Friday in the Sun!!! (February 17)

It’s time for our weekly trip through the grand, gross, weird, wild, and wonderful world of Alaska politics. Warning: Right-wing Eagle River politics and Cathy Giessel make up like half the stuff in this week’s FITS, so if you don’t like either you may want to get off this ride right now.

Here we go… It’s Friday in the Sun!

Straight Outta AK Politics — Last night news broke that Crossroads Media and Blackrock Group founder Mike Dubke would be named White House Communications Director.

Dubke has worked on quite a few Alaska projects in the last few years, including the U.S. Senate campaigns of Dan Sullivan and Lisa Murkowski, as well as the anti-Pebble mine campaign financed by Bob Gillam and the effort by GCI to get Alaska lawmakers to adopt a comprehensive solution to the state’s budget crisis.

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.

Every Dem’s Favorite R — The last-minute entry of former Senator Fred Dyson into the race for the Chugiak/Eagle River seat on the Anchorage Assembly surprised many.

Word out of the race is that Amy Demboski and her crew wanted their own more conservative alternative to what they see as a party-insider-selected candidate in John Brassell. It seems they were looking for more of a right-wing firebrand to combat the liberal majority on the Assembly.

An interesting thing happened, though, when I began talking with the lefty powers that be in local politics: they all independently began showering Dyson with love. Assemblyman Eric Croft told me how Dyson would often include Croft’s language in his legislation because Democratic-minority bills couldn’t go anywhere on their own. Croft said, “I’ve always loved Fred Dyson and still do.” Another assemblyman, Forrest Dunbar, said he had a great working relationship with Dyson during his push for criminal justice reform, and said he thought Dyson would “fit well” on the Assembly.

Even Mayor Ethan Berkowitz, who served with Dyson in the state legislature, said, “We have a strange and wonderful relationship.”

More From The ER — Another interesting element of Dyson’s last-minute entry into the race is who is getting caught in the middle.

Several high profile names from the far right had signed on early to endorse Brassell, including former Lt. Governor Loren Leman and current Eagle River State House Rep. Lora Reinbold. Now with Dyson in the race they face the prospect of supporting the guy some see as the less-conservative alternative. That isn’t a position such folks like to find themselves in.

For now it seems Reinbold is sticking with Brassell, but he tells me Leman, Dyson, and he have all agreed to release Leman from his endorsement. It doesn’t seem Leman thinks any less of Brassell, he just has a long-standing relationship with Dyson and doesn’t want to be in the middle of their race.

This should serve as a warning to any political luminaries thinking about endorsing candidates before the filing deadline: Don’t do it.

Speaking of Leman — I’m hearing a lot of chatter about Leman putting together a run for Governor in the very near future. I’ll keep my eye on that.

Game Theory — There’s a hot rumor out of the ER about a poll being walked around showing Rep. Lora Reinbold beating Sen. Anna MacKinnon out for her State Senate seat next year. If that proves to be more fire than smoke it could have some interesting ramifications for next year’s elections.

First of all, it could certainly motivate MacKinnon to run for either Governor or Lt. Governor, rather than face a tough reelection bid for her own State Senate seat.

Second, if Reinbold does decide to run for State Senate, it would leave her State House seat up for grabs. I’m hearing soon-to-be termed out Assemblyman Bill Starr would love a  shot at it.

Poll Patrol — Since we’re on polls, I’m hearing there’s one in the field right now asking folks who they would vote for in the 2018 Gov’s race. The names being tested on the GOP side are Sen. Anna MacKinnon, Sen. Peter Micciche, Sen. Mike Dunleavy, Gov. Bill Walker, and Joe Miller. On the Dem side the poll is asking about Rep. Les Gara, Rep. Chris Tuck, Kenai Borough Mayor Mike Navarre, former U.S. Senator Mark Begich, and Sen. Bill Wielechowski.

Sorry, Sarah — There were rumors Alaska’s very own (whether we like it or not) Sarah Palin was being considered for a spot in Donald Trump’s administration as Ambassador to Canada. According to Canadian news outlet The Globe and Mail, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was given assurances during his recent visit to the White House that Palin would not be the choice.

So Close — Those of us hoping for a challenge to the Anchorage Clerk’s thinly-supported assertion that someone can’t run for two local offices at the same time sadly won’t get their wish this time around. David Nees had tried to run for School Board and Assembly simultaneously, but was forcefully encouraged by the Clerk’s office to drop one of his bids, which he did.

