Political predictions for Alaska and beyond in 2014

16972478_mAmong other things — hangovers, for one, and vows to never have another hangover — the end of the year produces clairvoyance. Everyone with a blog or a column is suddenly a great predictor. None of the other bloggers, however, have the gift of prognostication that I have, nor use a crystal ball, the Ouija board, or that special licking-finger-checking-wind thing. I should say here, that not all of these predictions make me happy. If I had my way, I’d change about half of them. But the future, my friends, isn’t always pretty, so says the great, low voiced oracle in me. Here it goes:

Governor’s race: Let me get this over with and take my lickings from the Dems. Gov. Sean Parnell will be reelected, but he’ll be so by a slimmer margin than what he now believes. Democrat Byron Mallott will come in second followed by independent candidate Bill Walker.

U.S. Senate Republican primary: Former DNR commissioner Dan Sullivan will win the Republican primary. Joe Miller, who’s running a stealth campaign far from the eyes of the media, will come in second, and Mead Treadwell will come in third if he lasts that long.

U.S. Senate general election: Sen. Begich is one of the best nuts and bolts politicians out there. He has the instincts of a raven, understands retail politics and learned a long time ago the value of scrounging for every last vote. Is that enough to overcome the fact that he’s a Democrat in a fundamentally red state? I say this is a tossup, leaning towards Begich. DNR Dan Sullivan, who I predict will win the primary, will have a huge war chest, has a dream resume, and is funny, smart and all those things you want in a candidate. However, he’s a political neophyte. He’s never had to knock on doors, listening to real people and their problems. He’s never had to shake hands in grocery stores. He’s not had to spend hour upon hour at community council meetings, or assembly halls, or state legislative caucus meetings. He hasn’t been forced to internalize people’s fears, hopes and dreams. Begich has. Besides, Begich has an experienced team. Sullivan doesn’t.

Control of the U.S. Senate: There are 35 senate races in 2014. For the Republicans to take control of the Senate, they need to gain 6 seats. Right now, the Republicans appear to have a good chance of picking up South Dakota, West Virginia and Montana. The next three seats that appear to provide the Republicans with the best chance for potential gains are Arkansas, Alaska, and Louisiana. My prediction is that the Senate splits 50 – 50, meaning that the Democrats will maintain control with Vice President Biden, as the presiding officer of the body, casting the decisive vote.

Control of the U.S. House of Representatives: Republicans will safely maintain control of the House. Democrats would have to pick up 17 seats which appears highly unlikely.

Repeal of AK Senate Bill 21: Alaskans will not repeal SB 21 for fear of damaging the state’s economy. Proponents of the repeal will not be able to raise enough money to go head to head with the funds that will be spent to beat it down. The biggest indicator: Vince Beltrami, head of the AFL-CIO told me recently that his organization is staying out of the fight. Last year, the AFL-CIO put more than $700,000 into keeping a bipartisan Senate, which would have blocked the tax bill. It lost. Apparently, he sees this one as a losing fight, also.

Marijuana initiative: Unless the pot people get so stoned that they mess this up, which is not unheard of, this will pass easy squeezey.

Minimum wage initiative: Assuming the measure qualifies for the ballot, this initiative will fail.

Bristol Bay initiative: The Pebble Mine is dead for now, but some people want to pound that last nail in the coffin. This initiative would effectively do that. Anti-Pebble zillionaire Bob Gillam will be funding the effort, and he’s proven to be one of the most powerful political forces in the state. But then again so is the mining industry. Powerful, that is, with the Pebble Partnership’s money, which left when Anglo America did. This is a tortured way of saying that the crystal ball on this one fuzzes over, the Ouija board’s planchette shuffles between “yes” and “no,” the wind is blowing from the east on my thumb and the west on my pinky.

School choice legislation: A majority of legislators in both houses will be supportive; however, since it is a constitutional amendment, it requires an affirmative vote of 2/3rds of the legislature. And with the NEA as strong as it is with the Alaska Dems, there’s no way enough of them will cross over on this issue.

House Bill 77: The Parnell administration supports this bill, which is intended to streamline the state’s permitting process and the House already passed it. The bill is currently sitting in the Senate Rules committee, where, barring a big re-write, I predict it will stay under Rules Chair Lesil McGuire’s boot. The bill goes too far, and senators, particularly Sen. Peter Micciche, are listening to their constituents on this.

Anchorage mayor’s race: Andrew Halcro is the darling of tailors and us journo types all across the state who have been awaiting his next political move. I predict that it’s coming this year with an announcement that he’s running for mayor. It makes sense. The race is non-partisan and is perfect for Halcro, who is a moderate Republican. Then there’s Paul Honeman, who will likely jump in and provide color. Finally, I predict that Dan Coffey, who has already announced, has more fundraisers than Hacro has ties.

