Tag Archives: . hollis french

AFL-CIO endorses French for lt. gov.

The Alaska AFL-CIO, the state’s largest largest labor organization, has endorsed outgoing Democratic Alaska state senator and lieutenant governor candidate Hollis French. Bob Williams, a teacher in Wasilla, is also running for that seat. AFL-CIO President Vince Beltrami said that although the union likes Williams, French has been supporting labor for 14 years and “we don’t turn our backs on old friends for new friends. ” Among other thing, the endorsement will now allow the AFL-CIO to write PAC checks to French. Other unions will likely follow the AFL-CIO’s lead.


More on Alaska’s lieutenant governor forum

Last night I wrote about Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan’s comments about union membership and slavery at the lieutenant governor’s forum on Monday sponsored by the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce. Below are a few more tidbits from the forum, which featured Democrats Alaska state Sen. Hollis French and Wasilla teacher Bob Williams on one side, and Republicans Sullivan and state Sen. Lesil McGuire on the other.

    • Despite public opinion polls that show broad public support, all four candidates said they were against legalizing marijuana.
    • French, Williams and McGuire oppose right-to-work legislation. Sullivan adamantly supports it.
    • The two Dems, as expected, are for repealing the oil tax legislation passed in 2013. Both Republicans were against repeal.
    • On prioritizing the three big projects: both McGuire and Sullivan put the large natural gasline first, the Knik Arm Bridge second and the Susitna dam last. French put the Susitna dam first, a bullet line second, and the Knik Arm Bridge last.

Best lines of the event:

  • From Bob Williams about the Anchorage Legislative Offices building:  “Never before have we seen such a disconnect between our values and our actions… When we’re talking about a legislative palace…spending $1 million for furniture, $100,000 to design a furniture theme. My dad was a logger: We can do a furniture theme for 10 bucks. But when it comes to education, we say we don’t have the money…”
  • From Mayor Dan about where he sees the state in five years:  “Lesil McGuire is back in the state Senate where she sponsors the Sullivan Teacher Initiative…President Rand Paul opens ANWR, armed with a Republican House and a Republican Senate….The Knik Arm Bridge is being built.” And the natural gas pipeline is under construction.
  • From Sen. Hollis French on where he sees the state in five years unless there’s a change in leadership: “In five years, there will be three or four half-built projects when we run out of savings.”
  • From Sen. Lesil McGuire on right-to-work legislation and the tension between Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan and the unions: “What we’ve seen at the local level — what’s happened — it’s been somewhat of a disaster here in Anchorage. When you go so far and start pushing almost a war, if you will, against the working men and women in this state.”

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com


Alaska Republican candidates make questionable remarks related to race

Republican candidates have made questionable remarks related to race at two different candidate forums in the last few days, including comparing union membership to slavery.

The first one was after a GOP Senate forum on Saturday, when candidate Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell used the widely disavowed Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy as a symbol for government overreach. He told Anchorage Daily News reporter Nat Hertz that although Bundy was problematic, he was “like Joe the Plumber.”

For a short time, Bundy was a hero among those who have fought against such overreach. When the federal government tried to make him pay for the 20 years that his cattle had been grazing on federal land, his supporters rode in on horses and brought guns. Fox News loved him. Right wing radio sang his praises. Then he began talking about his world view, including of race, and people didn’t love him much anymore. This is where he got “problematic.”

This is a truncated version of what he told a New York Times reporter about “the Negro:”

And because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do? They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom. They got less freedom.

Hertz asked Treadwell about Bundy because of an allusion that Treadwell made about him in a speech at the forum. The racist comments got bigger headlines than Bundy’s original war against the feds. However, Treadwell, who had been following the story, told the ADN reporter that he wasn’t aware of the racist comments. “I don’t know what he said about race issues, and I don’t support that,” he told Hertz.

In a follow-up interview, Treadwell again said that he didn’t know about Bundy’s comments about race before referring to him, and that he didn’t support the rancher, but that he was nonetheless a symbol of a “sage brush rebellion” that’s brewing in the country over federal control of lands. If he were elected to the Senate, Treadwell said, wresting that control from the feds and putting it back into the hands of the state would be one of his top priorities.

