By now, we’ve all heard about the House majority caucus, and know that Rep. Mike Chenault was elected to an unprecedented fourth term as Speaker. We know that Rep. Charisse Millett was voted in as Majority Leader, which is smart because she looks good for the camera, and is reasonable and articulate enough to counter the foaming mouthed, bible-thumping Republican stereotype, a stereotype that isn’t completely unjustified. Just look at the newest caucus that has formed in the House, called “The Freedom Caucus.” The charter members include Wes Keller, Lora Reinbold, Shelley Hughes, and Cathy Tilton. I’ve been told that there’s rules and terms of membership, which include something about bringing a bible to the meetings and reading aloud a verse. Because, you know, it’s always a good idea to defend the nation’s freedom by mixing church and state.
There’s a chance that Republican Anand Dubey will win his House seat in West Anchorage. He and Democrat Matt Claman are only 35 votes apart. If Dubey does win, it’ll be interesting to see if he gets invited into the Freedom Caucus, and if so, whether he will be able to bring and quote from The Vedas instead of the bible.
Now that the Legislature is organized, this is the time that new staffers are being hired and veterans are moving around. The new House Finance co-chairs have each picked up veteran staffers. Rep. Mark Neuman has hired Pete Ecklund, who worked most recently for Rep. Alan Austerman, and Joe Michel will be moving from Rep. Bill Stoltze’s office to Rep. Steve Thompson’s.
The Alaska Chapter of the National Education Association can’t be happy that Rep. Wes Keller is chair of the House Education Committee and that Sen. Mike Dunleavy is chair of the Senate Education Committee. Both are avid school choice advocates and neither is vulnerable in his respective district.
We may not know yet who won the governor’s race, but we do know that no matter who wins, he’ll be a new grandfather. Gov. Sean Parnell is expecting his first grandchild in November. Bill Walker’s expecting two: one from a son and his wife, due in March, and one from his daughter and her husband, due in January. Both will be boys. The gender-announcement took place this weekend, at the family’s cabin, where the brood was gathered. There was ice skating, board games, and king-crab feasts. (Because nothing should be that wholesome in politics, one also envisions a dart board, pictures of a few choice state workers taped over it,)
One of those state workers, Joe Balash, is currently in Asia, and recently stopped in Nara, Japan, to visit the world’s largest bronze Buddha. Let’s hope Balash got some belly rubbing in.
Speaker Mike Chenault has been spotted on the side of the highway outside of Homer, disassembling Parnell’s political signs. Tom Wright, Chenault’s COS and Parnell’s campaign manager was said to have been assisting.
Meanwhile, former Democratic Speaker of the House Sam Cotten is said to be making some calls, asking people if they would be willing to serve on Walker-Mallott transition committees.
Everyone wants to know who might be part of a Walker-Mallott transition team and/or who will serve in the administration Rumors are flying. Some say that John Reeves, from Fairbanks, is being considered for DNR commissioner. His wife Ramona supposedly was a big help to Walker in Fairbanks. Former DNR Deputy Commissioner Marty Rutherford’s name is all around town. Rutherford went to grade school and high school with Walker in Valdez, and was one of the lead architects of both ACES and AGIA. One or more folks from the Port Authority cabal—such as Luke Hopkins, Merrick Peirce, Jim Whitaker, Dave Cobb, and Steve Haagenson — will likely have a presence. Malcom and Cindy Roberts have been as engaged and loyal as campaign volunteers could have been. Former ARCO president Harold Heinze is said to be buzzing around. Walker’s campaign manager Nancy Peterson has proved her mettle and Paulette Schuerch was Walker’s long-time rural coordinator. Former Lieutenant Governor Stephen McAlpine, Bruce Botelho, Mary Halloran, and labor guys Mike Kenney, Vince Beltrami, Joey Merrick, Rick Boyles, all might have a say in things. And former Democratic Sen. Joe Paskvan is being talked about a lot as a potential commissioner.
The once and forever GOP Senate candidate Dan Sullivan spent the weekend in Marine Corps Reserve training.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski was recently told that she’s been designated the Federal Legislator of the Year by the Safari Club International for her work on a bill that would have opened up more public lands for hunting and fishing. It was a bipartisan bill that got 46 co-sponsors. Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid, with the help of Sen. Mark Begich, killed the bill before it could go to the floor, lest controversial amendments be tacked on to it that could have put Democrats in tough spots. Begich was also one of the sponsors. Jon Stewart had something to say about this kind of thing. Anyway, Murkowski will receive her award at Safari Club International’s annual convention in Las Vegas in February.
Here’s a story: Last week Rep. Don Young was having dinner at Sullivan’s Steakhouse in Anchorage. A young girl was also there, celebrating a birthday. Young, who hasn’t proved himself as the paradigm of sensitivity during the campaign, perhaps tried to make up for it by belting out a birthday song to the girl. When he was done, he said something like: “How many times has a congressman sang you happy birthday?” To which she replied cheerily, “Twice!” Turns out that she’s a foster kid, and Les Gara joined an earlier celebration.
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