The Good, The Bad and, wait, Who? Where Alaska Legislature’s head honchos rank in our legislator ratings

The Legislature meets in joint session to consider Gov. Bill Walker's appointees on April 10, 2018. (Photo by Alaska Senate Majority/Flickr)

After we released the initial version, we got a lot of questions about where specific legislators landed in our rankings. Most of those questions seemed to focus around legislative leadership (well, really, about where Sen. Pete Kelly landed).

So today we bring you the rankings of legislators in House and Senate leadership. This includes the speaker, the president, the leaders of the majority and minority coalitions, and the co-chairs of both finance committees.

We’ll also close out our rankings with some notes on legislators that caused the biggest disagreements between the political insiders and the public.

The Senate

Senate President Pete Kelly

R-Fairbanks

Overall rating: 2.75

Intelligence: 2.9

Ethics: 2

Effectiveness: 3.3

Mocking laughter,” Medicaid work requirements and a birth control study highlighted Sen. Pete Kelly’s 2018 as Senate President. The Fairbanks Republican was heavily involved in the early days of the session, but seemed to take a more behind-the-scenes role later in the session as his Finance Committee co-chairs helped close out session without drawing stuff out. Here’s what people had to say:

  • Sen. Kelly isn’t stupid by any stretch and he holds strong to his core set of beliefs and can be effective if you judge that effectiveness as he gets the issues he focuses on done, but little else.
  • Rigid ideologue, rude, incapable of considering other points of view that don’t go along with his. One of the biggest blowhards in the legislature and the biggest obstructionist to accomplishing anything.
  • He is a right-wing social and fiscal extremist who has damaged our state’s future.

Senate Majority Leader Sen. Peter Micciche

R-Soldotna

Overall rating: 3.05

Intelligence: 3.2

Ethics: 2.7

Effectiveness: 3.2

Sen. Peter Micciche saw his work-place smoking bill passed and signed into law this year while also working on updating the state’s alcohol laws (which ultimately went down the drain amid a fight over distillery cocktails). Micciche remains a bit of an enigma of the Legislature after pursuing moderate legislation like the smoking bill while also coming to the defense of Kelly’s Medicaid work requirements. He ranked higher with the public than he did with insiders. Here’s what people had to say:

  • Pretty decent guy. Often I don’t agree with his politics but he’s a try-hard.
  • Sen. Micciche needs to stop playing every side of every issue to be more effective.
  • I hate the fact that he works for an oil company and does not have to abstain from voting on oil issues.

Rules Chair Sen. Kevin Meyer

R-Anchorage

Overall rating: 2.72

Intelligence: 2.7

Ethics: 2.4

Effectiveness: 3

The self-described “nice guy” Kevin Meyer won’t be returning to the Alaska Legislature in 2019 as he’s pursuing the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor. Here’s what people had to say:

  • He’s literally a go-along to get-along kind a guy, which makes me wonder how smart he really is honestly.
  • Nice guy. A little smarter and much meaner and partisan than he wants you to know.
  • Sen. Meyer is above average across the board, but not a standout in any of the categories.

Finance Committee co-chair Sen. Lyman Hoffman

D-Bethel

Overall rating: 3.53

Intelligence: 3.9

Ethics: 2.5

Effectiveness: 4.2

Senate Finance Committee co-chairs Sens. Lyman Hoffman and Anna MacKinnon tied in overall ratings, scoring high enough to put them both in the top overall rankings that we covered last week. For more on both legislators, see that post.

Finance Committee co-chair Sen. Anna MacKinnon

R-Eagle River

Overall rating: 3.53

Intelligence: 3.9

Ethics: 3

Effectiveness: 3.7

See above.

Minority Leader Sen. Berta Gardner

D-Anchorage

Overall rating: 3.67

Intelligence: 3.8

Ethics: 4.1

Effectiveness: 3.1

Sen. Berta Gardner ranked third overall in our combined rankings of political insiders and the public. For more on Gardner, visit our earlier post.

The House

House Speaker Rep. Bryce Edgmon

D-Dillingham

Overall rating: 3.88

Intelligence: 3.9

Ethics: 4.1

Effectiveness: 3.7

Despite a rocky term as House Speaker, House Speaker Bryce Edgmon topped the overall rankings. He topped the list compiled with the input of political insiders and was fourth in the eyes of the public. For more on Edgmon, visit our earlier post. As you’ll see below, he was really the only stand-out legislator among House leadership.