Then, on Monday at a lieutenant governor’s forum, Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan compared being in a union to slavery.

In response to an audience question about right-to-work legislation, Sullivan said that he adamantly supported it. “We ended slavery a long time ago,” he said.

In an interview after the debate, Sullivan clarified his remarks. He said that when someone has to pay to get a job, referring to union dues, it’s “economic slavery.”

Right-to-work laws vary in the 24 states that have such laws, but they generally mean that employees can’t be required to join a labor union and pay dues to get a job that has been negotiated through labor agreements.

None of the three other candidates in the forum—Republican state Sen. Lesil McGuire, Democratic state Sen. Hollis French, and Wasilla teacher Bob Williams—support the legislation.

In the past few years, conservatives have likened slavery from everything to affirmative action, to abortion to social security. And they often get reminded that it’s an offensive comparison. Most recently Sarah Palin made headlines for comparing the national debt to slavery.

In any case, the comment indicates that Sullivan plans to take his battle with the unions with him on his statewide campaign. Anchorage-based Republican consultant Marc Hellenthal said that it’s a battle that will likely help him in the Republican primary, but could hurt him and Gov. Sean Parnell in the general.

As the Alaska Democratic Party pointed out in a press release, Alaska has the second-highest rate of union participation in the country.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com


Bob Williams’ campaign releases poll

A poll conducted for lieutenant governor candidate Bob Williams shows that although Hollis French, the other Democratic candidate for the seat, has a greater name recognition, French also has larger negatives than does Williams.

Williams, a teacher from Palmer, paid for the poll, which was conducted by EMC Research, a firm with offices in Washington state, California, Idaho and Oregon. It surveyed 400 likely primary voters from Feb. 4-7, and has a 4.9 percent margin of error.

It also shows that a majority of voters will not be voting for Gov. Sean Parnell and that his negatives are more than 40 percent. In the poll, only 25 percent knew who Democratic candidate Byron Mallott was.

Note: The poll did not mention independent candidate Bill Walker’s name, which makes the gubernatorial numbers suspect.

The narrative accompanying the numbers says that French has “limited appeal outside of the base,” and that Williams has “significant upside potential with a strong ability to appeal to voters across the board.”

Williams is a political neophyte. However, he surprised many by reporting having raised more than $63,000 in his last report.

Here are some key numbers from the poll.

  • 54 percent will not vote for Parnell. 16 percent will “definitely” vote for him, and 26 will “probably” vote for him.
  • 40 percent have a negative view of Parnell.
  • Mallott only has a 25 percent name ID.
  • French has a 54 percent name ID.
  • 22 percent have a negative view of French.
  • Williams only has a 10 percent name ID.

Among those who have heard of him in Anchorage, Williams’ favorability ratings is 12 points higher than French’s.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com


Some surprises in campaign fundraising reports

10349421_mCampaign disclosure reports were due on Tuesday, and there were a few surprises in the money game. For one, GOP lieutenant governor candidate Alaska state Sen. Lesil McGuire out-raised Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan, who is also running for the seat. On the Democratic side of the aisle for lieutenant governor, relatively unknown Bob Williams sort of out-raised Sen. Hollis French. In the race for governor, Democrat Byron Mallott raised more than expected, but he spent more than expected too. Read on for details.

  • Gov. Sean Parnell raised $407,253 this election cycle. He spent $76,220, leaving him with a hefty amount to spend on the race. Much of his staff so far, like Jerry Gallagher, have been working as volunteers. Such is the luxury of incumbency.
  • Byron Mallott raised an impressive $234,000, which included $40,000 from the Alaska Democratic Party. However, he spent $188,136 and owes $9,633, leaving him with $36,580 to spend. Much of the money he raised went to traveling around the state. A good chunk also went to staff. He spent $27,000 for management expenses to Vantage Point, a consulting firm. He paid his communications director campaign manger Claire Richardson more than $19,000, and thousands went to other staffers.
  • Independent Bill Walker raised $202,629, of which $29,000 is his own money. He spent $77,952 leaving him with $124,677, a respectable amount for a non-incumbent independent.
  • GOP  lieutenant governor candidate Alaska state Sen. Lesil McGuire raised more than $108,000 and spent about $35,000, leaving her with about $73,000 on hand. Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan raised about $91,000, and has $57,000 left to spend.
  • Another surprise: Democratic lieutenant governor candidate Bob Williams raised $63,000, about $12,000 more than was reported by Sen. Hollis French. If you compare debts, however, Williams has $41,324 left to spend and French has $51,700. (The numbers are a little tricky because French brought $22,605 to the campaign, about $8,000 of which are funds from a previous state Senate race. The rest came from when he began raising money in August to run for governor. He changed his candidacy to lieutenant governor in October.)
  • In another race that I’m watching, Republican Rep. Lindsey Holmes raised $42,152. She brought $4,800 into the campaign and still has more than $44,200 on hand. One of her Democratic challengers, Clare Ross, raised $31,427, which is pretty impressive for a political neophyte. Ross has $18,717 to spend. Matt Claman, who’s not a political neophyte and who is also running for Holmes’ seat, raised $34,663 and has $21,974 left over.

