Friday in the Sun!!! (January 13)

 

John-Henry Heckendorn

Chill Y’all — The right-wing talkosphere went nuts this week over Governor Bill Walker’s hiring of John-Henry Heckendorn. I found it interesting in terms of what it says about the thinking of the Governor and his Chief of Staff Scott Kendall, but Walker-haters fixated on the Governor hiring someone after imposing hiring restrictions on state departments.

It’s as though people think Governor Walker created a new lucrative position for Heckendorn. He didn’t.

Heckendorn was hired to assume the same “body man” position that Dean Williams vacated last January when Walker appointed him Commissioner of Corrections. The Gov’s office tells me Heckendorn is being hired in the same pay range Williams had when he held the position, so everyone settle down already. There is no “hiring freeze” scandal here.

Days Until The Next State Election663
Days Until Muni Election81

Off The Fence — For some time I have been telling you that Downtown Anchorage Democrats were waiting for a public indication from former Assemblywoman Sheila Selkregg whether she would be running for the open Downtown Anchorage Assembly seat this spring. She’d be the odds-on favorite to win the seat if she got in.

This week, however, we got a strong sign she won’t be running, when she approved her name to be used as a sponsor for a big fundraiser for current Downtown candidate Chris Constant. It looks like she made her choice and picked her horse. The lefty, Constant, is now the clear frontrunner to win the seat.

Taxi Wars — There’s a burgeoning taxi war in Alaska that will be fought on two separate fronts.

On the state front, Sen. Mia Costello got things started earlier this week by pre-filing a bill which would set the rules by which companies like Uber could enter the Alaska market.

On the local front, the Anchorage taxi industry got their ballot language approved by the Muni for a repeal of Assemblyman Bill Evans’ ordinance that would effectively end the cap on taxis operating in Anchorage. That move doesn’t directly open the Anchorage market to Uber, but it is largely seen as the first step toward that goal.

Now the taxi industry can start collecting the 5,754 signatures they need to get their repeal question on the ballot. They will get the signatures so expect to vote on the issue in April.

This promises to be one of the more entertaining political fights of 2017 with the taxi industry, Uber, and even Americans for Prosperity – Alaska all promising to put up a good fight.  

Brace Yourself — Speaking of prefiled bills coming out for the legislature, later today another batch will be publically released, so brace yourself.

Mayor Dan Sullivan

Straight Dope — Last year we told you about reports we were hearing that former Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan, who we continue to hear rumors is planning another bid for Mayor next year, was openly talking about starting a marijuana shop once it became legal. Now we are getting multiple reports the former Mayor was spotted by several customers of the local weed business Alaska Fireweed on December 23 procuring some “flower.”

Word is he walked in clad in a big blue parka with the hood up and wearing sunglasses. When a customer called him out, he pulled down the hood, took off the sunglasses and proceeded to make his purchase.

We asked Mayor Dan if the story is true, and he said it is totally… ”True.”  Well, kind of. Like most stories, it’s juicier to only hear it from one side. Mayor Dan says he has a friend going through chemo so he stopped in to get him a “stocking stuffer” for Christmas. He went on to say by text message  “I don’t smoke anything – love my lungs.”

The incident raises the question: If someone ran for elected office and admitted to recent, but legal, weed use, would anyone care?

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.

Sit Happens — And the first victory of the legislative session goes to… the lobbyists, or more specifically, Ashley Reed. A loyal reader sent us this picture this week of the 2nd floor of the Capitol with the hallway benches back in place.

The benches had been removed last year by Rules chairs Sen. Charlie Huggins and Rep. Craig Johnson for what was termed “security and congestion” reasons. Um, ok.

Word in the capitol was the benches were taken out as a shot at super-lobbyist Reed, who is famous for using the benches as his de facto office during the legislative session. We hear he made a stink over the past few weeks to incoming Rules Chairs Sen. Kevin Meyer and Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux , and got them put back.

“VICTORY IS MINE!!!!,” Reed would have said had we asked him for comment.

Sit Happens Part 2 — Here is the new seating chart on the House floor:

Walker Not Vulnerable? — The question on many politicos’ minds is: Will Gov. Bill Walker run for re-election? After reading the latest edition of the national publication Governing he might well decide he should.

They evaluate his re-election chances this way:

Alaska: Gov. Bill Walker (I)

Walker, a Republican-turned-independent, has had a reasonably good first two years. In the 2016 elections, a coalition dominated by Democrats seized control of the state House, and it seems intent on working with Walker to address fiscal issues.

Walker’s lieutenant governor is a Democrat, so the party is not expected to field a serious challenge in 2018.

The Republican incumbent ousted by Walker in 2014, Sean Parnell, could seek a rematch. If he doesn’t — or even if he does — a couple other Republicans might throw their hat into the ring. That said, Walker does not seem overwhelmingly vulnerable at this point.

Not sure we agree with their assessment, but it is always nice to get an Outside opinion.

Mark Your Calendars — The Governor’s State of the State address is just around the corner.

Your Alaska Politics Funny of The Day — Tip of the cap to rea_alaska  for posting this on Instagram earlier this week:

“To celebrate the historic half-term tenure of Governor Sarah Palin, the Alaska Mint Authority has announced the issue of the ‘Palin halfpenny.’ With US dollar strong against Alaska currency and a turbulent local economy, Alaska officials expect high demand for the halfpenny, which will become Alaska’s least valuable coin.”

We Drama For Life — The efforts of University of Alaska President Jim Johnson to downsize the insitution’s budget is meeting with quite the revolt among faculty. As a result, today’s meeting of the UAA Faculty Senate should be some good political theater as they will be debating a vote of no confidence on Johnson.

Here is the resolution they will be considering:

Tag Team Back AgainDon Smith and his granddaughter Sara Rasmussen are both running for Assembly, Don in Midtown and Sara in West Anchorage. More interestingly, they appear to be running as a team.

This week, Smith sent out a fundraising letter to Republicans citywide asking for money. Included in the package was a flyer and donation envelope for Rasmussen, and a letter from Smith that ends with:

“Please take a look at the enclosed flyer from Sara Rasmussen. Sara is my granddaughter and will be running for Seat 3 on the Anchorage Assembly. She is a 5th generation Anchorage resident and will make a wonderful addition to the Assembly. Please consider contributing to her campaign. Enclosed is her campaign flyer. ‘

There is probably a sticky campaign finance issue in there somewhere, but we have to wait for both candidates to file their APOC reports to see how they handled the mixing of campaign costs.

I know some of the more jaded among you are just waiting for me to post a racially questionable comment from Smith’s material, but you can relax, his materials were clean… this time.

He did, however, include in his mailer a flyer attacking Mayor Ethan Berkowitz for using city resources to feed and shelter the homeless. Smith characterizes the policy as “sad but true.” Is it?

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

Here are just some of the other events you can find on our Political Calendar

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.”