked to get the U.S. to sign on to the Law of the Sea Treaty, all of which, particularly the latter, are verboten to the tea party.

That began to change when he ran for lieutenant governor in 2010 and began to court the conservative and tea party vote. In 2010, he declined to endorse Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who was a long time friend of Treadwell’s, against Joe Miller.

He did, however, support her during her write-in campaign against Miller, which infuriated many tea party activists.

Treadwell is now staunchly anti-abortion, repeatedly rails against federal encroachment, and has made repealing the Affordable Care Act a major part of his platform.

A spokesman for Miller indicated that Miller would not readily cede the tea party vote to Treadwell. “Joe has been standing strongly with fellow tea partiers Cruz and Lee and has signed the Senate Conservatives Fund pledge to defund Obamacare,” the spokesman told the conservative site The Daily Caller. ”Unless, Mead just signed on today, he has not. He is shown as a thumbs down on their site.

While Treadwell’s embrace of Cruz’s “filibusterer” is designed to get him some traction with tea party activists in Alaska, it’s questionable if he will succeed. It also runs counter to the views of some in the Senate Republican leadership, who are increasingly vocal about Cruz “burning bridges” in that organization.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com


Why are some Republicans so nervous about Brad Keithley?

Brad Keithley, one of the potential independent candidates for governor, must have the Republican establishment scared. I know this because I get texts and emails from those political activists who appear to be scared. They are going through his voting record, trying to make the case that he’s a Democratic operative who moved to Alaska just to sabotage Gov. Sean Parnell, much like Vic Vickers, who moved to Alaska to run against Ted Stevens in 2008.

In order to run for governor, a person has had to live in Alaska for seven years. Keithley has said that he will have been here seven years if and when he files for governor.

Republicans are also trying to make his voting habits an issue. It appears that the first time Keithley voted in Alaska was in 2010. He freely admits this and says that he didn’t register to vote in Alaska when he first moved here from Texas and he doesn’t recall voting in Texas since 2000.

Their fear is understandable. Keithley has been talking and writing to an increasingly growing audience about the spending problem in Alaska. His point is a simple one: since oil prices began to rise in the mid 2000s, Alaska has been on a spending spree that rivals the last big spree the state went on in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

You can still see bumper stickers on cars that were made in the earlier spree’s honor. “Dear God, give us another oil boom and, this time, we promise we won’t piss it away,” it reads.

Keithley’s point: we have had another oil boom, and we’re pissing it away. A fact that he is continually hammering away on is that since Parnell took office, the budget has increased by 55 percent.

Parnell, it should be noted, calls himself a fiscal conservative.

It’s a simple message, and although we can argue about the best way to cut spending, it’s hard to argue that we shouldn’t at least try, unless you’re Parnell, who has no plans to significantly cut the budget for the next five years, or for as long as he’s in office if he gets a second term.

The people who benefit from all the state government largess —  people like the developer Mark Pfeffer, the master of sole source government contracts, and a prolific campaign contributor—aren’t likely happy about what Keithley is preaching. Those people are arguing that the state’s spending keeps Alaskans working. Which, as Keithley points out, sounds suspiciously like Obama’s stimulus plan. Unlike the federal government, however, nearly all of Alaska’s revenue comes from one source, and that one source is continually declining. Even if the producers do start to pump more oil because of the recent tax cut, the state is heading for a fiscal cliff.

According to UAA’s Institute of Social and Economic Research, Alaska doesn’t have the savings to forestall a fiscal crisis much after 2023.

Keithley thinks that it’s important that Alaskans hear that message.

Keithley is threatening to run for governor, but hasn’t yet filed. If he does, there will be all sorts of time to dig deeply into his past. For now, however, he’s a private citizen speaking what he feels is a message that needs to be heard. Some, apparently, don’t want him to tell it.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com