I’ll have more on these and other numbers on Wednesday.

UPDATED: The story was updated to include Bill Walker’s tally.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com


Lt: Gov. candidate Bob Williams: the Democratic sleeper?

There’s no doubt that Democratic lieutenant governor candidate Bob Williams is an up-and-comer in Democratic politics in Alaska. A Palmer teacher, Williams is funny, full of energy, and he uses props, like color-coded cups, to try to explain complicated situations, which is only occasionally corny. In early January after a candidate forum, I said that he was a politician to watch, thinking, perhaps that he might do well sometime in the future, after he raised a larger profile and learned how to raise money.

The future, apparently, is now.

According to his most recently campaign disclosure, Williams raised $63,096, about $12,000 more than was reported by Alaska state Sen. Hollis French, who is the other Democratic running for the seat.

Almost all of Williams’ money came from small donors from across the state and the country, many of whom are fellow teachers. Williams spent $8,771 and owes the Democratic Party $13,000 for access to databases, leaving him with $41,324 cash on hand.

French, who has been a legislator since 2003 and who ran for statewide office in 2010, is much more well known and is considered by many to be the heir apparent for the Democratic nomination. He reported raising $51,328. He brought in $22,605 to the campaign, about $8,000 of which are funds from a previous state Senate race. The rest came when he began raising money in August to run for governor. He changed his candidacy to lieutenant governor in October. So far, French has spent $12,233, leaving him with $61,700 cash on hand.

French has given $5,000 to the Democratic party for access to databases, and will pay another $10,000 before the primary He did not list that debt because he has not used all of the services yet, he said.

Political consultant Ivan Moore was impressed with Williams’ haul. “There’s always pressure on the lesser known to kowtow and bow out of the race, but he’s not going anywhere, is he?” Moore said.

Former Democratic candidate for governor and former House Minority Leader Ethan Berkowitz was also impressed. “He deserves a lot of credit for that. He wants to learn and is willing to work hard and would bring a lot to the ticket,” Berkowitz said.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com

CLARIFICATION: This story was changed to clarify when Hollis French raised money.


Fundraising numbers for statewide candidates dribbling in

Because it’s a holiday, official financial fundraising reports for candidates aren’t due to the Alaska Public Offices Commission until Tuesday. However, as of Monday afternoon, some numbers were dribbling in.

Alaska state Sen. Hollis French, who’s running for lieutenant governor and has already filed with APOC, reported raising $51,328 from Oct. 30, 2014 through Feb. 1, 2014. French brought $22,605 into the campaign, and spent $12,233, leaving him $61,700 cash on hand.

French’s fundraising total isn’t likely going to match the GOP lieutenant governor candidates. Both Sen. Lesil McGuire and Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan have said that they raised in the ballpark of $100,000 apiece. However, $61,700 on hand is a pretty good number for French.

As reported earlier, Gov. Sean Parnell raised $407,253, and had over $330,000 on hand.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Byron Mallott beat expectations by raising more than $230,000. However, he hasn’t filed his report yet and it’s unclear how much money he spent raising that amount.

Finally, independent candidate for governor Bill Walker hasn’t released his official report, but he did send out a release on Monday saying that he raised more than $200,000, also beating expectations. According to the release, that number includes $29,000 of his own money.

