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.)
It’s expected that this month and a half before the start of the special session will be used to negotiate at least the semblance of a deal between the House and Senate, as well as with their own members. With the governor and plenty of legislators up for reelection in 2018 nobody wants to stick around for very long.
Expect the permanent fund restructure to be part of the plan and some other form of revenue, possibly a sales tax simply because it’s the one thing Walker has yet to try. It also sounds like a big hitch is the absence of a Department of Revenue Commissioner after the departure of the Randy Hoffbeck (the hair will be missed).
There was a lot of hope that Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Mike Navarre—a former longtime Democratic state representative—would come on as the new commissioner for the Department of Revenue, but the well-liked advocate for fiscal responsibility has been rumored to have turned down the offer. Navarre has been an ally of Walker throughout the fiscal crisis and could be counted on for a well-reasoned explanation of the state’s fiscal crisis and the need for a reasonable approach to solving it. Navarre is term-limited and will be out of office later this year.
Even though it sounds like some folks are settling on Sen. Mike Dunleavy as the likely Republican gubernatorial candidate—particularly because he could have some big supporters—not everyone is enthused about the far-right candidate. His behavior in the Senate has definitely soured some of his Republican colleagues and there’s concerns about his ability to lead the executive branch.
Word is there’s been some polling going around examining different GOP gubernatorial candidates against Gov. Bill Walker and none other than former U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, who teased a run last week and continued with a KTUU interview this week. The names on that list? Dunleavy, former House Speaker Mike Chenault and the once-investigated-for-corruption-but-never-charged Ben Stevens.
One Republican insider said unless something big changes Walker could very well win reelection.
Last week, we reported a look into the troubled finances of the Alaska Republican Party. Word is that amid the financial troubles, the party has since parted ways with executive director Joshua Walton, who had been on the job for less than a year. It looks like the party’s income went up during his time there, but not by enough to cover his salary of about $70,000.
Sweeney appointment soon
The rumored appointment of Tara Sweeney, Arctic Slope Regional Corporation executive vice president of external affairs, to the undersecretary of Indian affairs is now expected sometime in September. The position would make her one of the top political appointees in the Interior Department in charge of the Bureau of Indian Affairs as well as the Bureau of Indian Education.
It also should be noted that this is an entirely new position that was created in 2016, but never filled by the Obama administration. Indian Law expert Brian Gunn for Law360 explains in detail why the position is important and would go a long way to balancing interests in the Department of the Interior.
“For the first time, an Indian policy official would be able to give direction and guidance on Indian issues to the non-Indian agencies and bureaus within the department,” he explained. “And for the first time, those agencies and bureaus would be obliged to comply. This change is much needed and long overdue.”
The state has had a long-running problem with processing eligibility applications at the Division of Public Assistance, which covers programs like Medicaid, senior benefits, SNAP and others. At the worst of it, applicants had to wait six months or a lot more to find out if they’re eligible. It’s been a largely underreported problem, but there’s been plenty close to the process who’ve been fuming for years over the glacial pace to fix it. The latest surrounding that effort? Folks are taking guesses at when the next phase of the backlog is cleared out, which includes more than 18,000 applications. An internal email describes it akin to the Nenana Ice Classic. Great fun for everybody, except maybe those 18,000 applicants and their families.
Labor Day weekend weddings
Well-liked staffer Genevieve Wojtusik is tying the knot with Jared Pigue this weekend. It’s one of many weddings that have come across the radar, but we’re glad to hear Wojtusik is happy and recovering well after being thrown under the bus by her former boss last year.
Following the filings
Former Anchorage Assemblywoman Elvi Gray-Jackson has filed a letter of intent with the Alaska Public Offices Commission. It’s unclear just who’s seat the well-liked Anchorage Democrat might be going after, whether it’s Sen. Berta Gardner or Rep. Harriet Drummond, but word is she’s not expecting to head into a primary challenge. Neither Drummond or Gardner have filed letters of intent with APOC.
As expected Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz has filed for reelection. A rumor from earlier this summer is former Mayor Dan Sullivan has been teasing a return to local politics and could be a potential challenger.
