The end of Alaska oil and being progressive: Berkowitz and Hopkins speak to the Alaska Democratic Party Convention

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If you happened to stop by the Alaska Democratic convention this weekend held on the campus of UAA, one thing you’re likely to hear over and over was “We’re on a winning streak.”

Alaska Democrats are taking credit for winning a slew of local elections recently, including the mayoral elections in Fairbanks, Mat-Su, Kenai, and Anchorage.

It isn’t surprising then that two of the largest and most raucous rounds of applause at the convention went to current Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz and former Fairbanks Mayor and current State Senate candidate Luke Hopkins as each took to the convention stage to speak to the party faithful.

Berkowitz’s speech largely focused on the need to further value and embrace Alaska’s growing ethnic diversity and for those engaged in political activity to act more civil towards those with whom they disagree.

Mayor Ethan Berkoitz

Mayor Ethan Berkoitz

Somewhat paradoxically, Berkowitz started off his speech saying, “We are at an inflection point in Alaska’s history. It’s a time of change. It’s a time of change at the state level because Juneau as we know it has ceased to exist.”

If you don’t know exactly what that means, don’t worry, neither do I, but it kind of sounds like the latest in a series of insults hurled at state lawmakers by Berkowitz and his allies on the Anchorage Assembly.

On a more substantive note Berkowitz dropped this policy point in the middle of his remarks, “So now, at this inflection point we ask that question, the question that all Alaskans ask…where are we going? Because these are difficult times. These are changing times. Our dependence on oil is going to change. The part of the economy that once carried 80-90 percent of our budget is not coming back.” It is sadly worth noting that this statement was met with a round of applause from convention delegates.

If policy makers such as Berkowitz really believe the oil industry in Alaska has reached the end of viability, then that is a major, major, REALLY FRIGGIN’ BIGTIME policy shift we as Alaskans need to hear more about.

But don’t just think Berkowitz was being a Debbie Downer, he followed that comment with his plan for a bright post-oil future in Alaska, “But that puts premium on building an economy and a society that’s built on individual effort and individual opportunity.”

I don’t know what that means either, but the Mayor sure did sound optimistic about it, so that is something.

You can listen to Mayor Berkowitz’s full speech to the convention here:

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Candidate Luke Hopkins took to the stage with a far more partisan message for the convention, “From a progressive Mayor for six-years in Fairbanks, I’m glad to be here. I had to have a coat of non-partisan for six years but now I’m a Democrat, and I’m running with the Democrats against the leadership in the Senate.”

Luke Hopkins

Luke Hopkins

Maybe he was just speaking to the room, but if his speech is any indication of what he’ll be saying when he gets back to Fairbanks, don’t expect a moderate message from the former Mayor “We’re gonna win, and we’re gonna win on things like climate change and we’re gonna win on things like progressive actions, not on culture battles like we keep having.”

That rhetoric sets up a stark contrast between the now proudly progressive Hopkins and his would be opponent Sen. John Coghill who is well known for his conservative positions on “culture” issues such as abortion and gay marriage.

You can listen to Hopkin’s full speech here:

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