This was the first week of the legislative session and today is the first day of the Trump administration, so buckle in, this is going to be a rough couple of months for everyone.
With that, let us begin our sometimes serious, always entertaining and occasionally absurd trip through the week that was in Alaska politics.
Leg Session First Week Fails —
Gavel Alaska: It appears Rep. Scott Kawasaki had plastic surgery to look exactly like Rep. Neal Foster.
House Majority Caucus: Here was the banner on the new House Majority website at he beginning of the week. Let’s play “which one of these things is not like the other, which one of these things doesn’t belong.” In case you don’t see it, that’s Pat Higgins there in the top left corner. Not only is he not in the majority, he didn’t even win his race against Rep. Charisse Millett.
***UPDATE*** The banner has now been updated after I pointed out the problem — I do what I can for y’all at the legislature.
Looking For A Job? — Check out the Anchorage Economic Development Corporation (AEDC) website, there are plenty of openings. Jon Bittner, who was Vice President, and Pamela Kauveiyakul, who was Business and Economic Development Director, have both been erased from the website in recent days. Word on the street is AEDC head honcho Bill Popp had given assurances he wouldn’t re-up when his contract expired, which would allow Bittner and staff to move up. But then he re-upped for another three years and they bolted.
West Anchorage Moves — The candidacy of Don Smith’s granddaughter Sara Rasmussen for the West Anchorage Assembly seat lasted less than three full weeks. She has now dropped out, telling me:
“I decided, with my son being one, I will wait a year or two before running. He’s my biggest priority and I don’t want to miss so much while he’s going through so many milestones.”
I’ll say this for Rasmussen, that is certainly more believable than the normal “I’m leaving to spend more time with my family” line many politicians spout.
With Rasmussen out, many-time conservative candidate for State House and School Board David Nees has filed his APOC paperwork to run. It looks like he will be the Republican-backed candidate in the race.
Right Out Of The Gate… Really? — Since Nees is now a candidate, it’s appropriate to point out he posted this pic and comment combination to Facebook this week. I’m not Native, but I’m guessing those who are might take exception.
Days Until The Next State Election — 663
Days Until Muni Election — 81
Capitol Tunes — Dems haven’t just gotten themselves control of the State House, now there are enough of them in the legislature to form their own band. From what I hear, a group is forming including Rep. Adam Wool on drums, Rep. Bryce Edgmon on mandolin, Sen. Tom Begich and Rep. Neal Foster on guitar, Rep. Matt Claman on trumpet, and Rep. Chris Tuck on the sax.
Now all they ned is a name. Any suggestions? I hear the leading idea right now is the Bicameral Boys.
Top five songs they should play:
I Won’t Back Down – Tom Petty (To play during the special session, errr, I mean if there is a special session)
Fight The Power – Public Enemy (For when the Senate Minority wants to complain the majority won’t listen to them)
Don’t Stop Believing – Journey (When Sen. Pete Kelly won’t give the House an income tax)
Faith – George Michael (To play when social conservatives offer a bill on LGBT, abortion, sex ed, or really any issue)
Sweet Caroline – Neil Diamond (For when you need a sing-along. Can anyone resist this song?)
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.
Guy I’m Most Jealous Of — Commissioner of Fish and Game Sam Cotten just returned from a two-week vacation with his wife and friends to the newly opened isle of Cuba. According to Cotten, the group spent the time at a farm in the countryside and enjoyed touring around in ‘40s- and ‘50s-era cars and visiting tobacco farms, museums, and the Bay of Pigs, among other things. Sounds lovely.
How Open — House Majority Leader Chris Tuck made a point at the House Majority’s first press conference of announcing his caucus’s meetings would be open to the public and held 30 minutes prior to floor sessions. That’s supposed to allow more transparency to the public than the normal practice of caucuses of having closed-door deliberative sessions.
I heard, however, that the majority held closed-door caucus meetings on Saturday in the Speaker’s chambers and Sunday at the Sealaska building. When asked, the majority clarified that in addition to having the open caucus meetings before floor sessions, they will also be having closed-door caucus meetings as needed.
Um, so what exactly is the point of having — and touting — the open caucus meetings? Won’t anything the public might want to hear just be held until the closed meetings?
Our Alaska — Congrats to Drew Cason, who started his new gig as the House Majority’s Deputy Press Secretary this week. Cason’s move adds to a growing list of young professional group Our Alaska’s members accending to new positions in the halls of Alaska power. Other notable group participants rising just this month include newly sworn-in Rep. Jason Grenn and the Governor’s new special assistant John-Henry Heckendorn.
Our Alaska has clearly succeeded in providing a pathway for younger adults to go from fledgling outsiders trying to affect the political system to influencers inside the power structure. The future of the group seems unclear at this point, but even if it does nothing else, that is a pretty solid accomplishment.
Appointment Listening — Join the throngs of The Midnight Sun The Podcast listeners who wait eagerly for the latest episode to drop every Sunday morning. If you aren’t already addicted, you soon will be. This week Forrest Dunbar and Casey Reynolds are joined by legislative staffer Jesse Kiehl and Fairbanks Daily News-Miner political reporter Matt Buxton to discuss the first week of the legislative session and the Governor’s State of the State speech.
Not Really Moving Up — Mallory Walser, better known as Mallory Peebles, is settling into her new role as House Minority Press Secretary, but it hasn’t been without a few bumps. I hear there was quite a spat between her boss Rep. Charisse Millett, who wanted a new office for her girl, and Rules Chair Gabrielle LeDoux, who controls such things. LeDoux couldn’t find Walser an office and was content to let the minority flack work out of the leadership’s office, as has been done in the past.
I hear quite the war of words broke out between the two before Sen. Gary Stevens finally helped settle things by finding a desk for Walser/Peebles in Senate Majority controlled offices in the Thomas Stewart building.
Dr. Mark — Last night the Alaska Democratic Party held a mysterious event at the IBEW offices in Anchorage billed as “A Dialogue with Mark Begich.” The room filled with about a hundred people, including notables like the Mayor’s Chief of Staff Susanne Fleek-Green, Schawna Thoma, David Ramseur, Pete Higgins, Robert Gottstein, and local candidates Andy Holleman, Assemblyman Pete Petersen, and Chris Constant. Heck, even the Alaska Republican Party’s new Executive Director Josh Walton showed up to see what was happening.
Was Begich making a major announcement like “I’m running for Governor?” Was it a party fundraiser? Was it a policy talk or rally of some sort? No one seemed to know, but the uncertainty only added a nervous energy to the room. It almost felt like a campaign kickoff.
What the night turned out to be was some much-needed group therapy doled out by Dr. Mark for Dems suffering from pre-PTSD due to the imminent inauguration of President-Elect Donald Trump. Begich told those in attendance they needed to get up off the mat and keep fighting. He went on to point to Dems’ recent election successes in local and State House races in Alaska as proof they are making real headway.
Did it help? We’ll have to wait and see.
For Next Week — The State House got a last minute shake-up to its floor session seating chart. Here is the seating arrangement before and after the change. We’ll bring you some insight into the changes next week, but for now, just try to spot the changes and have some fun seeing if you can figure out why they were made.
Dearly Departed — Today is the last day for outgoing House Majority Press Secretary Jeremiah Campbell. Send him some flowers, he likes pretty things.
Political Fly Into The Sun — If you have morsels you’d like shared in this column, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here are just some of the other events you can find on our Political Calendar —