With solstice in the rear-view mirror, it’s finally summer! Before you head off into the Midnight Sun-filled weekend of adventure, take a quick trip down the well-lit streets of unsubstantiated gossip and rumor from the Alaska political world.
Alaskans Against Dunleavy
There’s a new independent expenditure group on the scene today: Alaskans Against Dunleavy.
The group is helmed by Justin Matheson of the GOP-allied Axiom Strategies political firm, which accomplished the impressive feat of getting thoroughly unlikable Texas Sen. Ted Cruz to the finals of the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.
The entrance of the group is yet another brick in the establishment’s resistance to the candidacy of Mike Dunleavy, who’s made a lot of the traditional, business-crowd Republicans pretty uncomfortable with his promises of a full PFD and another big round of cuts to state spending. Whether the group and Mead Treadwell will bring enough bricks to the table to build a wall against Dunleavy’s already-considerable momentum is a whole other question.
Meanwhile, the confusingly named PAC Dunleavy for Alaska has collected a grand total of $552,340. About half of that money has come from Dunleavy’s brother, Francis.
Democrats for Walker
Gov. Bill Walker held a fundraiser in Fairbanks this week and it was attended by the sort of crowd you might expect to attend a Mark Begich fundraiser. There were some key labor-friendly Democratic players from the area like Fairbanks Borough Mayor Karl Kassel, former Fairbanks Borough Mayor Luke Hopkins, former state Sen. Joe Thomas and Don Gray (though there were certainly plenty of younger, progressive faces missing from the crowd). The event was hosted at the Blue Loon by owner Rep. Adam Wool. Reps. Jason Grenn (who was in town for the signing of House Bill 331) and Scott Kawasaki also made appearances. Candidates Grier Hopkins, a Democrat who’s running for House District 4, and PJ Simon, an independent who’s running for House District 1, were also there.
Bernie Karl, the no-microphone-needed owner of Chena Hot Springs Resort, also made an appearance, making a personal, pipeline-centric pitch in support of Walker. Karl’s typically active in Republican circles, but has been a long-time booster of Walker.
There was plenty of talk going on around the room, though, about the need for Walker and Begich to get together at some point to figure out if the race could be reduced to a two-way with the Republican nominee.
Alaska Native leaders for Walker
Walker will be back down in Anchorage next Thursday for another fundraiser hosted by a who’s-who of Alaska Native leaders at the home of former State Sen. Georgiana Lincoln. Here’s a a list of the co-hosts.
Softening the message
We heard that the Anchorage Police Department had a meeting with Anchorage-area legislators this week, where the message was largely “Please stop meddling with the laws and let reform work.” There was a fair amount of discussion that Senate Bill 91 isn’t actually the cause for all the crime in the area, but they didn’t seem to have quite as solid of an answer for why crime has gone up. It turns out, as most people have been saying, that crime is complicated.
Tweets and Tariffs
We also heard that down in Anchorage, as legislators are considering some renovations to the legislative information office, an engineer told the group that “timeliness is everything” and that getting rolling sooner rather than later was critical before Trump’s “tweets and tariffs drive up the cost.”
The Alaska Democratic Party released a press release this week blasting the state for apparently sitting back and doing nothing to address the family separations going on at the border under Trump’s zero tolerance policy. We heard that Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott took issue with the press release, considering it came out at about the same time Walker delivered a pretty strong message against the separation policy. We’re not sure what the response from the party was, but there was a later release that updated where everyone stood on the issue, noting that Walker “Tweets About Border Separation Policy, But Stops Short of Using His Position or Administration to Engage on Issue.”
LeDoux door knocking
There’s gossip going around Anchorage Democratic circles about Republican Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux’s recent doorknocking stops. Apparently, the bipartisan-minded LeDoux has been knocking on the doors of some of her district’s well-known and well-connected Democrats, making the pitch that if they support her and support a bipartisan coalition in the House then maybe they should consider switching their party registration to support her in her contested Republican primary. It’s raised eyebrows, but it’s not really unheard of in other races.
A cool kick off
Juneau Democrat Jesse Kiehl held his campaign kick off party this week at local ice cream shop Coppa, where we’re told a special ice cream was whipped up for him that’s a mix of Hoonah blueberry with tumeric toffee for Alaska flag colors with a caramel star to top off each scoop. The name for the new ice cream was put to a vote with the following results:
- I Squeal, You Squeal, We All Squeal for Kiehl: 9
- The Alas-Kiehl Flag: 22
- Senatorial Sundae: 25
(We’d argue that “sundae” is not really an ice cream flavor.)
Kiehl’s running for the Juneau Senate seat held by the retiring Dennis Egan. Kiehl was a long-time staffer for Egan.
Anchorage Republican and perennial candidate David Nees announced this week that he’s filed a lawsuit against the state over the Division of Elections’ decision to deny his filing to run in the Republican primary for Senate K, which is currently held by Republican Sen. Mia Costello. The state argues that his filing was received after the deadline, and his suit argues that he did, in fact, file before the deadline.
Up in Fairbanks, folks are making note that KFAR’s David Pruhs seems to have plenty of opportunities for Sen. Pete Kelly over the last few months, but no invitations for Kelly’s challenger Rep. Scott Kawasaki. Kawasaki used to make plenty of appearances on the station, but it seems that the preference for Democratic guests have shifted to everyone other than Kawasaki.
Still, we have to give props–as wrestling fans–to Kawasaki who’ll be hosting a “Road to the Senate Summer Slam” fundraiser next week.
As expected, there’s been a lot of pressure on independent candidate PJ Simon to drop out of the race for House District 1, particularly by people concerned that he’ll play spoiler to Democratic candidate Kathryn Dodge. The hitch with that, though, is it relies on the assumption that Simon–who’s Alaska Native and a member of boards of Doyon, Limited and the Tanana Chiefs Conference–is on the liberal side of things, but he honestly seems to be more conservative, particularly when it comes to resource development. House District 1 will be an open seat this fall as current Rep. Scott Kawasaki is pursuing the Senate.
We’ve heard a lot of talk about some new polling on the race for governor, and that it’s pretty interesting, but nothing solid has reached us quite yet.
Political reporter Nat Herz had his final day at the Anchorage Daily News this week. He’s heading over to the excellent Alaska’s Energy Desk. Best of luck in your new endeavors.
Closing out with the governor’s race, this week saw a flurry of new campaign ads by Gov. Bill Walker and Republican front-runner Mike Dunleavy. We sent around the ads to a few friends of the blog to get their reactions. Here’s what they said.
“I don’t know. There’s not really a message in it other than ‘I have a family.’ But I get it because he doesn’t exactly come off as friendly.”
“I bet the protective dad plays well in the conservative circles.”
“Is it safe to ride on a tractor like that?”
Family Game Night
“It’s funny and had a cute message. Their production quality is so good.”
“I think it has the same goal as the Dunleavy one, but they did it better.”
“They should really play something other than Settlers of Catan.”
At the mention of a million bucks to give his brother, a dig at Dunleavy, “Ooooh!”
“I feel like my dad would watch this and be like, ‘Yeah, I like that.'”
“Damn, that’s an expensive-looking ad.”
“Is his license plate seriously AK LNG?!?”