Walker said that unlike Parnell, he has to pay for his own travel.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com


Legislature starts to question TransCanada’s role in building LNG line

5839204_mMembers of the Alaska state Senate are beginning to question whether or not TransCanada is the right company for the state to partner with to build a large diameter natural gas pipeline that all told could cost more than $60 billion. The pipeline, which would carry natural gas from the North Slope to tidewater that would be shipped as LNG, would be one of the largest construction projects in the world. Legislation being considered this session, introduced by Gov. Sean Parnell’s administration, would begin to bind the state with TransCanada for generations.

However, the state has not put the newly conceived LNG project up for bid. Nor has it appeared to consider other companies that might partner with the state to build the line.

“It’s not Exxon, BP and Conoco’s responsibility to see that the state is aligned and to protect our interests. We have to protect our interests with TransCanada,” said Sen. Bert Stedman during a Senate majority press conference. Other members of the majority, including Sen. Peter Micciche, said during the press conference that they will look hard at the partnership.

The administration has proposed legislation that would begin the process of building the natural gas pipeline, a project that’ s been in the works for over 40 years. The initial legislation is just a start, the administration has said. However, it’s a start with a start at binding agreements and a multimillion dollar price tag attached to it.

TransCanada and Alaska go back a long way, most recently when it was the company chosen by the legislature in 2008 to build a pipeline to go from Prudhoe Bay through Canada. It was the only company then that designed a project to fit specific “must haves” that were delineated by Gov. Sarah Palin’s administration.

In exchange, the company was entitled to receive $500 million of state money to allow it to get to crucial commercial agreements with the companies that own the lease rights to the gas—ExxonMobil, BP and Conoco– and companies willing to ship the gas. For various reasons, those commercial agreements all dissipated. Legal contracts that the state has with TransCanada, however, haven’t.

Some legislators are wondering if the state has stuck with TransCanada simply to delay potential legal issues.

Democratic Sen. Hollis French would like the Senate Judiciary Committee to explore the legal contracts the state has with TransCanada. So far, however, Senate President Charlie Huggins hasn’t assigned that bill to the committee.

“There’s discomfort in the Capitol about whether we’re getting shoehorned into this new gasline deal with a partner that didn’t deliver in the last deal,” French said. “What’s the cost of shopping around?” he asked.

Legislators have likened the relationship with TransCanada to a marriage. French continued with the metaphor. “It’s like we’re staying in the marriage for the sake of the children without knowing who the children are,” he said.

The state has hired various consultants to help it understand that contracts. However, the bulk of committee testimony so far has been used by TransCanada, Exxon, ConocoPhillips, and BP, all of whose testimony appears to be coordinated.

Meanwhile, rumors persist that behind closed doors, some of the producing companies are also quietly questioning TransCanada’s role in the project.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com

Correction: The original version of the story said that Sen. Hollis French was on the “Judicial” Committee. There is no such thing as a “Judicial” Committee. It’s the Judiciary Committee and Sen. Bill Wielechowski is now the minority member.


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


Republicans a no-show at first statewide candidate forum

The first statewide candidate forum of the year was last night. Three people running for lieutenant governor answered questions posed by KTVA reporter Rhonda McBride at the YWCA in downtown Anchorage on Tuesday night. Two Democrats — Alaska state Sen. Hollis French, Palmer math teacher Bob Williams, and independent Craig Fleener — fielded questions from McBride, a seasoned reporter, about education, tribal rights, federal regulations, natural resources, health and public safety, just to a name a few.

One of the two Democrats will be running with Byron Mallott in the general election. Fleener, who will skip the primary process, will be running with independent candidate Bill Walker.

The two Republican candidates, Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan and Alaska state Sen. Lesil McGuire didn’t show up for the forum. At the time the event was announced, Sullivan said that he had a personal engagement that evening. McGuire called in sick at the last minute. It was too bad. McGuire, who is a moderate Republican, shines no more brightly than when she’s speaking extemporaneously in front of a crowd.

French said that neither of the Republican showed because they wouldn’t be able to defend Gov. Sean Parnell’s record. Namely his decision not to accept federal money to expand Medicaid, which would insure up to 40,000 Alaskans on the federal dime. Then there was the issue about new regulations on Medicaid-funded abortions which made news earlier that day. The issue was only alluded to at the forum. Had McGuire showed, however, she would likely have been asked about it.

