Good morning, and welcome to the final day of the candidate filings. Filings close at 5 p.m. today, and there’s already plenty talk about below.
Of course that 5 p.m. deadline isn’t really the final say on the shape of this fall’s races. For one, candidate filings can and will continue to come in over the following hours and potentially even days. But more importantly is the fact that candidates can still withdraw from the primaries as late as 5 p.m. on July 2. Even then, the Aug. 21 primary results aren’t a solid indicator of the Nov. 6 general election. Primary winners will have until 5 p.m. on Sept. 4 to withdraw from the general election, which would allow the party to replace the candidate within that same window.
So really, the countdown to general election ballot being set is:
Governor’s race upended
The news is a culmination of months and weeks of rampant rumors about the former U.S. senator’s potential run for Alaska governor. We’ve heard that Begich has been talking with pretty much anyone who’d listen about their thoughts on him entering the governor’s race, and, because of course, there’s been plenty of polling on different scenarios.
It sounds like the decision was truly up in the air until late Thursday night, and our multiple confirmations came in from close and trusted sources starting around 8:30 p.m.
The reaction we’ve heard has been thoroughly mixed, even among hardcore party Democrats. On the one hand there’s a lot of excitement about having a true blue Democrat in the race, particularly as many liberals’ patience with the once-Republican independent governor has worn thin. On the other hand, there’s a lot of concern that the creation of a three-way race in the general election will simply split the vote and hand over the seat to a far-right Republican like Mike Dunleavy.
While that other hand scenario has been the ruling thinking on the matter, it sounds like Begich has a very different take on it.
The thinking we’ve heard over the last few days (which is also much more disconnected from the sources that confirmed Begich is running) is that the polling suggests that Begich could actually prevail in a three-way race, which runs contrary to what everyone’s thought about the landscape of the governor’s race so far. It’s been assumed that a three-way race would see Walker and Begich split the vote and leave the Republican candidate a clear path to the governor’s mansion.
But the emerging thinking seems to be that Begich, who’s been quietly and tidily staking out a firmly pro-PFD position over the last few months, would draw from both assumed Republican front-runner Mike Dunleavy, whose campaign has been almost singularly about the PFD, and Walker, who had the “at least he’s not Mike Dunleavy” vote.
The wrinkle another insider points out, though, is there’s talk that the unions might stick with Walker thanks in large part to the recent appearance of actual capital budgets. A wrinkle on that wrinkle, however, is that union leadership–at least among state employees–might not be carrying as much sway as it normally has. There’s quite a bit of dissatisfaction that we’ve heard over current contract negotiations as well as some working conditions under the Walker administration (which admittedly probably has more to do with the fiscal crisis than Walker).
Republican side of the ticket
Just as rumors about Begich entering the Alaska Democratic Party’s primary, speculation that former Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell would enter the race also began to pick up steam. It sounds like the third-place finisher in the Republican 2014 U.S. Senate primary has been just as conflicted as Begich. It doesn’t help, either, that Dunleavy is pretty much already presumed to have the Republican nomination locked up.
There’s still a lot of push for him to enter the race, particularly among the pro-business crowd and traditional Republicans. At best they don’t see Dunleavy’s full-PFD platform as feasible and at worst they see a Dunleavy administration as potentially disastrous for business and industry.
The latest we’ve heard was that he was still on the fence, but we wouldn’t be surprised if the news about Begich entering might prod Treadwell into running as well. The race for governor has been turned on its head, after all.
On the same front, it sounds like Nikiski Rep. Mike Chenault is close to officially dropping out of the race. There’s never been a lot of good news regarding the former House speaker’s gubernatorial ambitions outside a few fundraisers. The assumption is that he’ll return to run for the House, but we’ll see.
And things aren’t looking great for Scott Hawkins, who’s had a rough time of gaining any traction throughout his campaign and racked up less than 10 percent of the vote after Thursday’s AOGA debate.
Other legislative races
A lot of legislative races are in major flux today as the filing deadline approaches, so we’ll plan on having a full round up of how things played out after the 5 p.m. filing deadline. But for now, here’s the big-ticket changes on the radar this morning.
Seaton’s done with Republicans
Rep. Paul Seaton has had enough with the Alaska Republican Party and last night officially walked away from the Republican primary altogether. According to the Division of Elections, Seaton is now running as a nonpartisan in the Alaska Democratic Party’s primary.
Seaton is one of three Republicans who crossed lines to caucus with the Democrat-led House Bipartisan Coalition, landing a powerful position as co-chair of the House Finance Committee in the process. It’s rankled Republican Party leadership, who’ve called the three Republicans traitors and tried to boot them from the primaries altogether.
Seaton, who’s known for being on the more stubborn side of things, likely has had enough with the party. Still, with what was looking like it was going to be a four-way primary many are wondering just how wise the move is. Seaton would have handily won the race, just as he’s done with previous Republican challenges, but now he could be in limbo in a head-to-head race.
The other Republicans who were under fire, Rep. Louise Stutes and Gabrielle LeDoux, both have Republican challengers who’ve either filed with the Division of Elections or have filed preliminary paperwork with the Alaska Public Offices Commission.
Rauscher sets his sights lower
Republican Rep. George Rauscher has been filed to run for Senate for the last few weeks, setting up a three-way Republican primary with appointed incumbent Sen. Mike Shower and Walker’s off-list pick of Randall Kowalke. It left the seat open to former Constitution Party candidate Pamela Goode, who’s got the backing of Rep. David Eastman (who one political insider called an offensive name apropos of nothing this week). There was a lot of concern that the ultra-conservative Goode could put the race into play for an independent or even, gasp, a Democrat.
That’s likely why Rauscher has relented on his dreams of joining the Senate and has withdrawn from the race and filed to run for his seat again. Republican Vicki Wallner had also filed for the seat, but we heard she might withdraw.
The deadline for primary candidates to withdraw from the race is 5 p.m. on July 2.
There’s been talk in Democratic circles that Rep. Steve Thompson, R-Fairbanks, might be considering retiring from the Legislature. Thompson, a former mayor, is well-liked and well-respected across the political spectrum. He rose to co-chair the House Finance Committee, but saw his role diminished with the heightened partisanship of the last session.
He’s currently filed for the seat, but picked up a Democratic challenger in Fairbanks North Star Borough Assemblyman Van Lawrence this week. Lawrence is a well-liked and established Democrat in the Interior and likely wouldn’t be filing unless there’s a chance that the seat will be open.
There’s been plenty of Republicans waiting for an opportunity to run in the generally Republican, but mostly non-voting military House district. We’ll see.
Juneau caucus plans
Last week, we reported that there’s concern among Democrats that the independents running for office in Juneau can’t be counted on to caucus with Democrats and might even be actively planning on caucusing with Republicans. Undeclared candidate Chris Dimond, who’s running for the downtown Juneau House seat, reached out to us on this point and provided the following statement:
“To clarify: my preference for a caucus would be a true bipartisan working group. More diverse than the 30th Legislature, if possible. Alaska is a big state with a broad range of ideas and needs for its populace. My next preference would be to caucus with the Democrats, as I lean towards that party by nature. However, if the Republicans controlled the House next year, I would weigh the benefits and caucus with them as well if it looked to be in the best interest for my district and the state. I believe party politics need to take a back seat right now so people can start working together to find compromises to get Alaska moving in a more positive and productive direction.”
Democratic candidates Zack Fields and Elias Rojas came out swinging with significant endorsements for their bids to replace Rep. Les Gara for the deeply blue House District 20, but insiders are pointing out one that might not be entirely welcome.