Tis the Season for character assassination in Alaska politics

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Today is the first day registered Alaska voters  can mosey on down to a polling place and cast a ballot. Most of the media will focus on the opening of the polling locations as an event, with campaigns and political parties hosting various get-out-the-vote (GOTV) operations to mark the day.

For politicos, This day is equally important because it marks the zenith of October Surprise season. In case you haven’t noticed it, campaigns, independent expenditure groups, and political parties over the last few days have begun emptying their opposition research files and unleashing scathing attacks on their opponents.

These aren’t the normal kind of attacks we have seen so far, like Republicans attacking Vince Beltrami for being a big, bad union boss, or Together for Alaska trashing a spade of Republican incumbents for being “do nothing” legislators. Those are substantive criticisms. Now is the time for new, nasty, sometimes salacious, often character attack type attacks campaigners hope will knock out their opponents.

And those attacks just happen to come in bunches right before or as early voting begins. That isn’t a mistake or coincidence. This is the sweet spot in the election calendar for attacks. There is enough time before the election for the attack to soak into the electorate’s collective consciousness, but we are still close enough to election day that these attacks won’t have faded from memory when the last person heads to the polls.

Here are just some examples of such nasty attacks we have seen so far:

Alaska Republican Party Hits Joe Miller — The Alaska Republican Party sent out this mailer resurrecting Joe Miller’s use of government workplace computers for political activities when he worked for the Fairbanks North Star Borough:

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Alaska Democrats Hit Kastner — Democrats are walking around this set of documents which show Republican Senate candidate Kevin Kastner was arrested by the Oklahoma City Police Department in 1988 for grand larceny.

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The charge was, as far as we know, first thrown out there by Rep. Les Gara back at the beginning of September, but it continues to pop up in the race.

For his part, Kastner did a fair job of explaining the whole thing on his Facebook page. It is a good hit, but it is also a 28-year-old crime. Who among us doesn’t have at least one youthful indiscretion?

Alaska Democrats Hit Mike Gordon — As we published this weekend, the Alaska Democratic Party sent out a press release last week charging Spenard area Republican State House candidate Mike Gordon with sticking up for convicted child abuser and sex trafficker Josef Boehm. In 2005, Gordon wrote a letter to the judge in Boehm’s case asking for a lenient sentence because Gordon still felt Boehm was “a good guy.”

This could be bad for Gordon if it sticks. This is the same exact charge that many think killed Dan Coffey’s mayoral run last year and Rep. Cathy Munoz has undeniably been hurt by this year.

Alaska Democrats Hit David Eastman — As we reported last week, the Alaska Democratic Party attacked Mat-SU Republican State House candidate David Eastman for claiming he was an Oxford Fellow.

According to the Dems, the university doesn’t even have the program or designation Eastman claims to have attended. The Alaska Republican Party fired back showing there is such a program. Do we actually know if Eastman attended to it? No. But then again we also have no good reason at this point to suspect he didn’t.

APOC and FEC Cometh

Then there are the less sexy brand of allegations that a candidate has violated campaign finance or election rules. While these violations are usually technical and thus boring to most voters, campaign strategists that orchestrate them hope they leave the taint of corruption on their opponents. They typically come in the form of complaints filed with the Alaska Public Offices Commission (APOC) in state races and Federal Election Commission (FEC) in federal races.

The political community in Alaska is split on the value of APOC and FEC complaints. We tend to think no one, and we mean NO ONE cares about them except candidates and their inner circles. Others, see them as substantive hits that can deeply impact a campaign. Either way, they undoubtedly cause concern for the targeted campaigns so complaints have at least disruption or distraction value.

Here are some we have seen this season:

Alaska Republican Party Hits Joe Miller (Part 2) — Just this afternoon, the Alaska Republican Party issued this press release attacking Miller for all kinds of campaign finance shenanigans.

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Jeff Landfield Hits Von Imhof — Former Republican State Senate candidate Jeff Landfield filed a complaint about a tax dispute between Republican primary victor Natasha Von Imhof’s husband’s company and the State of Alaska.

APOC Hits Vazquez — Rep. Liz Vazquez already has two APOC violations filed against her by APOC’s staff for sloppy or unfiled campaign finance reports. We hear a third APOC complaint is going to be filed by a private citizen this week.

Huit Hits Tuck — Rep. Chris Tuck’s Republican opponent Tim Huit is spending money pushing this blast from the past on Facebook:

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That fine was actually levied against Tuck in the primary election. No, not this year’s primary election, 2014’s. The ad may be effective because we have heard even from Tuck supporters who think it is much ado about nothing, but none the less think it just happened.

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Expect to see plenty more of these types of nastiness this week.

We just got word that Joe Miller has scheduled a press conference for 6 PM tonight for a “major campaign announcement.” Anyone want to bet it is a nasty attack on Sen. Lisa Murkowski? Now is the season for it.

About the Author

Casey Reynolds
Reynolds served as communications director for the Alaska Republican Party from 2008-2011. He left the Party in 2011 to host his own popular morning radio political talk show on AM750 / FM103.7 KFQD. Reynolds now runs The Midnight Sun (midnightsunak.com), crowned by the Anchorage Press as “Alaska’s best political blog.”