More Moves — The big political news of the week was Governor Walker bringing in Republican operative Scott Kendall to replace Jim Whitaker as his Chief of Staff. That isn’t the only shake-up going on in the Governor’s office, however. Also on the move are former former Whitaker legislative aide and most recently governor’s office policy and program specialist Ryan Colgan, who is heading to the Department of Administration, and former economic advisor to the Governor Ed King, who is now listed as a policy analyst in DNR, but we hear he will be serving as the legislative liaison.
New Position, New Thoughts — At the Alaska Common Ground fiscal policy forum on Tuesday it became pretty clear Representative-elect Jennifer Johnston is no longer Anchorage Assemblywoman Johnston. She openly advocated for a state sales tax that would be structured so communities already with sales taxes wouldn’t have a new state tax put on top of theirs. She openly admitted, “That means pretty much only us in Anchorage would pay that tax.”
We’re gonna go ahead and guess Mayor Ethan Berkowitz and Johnston’s former colleagues on the Anchorage Assembly will be opposing that idea.
Party Over — Not only is longtime Alaska Democratic Party (ADP) Executive Director Kay Brown leaving, but so is the ADP’s Communications Director Jake Hamburg, and Office Assistant Colin Palmer. Hamburg wants to spend more time being a brand new dad and Palmer is leaving to pursue a master’s degree. If the ADP doesn’t get some folks hired on by January, Data Director Matt Greene is going to be a lonely guy in the office.
Luckily for Matt, we hear Katie Bruggeman will be taking over communications for the Party after the holidays, so he won’t be all alone.
Rabble, Rabble, Rabble — We’re hearing an awful lot of people telling us former Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan is talking more and more openly about a desire to run again for his old office on the 8th floor of City Hall. Then again he has openly talked about running for governor and actually filed to run for U.S. Senate, before unfiling, so who knows.
Legislative Staffing Moves — We are hearing Erick Cordero is headed back to Juneau to work for Representative-elect Chuck Kopp. Other staffing moves we’re hearing are former Sen. Bill Stoltze staffer Darrell Breese and Janet Ogan are likely to be working for Representative-elect George Rauscher, and Senator-elect David Wilson is looking at bringing former Senator Charlie Huggins staffer Jody Simpson on board.
There is also a persistent rumor that hulking aide to Rep. Steve Thompson, Brodie Anderson is headed to Rep. Neal Foster’s office, since he’ll be in the majority and presumably Thompson won’t. Don’t buy in just yet on this one, our better sources tell us this one is off base.
Complicating Factor — Of course, the big factor in many of these moves is how the brand new House Majority will allocate staff for legislators. We’re hearing the new leadership is looking at doing away with the traditional allotment of three in-session staffers for Majority members and two for minority members and going to two worker bees for the ruling class and one for the Minority members.
That would be a new reduction of 40 legislative staffers, a move likely to save the state at least a couple of million dollars a year in these lean times.
Such a move wouldn’t have a big impact on all those long-suffering Democrats who just became part of the Majority for the first time ever, they would keep their same two staffers they have always had. The big bite comes for former Majority Republicans, who would have to go from three staffers to one. That is quite a bite.
Also, maybe a good incentive for some Minority Republicans to join the majority? Could be.
Midnight Sun On The Air!!!! — Master of Morning Radio Rick Rydell (AM 650 KENI) has asked us to come on every week and share Friday in the Sun with his audience. So listen for our inside scoop every Friday morning at 7:35.
Times, They Are A Changing — Anyone looking for signs of the changes going on around us should look no further than former Sen. Johnny Ellis’ coming out of the closet in an Alaska Dispatch News article this week.
Charles Wohlforth wrote:
“Ellis spent his life as a closeted gay man, hiding the truth even from close friends so they wouldn’t have to lie or worry about revealing it unintentionally. He considered secrecy to be the price of public service, as being gay could damage his effectiveness for his constituents and his election prospects.”
We find it worth noting that while Sen. Ellis felt the need to hide this fact for over 30 years for fear of the political repercussions, there are now two openly gay candidates for Anchorage Assembly: Chris Constant and Felix Rivera. We’re guessing that this writing is the first time you’ve seen anyone in media or the public even make note of it.
Some will see that as progress and others as America’s moral decay, but no one can deny it is pretty huge movement.
Who Wants To Spend Like A Millionaire — Current Legislative Council Chairman Sen. Gary Stevens said earlier this week that the makeover he is planning for Anchorage’s second Legislative Information Office (LIO) (the Wells Fargo building on Minnesota and Benson in case you are confused at which Anchorage LIO is which) will have a “minimal” cost.
What does “minimal” mean to a legislator? Apparently quite a lot. The makeover will include mechanical, structural, HVAC, interior remodeling, etc. All of that is projected to cost $1.6 million PER FLOOR for each of the five floors occupied by legislative offices.
Let’s get out our slide rule…$1.6 Million x five = $8 million.
Lets add that to the building’s $12 million purchase price and the $37 million we will still be paying for the first Anchorage LIO. Hmmmmm, $57 million-plus annual operating and upkeep costs.
Wow, that is “minimal.”
Days Until The Next State Election — 719
Days Until Muni Election — 137
Gabby PAC — During the new House Majority’s first press conference we asked Rep.Gabrielle LeDoux if she would be fundraising for her PAC during the legislative session.
As Chair of House Rules she is in a position to stop bills or send them to the floor so there could be an appearance of impropriety if she is asking lobbyists for money at the same time their bills are awaiting her decision.
She said rules don’t allow her PAC to raise money during session. We looked and were unable to find any APOC or legislative ethics rules to that effect. That doesn’t mean LeDoux will raise money for her PAC during the legislative session, but we believe rules allow her to.
GOP Victory Lap? — There aren’t a ton of political events this time of year, but if you are a happy happy joy joy Republican you can check this one out.
Sure, the GOP won the presidency, but over the last couple years, they have lost the Governor’s office, Anchorage Mayor’s office and a slew of Anchorage Assembly seats, and the State House. And they are doing a victory lap? Hey, if the faithful buy it, go ahead and sell it.
Big Count — Anyone looking for final closure on any of Alaska’s general election races should have it by the end of the day. Alaska Division of Elections is counting thousands of absentee ballots and any other uncounted ballots. There will still be a few mail in ballots dribbling in for the next few days, but every race in the state should be settled with this count.
Stay tuned to The Midnight Sun and follow us on twitter for the latest results.
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