The Turnagain House legislative race: While I have chosen not to predict every legislative race, this seat is different and has piqued a lot of interest. Rep. Lindsey Holmes won reelection in 2012 as a Democrat and shortly thereafter switched her party affiliation and joined the House Republican Majority Caucus raising the hackles of many of her friends and supporters. A recall effort ensued, she’s got two Democratic challengers, another on her right, and she’s been all but invisible. Still, I say she wins this one again, but by a razor-thin margin. The Republican money will be behind her, and most importantly, she grew up in the hood.

Disagree? Did I miss something? Leave a comment if you think so.

Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com 


21 thoughts on “Political predictions for Alaska and beyond in 2014

  1. KattLuvAK

    Ms. Coyne makes a good case for why Halcro seems to be angling toward a mayoral run.. but I think you’re right that Andrew is liking where he’s at. Halcro is at his best as a commentator on the sidelines (or taking pot shots from the sidelines, however you call it) rather than directly in the spotlight himself. He’s looked petty and unsubstantial in the Gov. debates, and even in his debates before the Chamber. But his blog was a great read, his recent stand on education was articulate and on point.. and unfortunately I think the positive strokes he receives as a commentator make him look at public office and go “I could do that.” So my take is that he’d be best staying out of it, but he’s probably at least weighing a run. Don’t think he identifies with the social Republicans the way Coffee does.

  2. the best offense is a good defense

    I don’t think Andrew will jump into the Mayor’s race at this juncture. Would make no sense. He is already well aligned with Dan Coffey in views and is doing a fabulous job of running the Chamber. As the President of the Anchorage Chamber he has the opportunity to influence statewide policy in a major way and truly benefit economic development. It’s a wonderful spot for him to be in because he is incredibly competent and effective. The Chamber really needs savvy direction for the foreseeable future and I hope he sticks with it. It’s really important to Anchorage in that it is a true engine of growth, development and prosperity and someone competent to drive it. I hope Andrew stays where he is for a while. Plus, Dan Coffey is a great candidate and will win in my opinion. If Andrew enters there is the possibility of a split that could lead to the election of Honeman,(if he runs), the retired cop/union hack who assaulted and abused Uwe Kalenka under color of law. That would be an unmitigated disaster to say the least. I think the Anchorage taxpayer has been bent over enough for the foreseeable future.

  3. CatLoverAK

    I’ve heard the loser between the Claman/Ross contest will get in the Senate race.. but seems like a pretty weak way to pick a candidate to me. Any other rumors?

  4. EV

    Agreed, but Begich is so crafty I would be surprised if he didn’t use an issue like this to his advantage in order to drive otherwise marginal voters to the polls. I’ve traveled to over 20 communities across the state this year, from Ketchikan to Aniak, and in every single one the “livable wage” issue has come up. Alaska’s economic growth is poised to slow this year and coupled with decreased state spending will only add to the anxiety in my opinion.

  5. Sylvia Lange

    Fine, conventional wisdom says Parnell. We MUST DO BETTER. The guy is a disaster, and is embarrassing. I’m old enough to remember when Alaskans were proud to lead. I want that to happen again. Byron Mallott has always been a leader outside the box, and I look forward to helping him make it Governor Mallott. Alaskans deserve better, and Byron is what we’ve been waiting for. Specifics: he is old enough and comfortable enough to retire, but feels the call. He loves his homeland. He understands ALL of Alaska, not just the oil patch and Anchorage. The guy has gotten out and has been there. He has fished, hunted, and ran a board room. He has been on the national stage and in a small Alaska village. He has depth and knowledge we need. I am an independent voter, and appreciate his basic business pragmatism, and his social conscience. I’m taking your prediction as a call to arms. He has a shot and it will be up to us to make it happen.

  6. LFH

    Who’s running for the West Anchorage senate seat? French has to give it up as the Lt Gov candidate, and though Mia Costello seems like a pretty solid candidate, the fact that it is still (at least half) West Anchorage and currently a D seat means that it has to be at least a little contested, right?

  7. AlaskaCodPiece

    I know it’s early in the race, but so far the only pol who has taken an interest in getting out of the protective bubble and mixing with rural Alaskans is Byron Mallott. All others have yet to make any appearances beyond Anchorage/Juneau/DC. They only speak in talking points to select media.

    Walker appears to be gaining steam and is well known and liked. Parnell, like his mentor $creech Paylin, only appears in the most scripted, staged events. He is afraid of Alaskans.

    Mead Treadwell is a non-entity so far. Again, rehashed Republican talking points but nothing to say of real substance. Joe Miller is mostly appealing to Outsiders. He doesn’t stand a chance because he is a known crook and liar in Alaska. He likes the publicity and to hear himself talk. DNR Dan is the most removed of all from the people – and he should be scared of mixing with ‘the folk’ (as Joe M is fond of saying). He and Parnell want to remove the public from all development decisions. That is not going over well among the people who live in/on the lands and waters he/Parnell want to gleefully hand over to foreign mega corporations.

    Meanwhile, Begich is like an Energizer Bunny out visiting, talking, pressing the flesh, etc. He chairs the Oceans, Fisheries, USCG Committee and is on Appropriations along with Sen. Lisa. What do the other US Senate candidates have to offer to beat that?