Late in the game, David Darden (no, not Dustin Darden) filed with APOC to run for two local seats with the intent of challenging the Clerk’s decision, but alas, the filing deadline came and went, and the other Darden didn’t make it down to file with the city, so there will be no challenge to the ruling this year

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. 

Trollin — This week, the Alaska Democratic Party’s data guru Matt Greene — who’s long been conscientiously trying to avoid appearing in local media and political blogs — scored a major victory for political trolling. He bought the domain registration for conservative candidate for the Downtown Assembly seat Chris Cox’s website and redirected it to the websites of progressive poster child organizations Planned Parenthood and the Human Rights Campaign.

It wasn’t quite as epic as Jeff Landfield’s similar trolling of the Rasmuson Foundation website, and it won’t change any votes, but it was a fun move on the Dem’s part.

Days Until The Next State Election627
Days Until Muni Election46

Fun Factoid — A loyal reader sent us this breakdown of donations so far in the race for the Midtown Assembly seat. Who has the most money doesn’t translate to who will win as much as you think, but donation lists do show which candidates are active and organized enough to effectively ask for money, and are a better barometer of who insiders really support than words are.

So here is what the numbers currently say in the Midtown race:

Deflation — After her conservative base went crazy over her bill to hike the state’s studded tire tax from $5 per tire to $75 per tire, Sen. Cathy Giessel introduced a “sponsor substitute” to bring it down to $50 per tire. Well, that should work — right-wingers hate 1500% increases in their taxes, but are totally cool with 1000% increases. Well played, Cathy.

This Is What It Sounds Like When The Constituents Cry — This is the time of year when various special interests fly into Juneau and make their rounds of the Capitol Building trying to convince legislators to fund or at least not cut their particular thing. I’ve been told by, well, pretty much everyone in Juneau that one such meeting went off the rails this week.

As I hear it, a group pitching funding for education included Anchorage School Board members Starr Marsett and Pat Higgins and two schoolchildren. When the foursome met with Sen. Cathy Giessel, she let loose on how bad the state’s fiscal situation is and how deep education spending needs to cut, so much so she made the kids cry.

The story goes that Giessel tracked down the tykes to apologize, but only after hearing that their parents are registered voters and her constituents and that Rep. Harriet Drummond encouraged them to write letters to the editor about the incident.  

Giessel Part 3 — Pretty much everyone in the Capitol that wasn’t texting me about the incident between Giessel and the kids was texting me about her snitty comment to Sen. Natasha Von Imhof during a Senate HESS committee hearing on SB 22, a bill regulating how pharmacists operate.

After Giessel told the committee why it should pass a particular amendment, Von Imhof voted against it, causing a 2-2 tie and the amendment’s failure. Afterward, Giessel said curtly and on the record, “Ya know, there is a reason Sen. Von Imhof is on the Finance Committee, she has expertise in that area. There is a reason I am on the health committee, I am a clinician.”  

That is legislature talk for “On this committee when I tell you what is what, that is how you vote. Period.”

You can watch the full exchange (at the 2:22 mark) here.

Overall, not a great week to be Sen. Cathy Giessel.

Sanctu-monious — There has a been a fight brewing between young progressive activists and older elected Dems, both nationally and locally, over whether or not to protest Donald Trump’s immigration actions by formally declaring communities “Sanctuary Cities” and daring Trump to do anything about it.

Pew Research put out polling data yesterday that I think explains why that is:

So younger folks see their peers overwhelmingly rejecting Trump’s actions and want to press the fight, while older electeds see their peers being split 50-50 on the issue, and thus favor a more moderated approach.

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.”
  • Lynn Willis

    .Remember that both Saddler and MacKinnon tried to oust Reinbold in the Primary last election. Reinbold deals in absolutes based on preconceived notions, personal bias, and often an agenda from outside; therefore, she produces nothing of significance because she lacks the ability to compromise with anyone.

  • akbatgirly

    Well at least Giessel has the “makes children cry” thing in common with Con Bunde. But I would take Bunde over Giessel any day. I have no idea how the woman keeps getting elected………she’s socially awkward, has moral values from the 1600’s, and, despite being a nurse, appears to have little or no compassion for people who get sick, pregnant, or have other medical conditions. I believe she claims to be a “volunteer school nurse”. Having seen her in action, I’m pretty sure that no school administrator would actually hire her for the job, so she just shows up for free, and they can’t figure out how to get her to quit coming.

    Bummer about Bill Starr. Like I said before, I know that there are many moral. conservative-minded people out in that part of the muni, why can’t one of them run? Reinbold is definitely an extremist, but she’s a decent human being.