Rep. Charisse Millett has also filed for office with a blank letter of intent. Both Millett and Rep. Chris Birch have been openly eyeing the senate seat of Sen. Kevin Meyer, who’s rumored to be considering a bid for lieutenant governor. Birch has already amended his filing to run for Senate, staking his claim on the seat. Meyer’s yet to make a decision.
Last week, we reported that Fairbanks Councilman David Pruhs could be considering a run for Rep. Scott Kawasaki’s vacated House next year, a seat he came closer than anyone else to winning in 2012. Pruhs also happens to be on the local ballot this fall. Word is former Mt. McKinley Bank executive Bart LeBon is also considering a run.
Since last week, Reps. Dan Ortiz and Justin Parish have also filed for reelection. Both indicated they’re running for the House.
A who’s who and then some
It might actually be easier to list who isn’t co-hosting next week’s fundraiser for Gov. Bill Walker and Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott’s reelection campaigns. Here’s the latest list from the election committee.
Abbe Hensley, Adam and Kate Wool, Al and Ann Parrish, Amy Pettit, Andre Horton, Andy Holleman, Anne and Paul Radford, Anne Carpeneti, April Ferguson, Arliss Sturgulewski, Barbara Donatelli, Ben Mallott, Ben Stevens, Ben VanderWeele, Bernie and Connie Karl, Bert Cottle, Beth Kertula, Bill Sheffield, Blaine and Jean Bardarson, Blaine Gilman, Brian Rogers, Brit and Jerrod Galanin, Bruce Botelho, Bruce Bush, Carl Brady, Carl Propes and Dr. Natalia Saprykina, Carol Comeau, Carol Kenley, Chancy and Toni Croft, Charlene Huhndorf, Charlie Cole, Chris McNeil, Clark and Rosemary Gruening, Clem Tillion, Clyde and June Oberg, Colleen Stephens, Dan Ortiz, Dave and Dana Cruz, David and Sabrena Combs, David and Janet McCabe, David and Sabrena Combs, David Reaves, Dean Westlake, Diane Kaplan, Dick and Sandy Traini, Doug Glenn, Ed Rasmuson, Emily Tyrrel, Evon Peter, Forrest Dunbar, Fran Ulmer, Greg and Jeanette Wakefield, Hal Gazaway, Hugh and Trina Short, Hugh Ashlock, Ira Perman and Virginia Rusch, Jake Metcalfe and Moira Smith, Jason Grenn, Jerrol and Brenda Friend, Jerry Saddler, Jim and Beth Sampson, Jim Kubitz, Jim Powell, Jim Ujioka, Jim Whitaker, Joe Williams, Joey Merrick, John and Candace Hendrix, John and Linda Combs, John and Mary Witte, John Baker, John Clough, John Starkey, John Weddleton, Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, Karl Kassel, Katherine and Greg Jernstrom, Kim Reitmeier, Larry and Barbara Cash, Laura Herman, Lesil McGuire, Liz Medicine Crow, Loren Jones, Luke Hopkins and Elyse Guttenberg, Malcolm and Cindy Roberts, Mandy and Anthony Mallott, Margy Johnson, Marjorie Menzi, Mark Choate, Mark Jensen, Mary Helen Stephens, Mary K. Hughes, Matt Claman, Meg Nordale, Michelle Overstreet, Mike and Adele Gallagher, Mike Navarre, Miriam Arrons, Myra Munson, Nancy Barnes, Nelson Avelino, Niccole Borromeo, Randy Hagenstein, Randy Hoffbeck, Richard and Candace Behrends, Richard Green, Richard Monkman, Richard Peterson, Rita N. Sholton, Robin Samuelson, Roger and Karen Hickel, Ron Hyde, Ross Johnston, Roy Huhndorf, Samuel Johns, Tom and Lois Gilson, Tom and Heather Cashen, Tom Brice, Veronica Slajer, Vic Fischer and Jane Angvik, Wally Hickel Jr., Walter (Bud) Carpeneti, Wilfred Ryan and Willie Hensley.
(Also for those who noticed the name of a rumored Republican gubernatorial candidate on the list, that’s a different Ben Stevens.)
The date is Sept. 5 at the Atwood Mansion from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Also, leave your kids, stilettos and especially stiletto-wearing kids at home.