Mostly Murkowski: The Midnight Sun’s 10 most popular stories of 2017

This week, The Midnight Sun will be looking back at the year that was 2017. We’ll be discussing the good, the bad and Don Young moments from this year. Today, we’re kicking off our retrospective with a look back at some of the most popular stories we’ve published this year.

(Note: These are the most popular stories, not the most important stories. There’ll be important 2017 stories missing from this list.)

Murkowski’s uncomfortable-looking lunch with Trump

Sen. Lisa Murkowski gives President Donald Trump plenty of room during a White House lunch to discuss health care on June 13, 2017.

Though Republicans would come to embrace President Donald Trump when it meant passing a tax reform bill that greatly favored the wealthy and big corporations, many Republicans spent the early parts of the year avoiding being associated with the president. Senators fled from reporters’ questions, others denied any knowledge of the president’s latest incendiary tweet and Sen. Lisa Murkowski looked downright uncomfortable at a health care lunch with Trump.

Read: With the health care vote looming, Murkowski looked pretty uncomfortable at lunch with Trump

Murkowski tells Trump to knock it off

In keeping with the theme from above, the president’s twitter account was a constant headache for Republican legislators. The president’s twitter tantrums often threatened to derail or distract from big issues of the day. Trump’s June tantrum targeting “Morning Joe” host Mika Brzezinski, accused Brzezinski of “low I.Q.” crazy and insinuated that she had a facelift. Murkowski, who was in the midst of a fight for health care, was one of many Republicans to call on the president to cut it out.

Read: Murkowski to Trump over latest Twitter fight: Stop it!

Don Young’s cameo

What do Alaska’s lone congressman, a legendary 98-year-old bush pilot, the father-in-law of a sitting U.S. senator, side-by-side all-terrain vehicles and the sexual performance of elderly men have in common? They all appeared in an ad for a Fairbanks-area outdoor vehicle retailer. While the legendary old timers (who make regular appearances in the retailer’s ads) chat about how the 2017 Can-Am Defender has restored their libido, U.S. Rep. Don Young makes a cameo asking about his little bottle of blue pills. The ad was taken down shortly after we published the story, but was recently re-uploaded with the congressman’s cameo edited out.

Read: Alaska Rep. Don Young can’t find his ‘little bottle of blue pills’ in this local ad for ATVs

Fact-checking claims Walker cut ‘Patriot’ from 9/11 commemorations

Gov. Bill Walker attends the deployment ceremony for the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division on Sept. 8, 2017.

Short answer: No. We found the Alaska Republican Party’s mouthpiece was wrong in our fact check of its accusations that Gov. Bill Walker nixed the “patriot” from “September 11 Commemoration Day.” A quick skim of the history shows Walker and his predecessors all have officially commemorated the 9/11 terrorist attacks as “September 11 Commemoration Day.” Walker wasn’t breaking tradition in a grave liberal affront to the country as suggested.

Read: Did Walker really cut the ‘Patriot’ out of Patriot Day?

The no budget, no per diem initiative

After a year where legislators made headlines for collecting hefty per diem checks while accomplishing next to nothing in Juneau, a proposed initiative that would end per diem payments if a budget isn’t passed by the end of the regular session was immediately popular. Gov. Bill Walker recently said he plans to introduce such a bill next session.

Read: Proposed initiative would end legislative per diem if legislators can’t pass budget

Murkowski stakes out a position on health care

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski.

There was probably no more consistently popular story from this year than U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s position on the GOP’s efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. The numbers said the Republican plans would be worse for Alaska, constituents said it would be worse for Alaska and, ultimately, Murkowski said it would be worse for Alaska when she said she wouldn’t be voting for the last-ditch, repeal-only bill offered by GOP senators.

Read: Murkowski says she won’t support the repeal of Obamacare without a replacement

Sturgeon’s attorney joins campaign against Trumpcare

The Anchorage attorney for hovercraft hunter Jim Sturgeon, whose battle with the feds made him a hero with conservatives, also made headlines this year for campaigning against the GOP health care bill. Matt Findley was inspired by his son, who has a costly medical condition that’s become easier to treat under the Affordable Care Act.

Read: Sturgeon’s attorney joins campaign against GOP health care bill

An incompetent recall petition

Rep. Jason Grenn, I-Anchorage. (Photo by House Majority Coalition press office)

Party Republicans have spent much of 2016 fuming over bipartisan-minded Republicans and Republican-beating independents, scheming of ways to unseat them in 2018 or even earlier. One group went as far as filing a recall petition targeting Anchorage independent Rep. Jason Grenn for incompetence. The only problem? They filed it with the wrong election office. Turns out if you want to recall a state legislator, you need to file your recall with the state. Oops.

Read: Group accusing Rep. Grenn of incompetence files recall petition with the wrong election office

Supreme Court upholds the PFD veto

Walker announces the cut to the 2016 dividend during a news conference on June 29, 2016.

A lawsuit brought by Sen. Bill Wielechowski challenging Gov. Bill Walker’s veto of half of the 2016 dividend could’ve upended the political world, but instead the Alaska Supreme Court found the senator’s arguments to be less-than-convincing.

Read: Alaska Supreme Court upholds Gov. Walker’s veto of half the 2016 PFD

Murkowski chides the president once again

This is U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s fourth appearance on this list. This time for calling out President Donald Trump’s infamous “both sides” press conference. “There is no moral equivalence between those who are inciting hate and division and those who took to the streets to make it clear that hose views are unacceptable,” Murkowski wrote.

Read: Murkowski: “What the President said yesterday was wrong.”

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