Throughout the night, Williams and French generally held the Democratic line. Fleener, a Gwich’in Athabascan from the Interior, and former Marine and currently a major in the Alaska Air National Guard, as well as the state’s former deputy commissioner of Fish and Game, displayed more of an independent streak. He’s more inclined to talk about giving parents more choice over education options, had stronger words for federal government encroachment, and mentioned, more than once, that as an independent, he’s “free from party and political corruption.”

When asked to give Gov. Sean Parnell a letter grade for the job he’s doing so far, French gave him a “D,” Fleener a “C-“ and Williams an “F.”

Williams, an up-and-comer to watch in the Democratic Party, called Parnell a “wimp,” which stands for “wildly inaccurate, misleading, and partisan.”

It doesn’t exactly work as an acrostic, but it was the line of the night, the delivery was spot on, and if nothing else, last night showed that Williams is a politician to watch.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com


French questions Parnell about allegations of abuse in National Guard

Democratic Alaska state Sen. Hollis French sent a letter to Gov. Sean Parnell on Tuesday asking for more information about allegations of sexual misconduct within Alaska’s National Guard. Among other things, French is asking for information about prosecution rates, procedures and the number of cases that have been referred to law enforcement.

French is running for lieutenant governor with Byron Mallott, who’s running for governor.

The questions were in response to an article published on Oct. 27 in the Anchorage Daily News detailing what appears to be a culture within the Guard of abuse and of the lack of local law enforcement to do anything about it. Since 2009, 29 cases of alleged sexual assault have been reported to local law enforcement. So far, no one has yet to be prosecuted, nor has Gov. Sean Parnell, who has made ridding the state of sexual abuse a hallmark of his campaign, spoken out about the issue or the culture that seemingly exists in the Guard.

Numerous people were quoted in ADN’s article about the problems, including two chaplains who say that women have been coming to them for years and that nothing has been done about it. They also say that Parnell, who oversees the Guard, was aware of the problems as far back as 2010.

One member of the guard, Lt. Col. Ken Blalock had about 15 victims come to him. He said that he told Parnell and the Anchorage Police about the issues, and got his “butt chewed” for going above his chain of command by the head of the Guard Gen. Tom Katkus.

Following the article, Katkus issued a statement and wrote a column in the ADN assuring the public that the Guard takes these issues seriously. In the ADN piece, Katkus answers many of the questions that French poses. Among other things, he wrote that “the Anchorage Police Department and the Alaska State Troopers, was (sic) contacted in 21 cases, and for reasons specific to each case, these law enforcement agencies did not open investigations.”

Mayor Dan Sullivan, who is running for lieutenant governor on the Republican ticket, has also not addressed these issues publicly.

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


Walker goes Independent and Wielechowski takes his time

Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Walker is now Independent candidate Bill Walker. Walker thinks that he’ll have an easier time bypassing the primary and challenging Parnell as an Independent, and he’s likely right.

Parnell’s numbers are strong. A recent poll conducted by local pollster Marc Hellenthal shows Parnell’s approval rating is 57 percent positive and 26 percent negative.

Where Parnell could be vulnerable is on oil taxes. Hellenthal said that his poll showed that roughly as many people would vote for a candidate who would support repeal of the oil tax bill than a candidate who wouldn’t support repeal. However, 22 percent are undecided.

That’s a lot of undecided voters and a big opportunity to change some minds. And the next legislative session will likely provide that opportunity. Because of the tax break, the state will likely be facing a deficit. Oil production will not have increased, and the opportunities for talking points and great campaign ads will be numerous, on both sides of the issue.

Because Walker has been more focused on issues surrounding a natural gas pipeline than on oil taxes and has never fully embraced the repeal crowd, there’s also room for a Dem in the race to take on that issue. Both Democratic Sens. Bill Wielechowski and Hollis French are considering a run. Wielechowski, whose seat isn’t up, has less to lose than does French. However, French has a strong challenger in Rep. Mia Costello. And he can only run in one race.

Wielechowski, apparently not an Andrew Marvell disciple, said that “there’s plenty of time.”

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com