    Alaskans are not going to be swayed by Outside dollars to elect the candidate desired by elsewheres, whether it be for Senator or Governor. I predict a Begich win by people who look beyond Party and want a Senator who can work well with others and is not a ‘purist ideologue’ who puts Party above all else.

  8. Fairbanks D

    Alaska isn’t a toss up leaning Begich in the senate race. It is Begich by a landslide. The Republicans in the race leave a lot to be desired. Two baffoons and Dan Sullivan. While I have to admit that Sullivan is an okay guy, he carries the burden of the Anchorage mayor’s less than stellar name. Sullivan is a political newbie and has a lot to learn. Heard people at Pike’s talking about how dismal his campaign org is. Begich knows how to win elections. Sullivan is clueless.

  9. admin

    Gut feeling, coupled with conversations with political consultants and operatives who have been testing and working in the field discussing this with voters. Also, and this is probably the biggest reason: about 30 percent of Alaska’s workforce is comprised of government workers, who get paid much more than minimum wage. Finally, I know that the Dems are working this hard nationally, which will likely mean that in Alaska, it will be labeled a partisan issue.

  10. EV

    Why do you think the minimum wage would fail? There is definitely a lack of local media attention, but support on the ground seems to be strong. Due to the fact many national chains are opening this year in Anchorage one would think there would be a lot of potential traction for the the measure as the bulk of our job growth transitions to lower paid hourly service positions.

  11. admin

    The power of incumbency, for one. The fact that Begich has been working politics in this state since he could walk. He’s tough and mean when he wants to be. And Dan Sullivan has never run for office.

  12. Hi!

    Haha. So… the Begich prediction was not based on any past election history for statewide Democratic candidates. You suggest that the race leans towards Begich… what on earth is that based on?

  13. Lynn Willis

    Alaska will never again influence federal policy like we did in the days of Ted Stevens. Alaska will be pulled along in the currents. at the federal level. What counts is the race for Governor and we can, and must, do better. .

    Sean Parnell might just win if he, like last time, stays in his office playing rope-a-dope with his opponents to dodge the issues until the election passes while the opiate of a temporary increase in the PFD amount lulls enough Alaskans into believing a mirage. .

    Parnell set this state on auto pilot four years ago and went to sleep with now near disastrous results (perhaps hitting the treetops woke him up). Let me address two big issues facing us; revenue and gas energy for Alaskans.

    The last three discretionary state budgets have been for 7.9 billion, 6.8 billion and now he is diving to 5.6 billion. To pull this off, first he must take 2 billion dollars from our 17 billion cash reserves to pay for the shortages he faces from previous years, then he takes another 3 billion for a buy down of the pension obligation and yet another 1.1 billion to allow him to make the 5.6 billion number. Our 17 billion dollar reserve will, in one year, drop to 10.9 billion. You want four more years of this kind of fiscal conservatism – I hope not because you cannot afford it. As frosting on the cake, now we find that the producers are claiming much higher oil production costs which, oddly enough, they get to deduct from their profits and presto, regardless of ACES or SB21, we get substantially less state revenue from every barrel produced. Meanwhile the legislature is of absolutely no help to control spending (just think tennis courts and the LIO).

    Sean Parnell convinced himself that, like in the 70’s when the pipeline was being built, the interests of the state and the interests of the oil producers were and still are perfectly aligned. They may have been then; however, they certainly are not now. Speaking of rope-a-dope, look what the producers and Transcanada did to us for our 500 million dollar AGIA investment (of which 280 million have been spent). AGIA was passed in 2008 and not until 2013 did they even announce where the pipe was going to terminate (Nikiski). Several years ago everyone knew that shale gas had stopped any pipeline to Canada. Now the obvious has become so obvious that even Sean Parnell cannot avoid seeing that Transcanada has not accomplished what we thought it would.. So just recently the Governor closed the state AGIA office and heads into arbitration to end our involvement with AGIA which could cost us additonal hundreds of millions more in penalties to end the contract. Arbitration! Talk about throwing brer rabbit into the briar patch. I wonder if the producers are just dreading a long arbitration period while our gas remains stranded. Couple that with the state AOGCC policy that currently they would not support the release of any gas from the slope that could possibly be used to extract oil and we take another blow to the side of the head regarding any pipe line ambitions we may have.

    Enough is enough. Anybody except Sean Parnell appeals to this voter at this time.

  14. Annette

    I agree that Halcro will announce that he will run for mayor. Your prediction on this was like a light bulb going on in my head. Why else would he be serving as the president of the Anchorage Chamber instead of working in the family business ? Also, I just read today about the legislature’s education task force and Halcro, who was a member, seemed to be advocating the NEA line – – more money ! You nailed it, he’s going to run for mayor. I think you under estimate the extent that Alaska is a red state. While Begich may act like an independent voice, he really is more liberal than mainstream Alaska. I think that after the ’14 elections our congressional delegation will be all Republican. You should have also guessed which race Harry Crawford was going to run in – – for senate against Cathy G. or house against Lance P. ? Keep going girl. You’re my favorite read.

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