After a long, exhausting and thoroughly depressing week, it’s time for the weekly stroll down the icy alleyways of political rumor and gossip.
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After an amazingly messy 24 hours, Senate District E is still vacant with Gov. Bill Walker and Alaska Republicans still at bitter odds over who’ll fill the seat. Republicans have forwarded Vicki Wallner after Tom Braund withdrew his name from consideration, and Walker has asked for two more names officially rejecting Rep. George Rauscher and Todd Smoldon (amid all the problems with Braund and Rauscher, folks are still wondering why Smoldon never got consideration). No one’s really sure about what will happen next, but it ought to be interesting.
We’ve heard that some Senate Republicans may have been privately supportive of Randall Kowalke, Walker’s first pick for the seat, but have been told it was certainly not widespread. It also seems that while the administration knew that Braund was a hard-line anti-abortion guy, the posts calling for abortion providers to be hunted and executed “with scissors cutting out their hearts” caught them off guard. It’s lead to a completely mixed response to the move. Some are calling it a totally gangster move while others are horrified that Walker would’ve put such a candidate so close to the Senate.
The insistence by the Senate and the Alaska Republican Party that the decision be left up to the will of the voters rings hollow when the “voters” are, as Jeff Landfield of the Alaska Landmine pointed out in his excellent review of the debacle, a group of 30 to 40 of the most involved local Republicans. He estimates that if it were really up to local Republicans the nominees would have been Rauscher, Kowalke and either former Rep. Jim Colver (who’s on the outs with the party because he showed signs of bipartisanship) or Eddie Grasser.
And there’s also this:
— Nat Herz (@Nat_Herz) February 16, 2018
The year start reports for the 2018 political campaigns were released this week, giving us a first look into the status of various campaigns. We’re working on a more exhaustive breakdown of the reports, but here are some interesting takeaways from first glance.
- Mike Dunleavy has raised $86,671 through some 380 individual contributions, $1,000 from a single PAC and contributed $17,500 of his own money. What’s interesting is just how much he’s already spent: $30,840.29, which is 30 percent of his total fundraising.
- Walker and Mallott have spent a combined $88,000 but have raised a combined $481,775 from a combined 2,200 contributions (they can double dip because they’re separate campaigns) with another $100,000 left over from their last campaign. Their spending amounts to about 16 percent of their total fundraising.
- $200,001. That’s how much Scott Hawkins has given to his own campaign for governor. He’s raised a paltry $17,169 from 95 contributions outside his own giving.
- Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz has raised more than double the amount raised by GOP-backed challenger Rebecca Logan. He’s netted $102,090 to Logan’s $50,026.29. Berkowitz will also be heading into the final run to the April 3 election with a huge $71,000 warchest to just $13,000 on hand for Logan. (Berkowitz’s fundraising isn’t going to slow down either, Midnight Sun publisher Jim Lottsfeldt will be hosting a martini and manhattans fundraiser next Thursday along with Mark Begich, Deborah Bonito, and Lloyd Miller and Heather Kendall Miller)
- Elvi Gray Jackson, who’s running for the seat that Sen. Berta Gardner plans to retire from, has raised the most of any non-incumbent candidate for the Legislature at a whopping $67,814.50.
- There sure are a lot of lobbyists giving to Sen. Kevin Meyer‘s campaign for lieutenant governor. He had apparently sought out such contributions just prior to session, earning him the title of “Mr. Sanctimonious” by one political insider because he had introduced legislation targeting Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux‘s lobbyist-friendly super PAC. He’s raised about $83,300 with what looks like about a quarter coming from lobbyists though we haven’t had the time to cross check his donor list, yet.
- Republican candidate for lieutenant governor Edie Grunwald raised in a respectable $41,000.
- $71,445 to $48,540. That’s the fundraising totals for Senate President Pete Kelly and Rep. Scott Kawasaki, who’ll be facing off in the fall.
I spent all week trying to find some time to write about the ceremony dedicating the House Finance Committee chambers to the late Al Adams. It was a fine event that brought together legislators, staffers and friends both old and new to tell plenty of stories about Adams and hint at many more that couldn’t be told in polite company. The last sole chairman of the House Finance Committee was remembered for his deft political maneuvering and his attention for rural Alaska in championing the power cost equalization program.
Don’t take my hastily pieced together summary of the event for it, go watch the excellently produced video by the House Majority Coalition.
Saturday meetings a must
The House Community and Regional Affairs Committee has been holding Saturday meetings much of the session and much to the consternation of Rep. Dan Saddler will continue to hold such meetings. During the Tuesday’s meeting, Saddler asked if Saturday meetings will continue to be on the schedule for the rest of the session and said that it’s a lot of work as finance subcommittees are also wrapping up. Chair Rep. Justin Parish‘s response? “The work of the committee must be performed.”
The Senate Finance Committee spent much of Thursday’s meeting with Department of Education and Early Development Commissioner Dr. Michael Johnson complaining that his presentation didn’t accurately show that the Senate does, in fact, support education very much.
“We will continue to try to be very publicly grateful for that,” he said.
The Senate Finance Committee has been a favorite place for Senate Republicans to grandstand about their various budget priorities that seem to focus entirely on “right-sizing” government. Sen. Click Bishop, one of the more moderate members of the Senate Majority, seemed to have enough of it during the Wednesday’s meeting on the public employee retirement system. The state’s been operating with a 401k-ish defined contribution retirement program instead of the traditional defined benefit program (which is compounded because state employees are not eligible for social security). It’s caused plenty of younger employees to look elsewhere for making a career, and it’s a problem recognized by a lot of legislators like Bishop.
“This is Click’s opinion and nobody elses’s at this table,” he said. “I’ve said it and I’ll say it until the day I die, a defined benefit plan will work if you’re honest with the multiplier in your actuarial assumptions.”
It was followed by as close to a mic drop you’ve ever seen in committee.
The handling of Sen. David Wilson‘s hallway confrontation of a legislative aide is still continuing to simmer behind the scenes. We’ve been told that Senate Minority Leader Berta Gardner was allowed to view the security camera footage of the incident during Thursday’s Legislative Council meeting, even though both House Speaker Bryce Edgmon and the legislative aide have still yet to see the tape. Gardner was unimpressed with the Senate Majority’s middling discipline that included a “letter of responsibility” that essentially blamed the legislative aide for the incident and has called for tougher penalties for what the Legislature’s HR manager said was an obvious case of workplace retribution.
The Legislative Council also approved Jessica Geary to take over as the executive director of the Legislative Affairs Agency.
Happy Elizabeth Peratrovich Day!
— Pat Race (@alaskarobotics) February 16, 2018