Friday in the Sun!!! (December 2)

After taking a week off to enjoy Thanksgiving, Friday in the Sun is back, baby!!!!

Today’s The Deadline — If you are a Democrat political operative and you haven’t gotten a job in the Berkowitz administration, Walker administration, or in the new Democratic State House Majority, you still have time to get your resume in to be the next Executive Director for the Alaska Democratic Party. You have to hurry, though, today is the deadline.

We’ve heard several names bandied about, but it sounds like the ADP’s coordinated campaign director Jay Parmley might have the inside track. His job most naturally transitions to the ED gig, and from what we hear Parmley was in on the hiring process for the party’s new communication director. That seems like a good indication party leadership is trying to create some continuity in their staffing decisions with him at the top.

Bob Gillam

Bob Gillam

That Guy? — Recently several Alaska media sources have become enamored with the idea of anti-Pebble activist, and one of Alaska’s richest men, Bob Gillam being on the shortlist to be the next Secretary of Interior. We were taken aback by that. Is the guy that invited the EPA to Alaska to preemptively shut down a resource development project really someone a REPUBLICAN administration wants running their Interior Department?

We reached out to several contacts we have in D.C. with one question: is Gillam a real candidate? All of them gave us a version of the same answer — only in the minds of Gillam and his paid political consigliere Art Hackney.

Mead Treadwell

Mead Treadwell

From what we hear Alaska’s congressional delegation and pro-development interests have coalesced their support around former Lt. Governor Mead Treadwell. If an Alaskan really has a chance, it will be him, not Gillam.

No New Rule — Now that state legislators know what the leadership organizations and committee assignments are going to be for the next two years, they can start filling the staff positions in their offices.

One big factor decision in the House had hiring in limbo for awhile. In previous legislatures, it had been standard for majority members to get three staffers during session and minority members got two. With the House moving from GOP control to a Dem dominated coalition majority there was talk of scaling that back to two staffers for the majority and only one for the minority. That wouldn’t have a big impact on Dems, they would be able to just keep the two staffers they had while in the minority. For incumbent Republicans now in the minority, however, that would have meant scaling down from three staffers to one. Ouch.

Word is the new House leadership decided against the move. Too bad, our back of the napkin calculations (40 staffers x a modest $50,0000 salary) would have meant annual savings to the state of at least $2 Million. That would have been a nice belt-tightening signal to send Alaskans looking at reduced PFDs, reduced state services, and new taxes. Alas, twas not to 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.

Staff Changes — Things are still in flux, but here are some of the staff changes we’ve heard about:

Freshman Rep. Jason Grenn is picking up Sen. Bill Wielechowski staffer Brooke Ivy and former Rep. Les Gara staffer Joe Cassie. And people thought Grenn was a Democratic plant pretending to be an Independent. How silly was that?

Word is Rep. Mark Neuman is losing Pete Ecklund to Sen. Peter Micciche’s office.

Sen. Bill Wielechowski’s campaign manager John Church appears to be headed for a front desk job in Sen. Berta Gardner’s office.

Yesterday’s press release detailing the new House Minority organization listed Jeremiah Campbell as the House Minority’s Press Secretary, so that move appears to be official. Let’s hope he avoids the recently cursed history of those manning such positions in the legislature. You can read more about those who have fallen victim here, here, and here.

What Does It Mean — Speaking of the new House Minority organization, when it was first announced, we were inundated with “what is a Finance Leader?” and “what does a Floor Leader do”?

Rep. Lance Pruitt

Rep. Lance Pruitt

Actually, both moves make sense. Rep. Lance Pruitt is the new finance leader, which is a position that didn’t exist before and is really nothing more than a title. More importantly, though, Pruitt gets to stay on the finance committee rather than trade it another position in the minority leadership that would arguably have less influence and visibility. It is a good strategic move for a guy who has his eyes set far higher than the legislature.

As for the new Floor Leader Rep. Dan Saddler, the notable part of that job is Saddler will

Rep. Dan Saddler

Rep. Dan Saddler

“coordinate the communications and press for the House Republicans” and act as “lead spokesman for the caucus.” Basically, Saddler will be in charge of wrangling legislators and keeping them on message. Good luck with that, Dan.

