Speculating on rumors and gossip surrounding Alaska politics is a time-honored tradition. It’s time for our weekly trip through the grand, gross, weird, wild and wonderful world of Alaska politics. (Also if you feel like you have something good, you can always shoot me a tip via email at matt at midnightsunak dot com.)
There weren’t any major candidacy announcements out of the Republican’s State Central Committee meeting in Fairbanks last weekend (as this blog may have wrongly predicted), but there was an eye-opening look into the party’s finances.
Namely, we’re told they’re not doing as well as they’d hope. One financial document circulating around the meeting showed the party has just $38.36 in operating funds. The party’s net income isn’t particularly pretty. It reported about $165,000 in statewide income in the first half of this year, but $145,000 in expenses with the biggest chunk—$73,000—going to payroll.
Most of the party’s money is spread out among district accounts and the House and Senate majority funds, which some fear could get swept up to cover state party expenses. All told, the party has about $104,000 to its name.
Gov. Bill Walker and Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott announced their 2018 reelection campaign on Monday with the filings to run as unaffiliated candidates in the general election. What’s interesting, however, is the two later filed to run in the statewide primaries. The letters of intent don’t signify which primary, but odds are it would be the Democratic primary pending the outcome of a court case that would allow independents to run in the Democrat’s primary.
Either way, it makes a letter sent out Thursday afternoon by Alaska Democratic Party Chair Casey Steinau all the more puzzling. The letter recognizes that Walker and Mallott have filed and “don’t currently have the institutional support of either party.” It then goes on to explain, “The goal of the Democratic Party continues to be to elect Democrats. Additionally, the stakes in 2018 when it come redistricting couldn’t be higher. We must do everything possible to keep a Republican Governor from being elected in 2018.”
Everyone is trying to keep their options open.
It seems like support is beginning to gel around Republican Sen. Mike Dunleavy‘s candidacy for governor. Rumored challengers have yet to appear, and Dunleavy has recently started to run social media ads for his campaign. We’ve also been told he could have some serious campaign support coming in. But as Steinau said in her letter, “we are ten months away from the filing deadline and one year away from the August 2016 primary — an eternity in politics.”
Everyone wants what Walker and Mallott got
Who knows whether or not the Unity ticket will return to Alaska in 2018, but the latest word is a unity ticket is being considered by Govs. John Kasich, R-Ohio, and John Hickenlooper, D-Colorado. Sources told Axios that Kasich would top the ticket and both would run together as independents in 2020 if the plan comes together at all. The two have been making plenty of joint appearances in recent weeks as a counterbalance to the division sown by President Donald Trump.
And just like with Walker and Mallott’s 2014 unity ticket, Democrats would have to hold their nose on the social conservative edges of the Republican leading them to victory.
Congress to hear from Alaska
The U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee will be hearing from a half dozen governors about Obamacare and individual marketplace stability at a hearing in September. Gov. Bill Walker, who’s voiced his concerns multiple times throughout the Republican’s doomed repeal process, isn’t on the list, but Division of Insurance Director Lori Wing-Heier is expected to testify. Wing-Heier is one of the architects of the state’s reinsurance program that’s expected to drop premiums by more than 20 percent next year. Alaska U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski has a seat on the committee.
A campaign ad dream come true
The dismantling of the notorious, derelict Northern Lights Hotel made for plenty of good social media posts on Thursday. The building has been a magnet for vandalism, arson and other ne’er-do-wells and its demolition is expected to be a boon for the cramped Anchorage’s development, as well as Mayor Ethan Berkowitz‘s development-focused reelection bid.
New chief of staff
Ona Brause is the new chief of staff for Berkowitz, replacing Susanne Fleek-Green who’s now the superintendent of Lake Clark National Park and Preserve.
Kudos to Andre Horton on the rave review of his new donut shop, Dipper Donuts, in The Spenardian. Horton is a talented portrait photographer who also worked closely on efforts to oppose the repeal and replace of Obamacare, and is rumored to be hosting a fundraiser for Walker in September.
Rep. David Eastman shared conservative blogger Matt Walsh’s post about Eclipse Privilege that urges those with privilege to be mindful and considerate of those with eclipse deficiencies. Liberals are so totally burned.
U.S. Health and Social Services Secretary Tom Price visited Alaska to meet with the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, visit tribal health facilities and check out other facilities in the Anchorage area. There’s word, however, he may have had an off-schedule meeting of a political nature during his visit. Those involved with the meeting have been tight-lipped about its nature.
Follow the Filings
Rep. Chris Birch, R-Anchorage, had enough of the will-they-or-won’t-they when it comes to waiting on Sen. Kevin Meyer to make up his mind on running for lieutenant governor. Meyer’s been exploring a bid, but hasn’t come to a decision. It hasn’t stopped his representatives, Birch and Rep. Charisse Millett, from being pretty open about their interest. Birch officially filed for the seat this week and Millett told the Alaska Dispatch News that she would “definitely” be interested in the seat. Meyer, however, didn’t respond to the paper’s request for comment.
Otherwise this week’s filings haven’t contained much interest. Rep. Gary Knopp filed a letter of intent to run for reelection.
House Democratic candidate Kathryn Dodge, who’s running for the seat vacated by Rep. Scott Kawasaki to challenge of Sen. Pete Kelly, is already door knocking in House District 1. Rumor is her Republican challenger could be Fairbanks Councilman David Pruhs. Pruhs ran for the seat in 2012, losing by fewer than 200 votes, which make it one of Kawasaki’s closest races.
Grenn’s gas money
Independent Rep. Jason Grenn has taken to driving Uber—and sometimes Lyft—in his spare time. He says his goal is to make about $50 each time he goes out, which he says takes about three hours. It’s probably a financially prudent move considering Grenn is one of the few legislators to not take per diem in the disastrous special sessions. He says it’s been an interesting gig that’s introduced him to more constituents, tourists and other Alaskans.