It’s time for that weekly stroll down into the shady, unsubstantiated alleyways of the Alaska political world.
The 24th day of the session wasn’t particularly eventful, so we’re rolling the few highlights from Thursday that would normally be in the AKLEG Recap into today’s Friday in the Sun.
Just 66 days to go. As always, suggestions, tips and salty hate mail can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
A horse or a donkey?
The pro-Dunleavy super PAC Super Bowl ad kicked off this year’s campaign season and raised a few questions along the way. The inclusion of footage of Mike Dunleavy working with some sort of equine (I went to school in Nebraska so I have a better handle on cows and corn) caused many to wonder just how independent this independent expenditure group really is. As best we can tell, the footage is from a 2012 campaign ad cut by Dunleavy himself. We’re told this is not a particularly unusual move for candidates and independent expenditure groups (search YouTube for “Mitch McConnell b-roll”) but people are still wondering how the video got into the hands of Dunleavy for Alaska.
Still, our favorite Dunleavy ad is and forever will be this one assembled by Alaska Robotics.
Foles v. Brady
Speaking of the Super Bowl, this image was circulating the Legislature on Monday.
Speaking of the budget
The House passed an education budget on Wednesday night… or not, depending on who you ask. There’s a lot of talk surrounding the failed constitutional budget reserve vote and its impact on the actual meat of the bill, causing people to claim that the budget is not a budget at all. Most media rightfully pointed out that the budget advances with no funding, and we suggest that the vote had less to do with education than it did with settling the CBR vote early. Whether or not the complicated technicality is right, we certainly look forward to more messy attempts to explain what exactly happened. It’s all political.
Kawasaki v. Kelly
Speaking about politics in the Legislature, the race between Rep. Scott Kawasaki and Senate President Pete Kelly is already underway in the Legislature. The House seemingly rushed to pass Kawasaki’s House Bill 236, a perfunctory extension of the popular Alaska senior benefits payment program, on Wednesday night. Might it have anything to do with Kelly’s decision to introduce his own bill to extend the program last week? Kawasaki’s carried the bill since 2017. Kelly’s bill was already moving along at a quick clip having already moved out of the Senate Health and Social Services Committee after one hearing. It’s not the only legislation that’s creating a bit of stir. Kelly’s also carrying a bill to extend the bonding authority of the Interior Energy Project, which is a big priority to the Fairbanks area, and its House companion bill is being carried by minority Republican Rep. Steve Thompson.
Local elections might be taking a backseat to the Legislature, but did you know there’s a big election coming up in Anchorage? You did? Oh, that’s what we get for blogging from Fairbanks. Anyways, here’s the highlights.
The race for mayor will be a showdown between Mayor Ethan Berkowitz and GOP-endorsed Rebecca Logan, but there are plenty of other candidates who’ve piled in. Here’s the full list:
- Ethan Berkowitz
- Rebecca Logan
- Dustin Darden
- Timothy Huit
- Jacob Kern
- Paul Kendall (!)
- Matthew Mendonsa
- Ron Stafford
The interesting wrinkle on the race is the inclusion of Anchorage’s own bathroom bill targeting right-wing panic over transgender rights. Notably, both Logan and Berkowitz oppose the measure as does the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce.
An interesting exchange
Juneau Sen. Dennis Egan announced his retirement this week, and delighted political watchers the following day with some extra-salty comments about his colleague’s misgivings on Medicaid. Unleashed, one-foot-out-the-door Egan is going to be fun.
Along that same thread, there’s been questions about whether Juneau Rep. Sam Kito will return to the Legislature next year. Judging by Thursday’s Health and Social Services Committee meeting, he may also be feeling a little unbound. During the meeting, Kito unleashed some particularly tough, but admittedly justified, questioning on Rep. Matt Claman’s bill to set up a youth marijuana education program with the remaining 50 percent of marijuana taxes. Kito wondered if there was any justification for the bill.
“If we’re putting money into something, I want to know if it’s going to be effective,” he said. “Is this language is something that has come from another state and has show effectiveness or are we just hoping?”
It’s unusual to see a legislator be the least bit critical–even constructively–of a fellow caucus member’s bill during a hearing, but it’s refreshing.
Put to rest
As Rep. Adam Wool did with a bill by soon-to-be-former Rep. Zach Fansler earlier this week, Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux took ownership of one former Rep. Dean Westlake‘s bills during the Wednesday floor session. After a bit of confusion on the precise motion to make, LeDoux became the sponsor of House Bill 145, which would have repealed the requirement that massage therapists be fingerprinted for a national background check. The now-unseemly bill–at least in our eyes–was then promptly withdrawn by LeDoux. It could very well be that the withdrawal was based on something else entirely, and we’ll keep you updated. (We’ve since heard the withdrawal had more to do with some maneuvering with other legislation and doesn’t have any particular relation to its content.)
Rep. Tammie Wilson has reportedly attended the sexual harassment training mandated for all legislators, quietly settling a showdown she was having with LeDoux over the training. Wilson was the lone holdout to take the training because she wanted a third-party investigation into the handling of the sexual harassment allegations against Westlake and was at risk of losing her staff over the matter.
‘Thanks you for the commitment to our Party and our cause’
Former U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, who can rile up the Alaska political world by just glancing at the filing forms for governor, received a response to his inquiring to the Republican National Committee about its logo’s exclusion of Alaska that left some wondering if they even know who Begich is because they go to thank him “for the commitment you have made to our Party and our cause.”
To be fair to the RNC, Begich is probably one of the biggest contributors to their cause because just a mention of the former senator entering the governor’s race is enough to have boosters running for their checkbooks.
Birthday boy bowling
The latest word from the Legislature’s bowling league is that birthday boy Rep. Les Gara bowled a strike to win a free game.
House District 37 candidate William Weatherby is now the administrator of the “No To William Weatherby District 37” Facebook page after the page was apparently abandoned. Something weird seems to be going on here, but this is also the candidate who suggested to “kick through the target” when defending yourself against a woman “if it’s closer to an even match.” He addressed some of the things dug up from his Quora page, saying that our account of his answer was unfair. So, here’s the final part of his advice: “But seriously, only do that if she is hurting you and she is not stopping.”
Chief Justice Craig Stowers delivered his final address to the Alaska Legislature on Wednesday, sneaking in one last handful of sci-fi references. His previous addresses also included references to “Dune.” We’re told that and he’s also been known to throw around a “Young Jedi” or two in regular, everyday meetings. It’s not just reserved for fellow Supreme Court Justice Daniel Winfree. We also appreciate that Rep. David Guttenberg could clearly be heard laughing at the “Do or do not, there is no try” reference. Guttenberg is brother to fantasy writer Elyse Guttenberg, so we expect nothing less.
The hire of the talented former KTUU/KTVA videographer Brian Hild by the House Majority Coalition is already paying off with some snazzily produced videos.