Saddler is a logical fit for those duties. Before getting elected to the House, Saddler was a House Majority Press Secretary, Deputy Press Secretary under Governor Murkowski, and has worked on several political campaigns as a communications staffer.

People often like to deride the legislature by asking how many of those serving would you hire if you were a private sector company. Well, in Saddler’s case, he appears unarguably qualified for the legislative job he’s been given.

Days Until The Next State Election705

Days Until Muni Election123

Back to the Majority — We were a little shocked to see former Republican Party flack Suzanne Downing make this mistake regarding Rep. Neal Foster:

downing-misinfo

Ok, we weren’t really that shocked, she just makes things up…a lot.

Foster is, in fact, Co-Chair of House Finance, one of the most important positions in the legislature.

What is interesting is how we are hearing Foster’s committee will be run. Historically, the finance committees have co-chairs so one can take the capital budget and the other the operating budget. The capital budget person has in the past also runs bills that come before the committee because, especially in these lean times, putting together a capital budget is less time consuming.

We hear things are going to be run differently in the House this year. Foster will be doing the capital budget, his Co-Chair Rep. Paul Seaton will handle the operating budget, and Rep. Les Gara, the committee’s vice chair, will run bills. In effect, the House Finance Committee will have three co-chairs.

Why is this happening? Some say Foster just didn’t want the workload of doing a budget and bills. Others say Gara just demanded a bigger role and this is what they gave him. Then again, both of those could be true.

Back to the Minority — Last legislative session we kept hearing that everyone, and we mean EVERYONE, was pissed at how Rep. Mark Neuman was handling the job of finance co-chair. He was yelled at by Senate Republicans, got called out on the record by Republicans on his own committee for seemingly hiding information, and of course, Dems always had their two-cents of criticism

If you want proof that those weren’t just rumors or heat of the moment flare-ups, look at this year’s committee assignments. Neuman went from finance co-chair to not on the committee at all and has no leadership position in the caucus. That speaks volumes.

I’ll Get The Popcorn — If you want a fun committee to watch at the legislature (and who doesn’t), our recommendation is House Judiciary. The Committee’s chairman Rep. Matt Claman is known as a super nice guy, but he doesn’t have the most in-charge personality, so how will he deal with a committee with uber-cons Rep. David Eastman, Rep. Chuck (Not Knopp) Kopp, and Rep. Lora Reinbold. Kopp is a respectful guy, but we are very excited to see Claman deal with firebrands Reinbold and Eastman. When is the first hearing on abortion, guns, or refugees? We will be sure to mark our calendars.

Dude, It’s Over — We used to think the award for the biggest difference between in-person and online demeanor went to online lion/in-person lamb Andrew Halcro, but defeated state senate candidate Kevin Kastner is starting to give him a run for his money. Kastner is a really nice guy in person, but online he sounds like Alaska’s Donald Trump, thin-skinned and vitriolic.

This week Kastner continued to attack his election opponent, Sen. Bill Wielechowski, nearly three weeks after the election ended.

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Someone tell him it is over.

Take This Coffee and Shove It — The folks at City Diner, who have the good (or mis) fortune of being located across the street from one of the Anchorage LIOs, thought they would make nice with their new neighbors with this offer:

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Ah, isn’t that nice? Apparently, Rep. Harriet Drummond’s people (who represents the district where City Diner is located) didn’t think so:

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Ms. Kranendonk definitely wins the “don’t take no crap from no one” award for leg staffers. You get’m, girlfriend.

Political Theater Alert— The best political theater next week will be the Anchorage Assembly meeting Tuesday night. Assemblyman Bill Evans, freed of re-election worries, is offering another contentious ordinance. This time he is trying to reform how the Municipal taxi industry is regulated and to effectively remove the limitation on the number of taxis that can operate in the city.

As you might imagine, current taxi operators are furious. They have hired lobbyist extraordinaire Frank Bickford.  and from what we hear are also planning a massive turnout in the Assembly Chambers as a show of force towards those Assemblymembers who still want to be reelected.

The clash should make the normally snooze-worthy Assembly meeting entertaining. Tune in or better yet, show up. It will be contentious.

Political Fly Into The Sun — If you have morsels you’d like shared in this column, please email us at mnsunak@gmail.com.

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.”