House Majority Leader Rep. Chris Tuck

D-Anchorage

Overall rating: 2.67

Intelligence: 2.6

Ethics: 2.6

Effectiveness: 2.8

Going into the 2018 session, there was a lot of talk about whether or not Tuck’s heart was in the game. Some expected him to depart if he won a gig as business manager for IBEW 1547, but that wasn’t meant to be and he stayed on. He ranked in the bottom third of nearly every metric (though the public thought he was somewhat effective). Here’s what people had to say:

  • Brings working class interests and values to the legislative process.
  • This one needs to ooze back into the slime he came from. Not an ally.
  • I think Rep. Tuck is incredibly out of his league in the Legislature.

Rules Chair Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux

R-Anchorage

Overall rating: 2.82

Intelligence: 3.4

Ethics: 2

Effectiveness: 3.1

Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux made plenty of headlines throughout the 2018 session, whether it was her sparring with Rep. Sam Kito over everything from chairs to the smoking bill, the fight over a fully funded PFD or just about any meeting of the House Judiciary Committee. She caused plenty of headaches for everyone, including members of her own caucus, but she at the very least made things interesting. A real wild card. Here’s what people had to say:

  • A scrappy chameleon.
  • Likes to play games with her power as Rules chair. Does not work well with others. A my way or the highway attitude. No one can beat her campaign style though which will keep her in office.
  • She isn’t a good person but she is a hell of politician.

House Finance Committee co-chair Rep. Neal Foster

D-Nome

Overall rating: 2.97

Intelligence: 3.1

Ethics: 2.8

Effectiveness: 3

Rep. Neal Foster’s time in the Alaska Legislature has been largely unremarkable, but as co-chair of the House Finance Committee he stepped into the spotlight. Over the last two years, he’s shown particular skill at running the daily operations of the House Finance Committee. Here’s what people had to say:

  • He really was a great mediator in Finance. He may not have wanted the role, but he sure was a class act.
  • Runs a great meeting, impressed with his peace making on finance this year.
  • Only member of the House Majority who came out looking better than he went in.

House Finance Committee co-chair Rep. Paul Seaton

R-Homer

Overall rating: 3.35

Intelligence: 3.5

Ethics: 3.4

Effectiveness: 3.2

Rep. Paul Seaton was long relegated to the minority of the Republican majority before crossing over to caucus with Democrats for the last two years. Faced with a steep learning curve for the job, his to-do list is still probably longer than his list of accomplishments. His attempts to get Vitamin D research into the budget cleared the Alaska Legislature before it was met by Gov. Bill Walker’s veto pen. Here’s what people had to say:

  • The Pride of Homer. Political survivor. Humane and reasonable.
  • Gets obsessed with stupid stuff that costs him political capital. See: Vitamin D study.
  • Smart, experienced, even-keeled leader.

House Minority Leader Rep. Charisse Millett

R-Anchorage

Overall rating: 2.6

Intelligence: 3

Ethics: 2.1

Effectiveness: 2.8

With a caucus that was just as split as the House Majority Coalition, Minority Leader Charisse Millett had mixed success in 2018. There were times when the minority’s high ground seemed to be squandered on baldly political attacks. Here’s what people had to say:

  • Charisse is a harder worker than people give her credit for
  • Rarely gets credit for her effectiveness. Take a bill no one else can get through and give it to Charisse – more tenacity in her little finger than most have on their best day
  • She has built and destroyed many relationships for political gain. Could be a bumpy primary for her.

DOES NOT COMPUTE

Our political insiders and the public tended to agree on most legislator rankings, but there were some pretty significant differences.

The legislator drawing the most disagreement was Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins. While both insiders and the public had a higher-than-average view of the Sitka Democrat, the public was far more rosey in its assessment of Kreiss-Tomkins, giving him particularly high scores in intelligence and ethics. Insiders were tepid about his effectiveness and gave him a middle-of-the-road score on ethics. Here’s what people had to say about him:

  • He does a lot of cool stuff, none of it seems to be related to being a legislator. Wish he’d exercise more leadership in the caucus structure. What are his values?
  • Bonded with his district. AK Natives and fish first. He got Native Languages bill passed and into law overcoming significant Republican resistance.
  • Worst run committee I’ve ever seen in my life

On the other end of the spectrum, where insiders rated legislators higher than the public was House Speaker Bryce Edgmon. Again, he got high scores from both insiders and the public, but insiders rated him almost a full point higher when it came to ethics.

Also on this list is Fairbanks Republican Rep. Steve Thompson. As a former co-chair of the House Finance Committee and a relative moderate when compared to some of his Republican colleagues, Thompson had a quiet term. He’s still got the respect of insiders, who ranked him much higher on ethics than the public. Here’s what people had to say about him:

  • I love the shit out of Steve too. I think he’s a good man who wants to do what’s best for Alaska, and doesn’t run to extremes. He is surprisingly effective even in minority, but I’d rather see him be Speaker of a bipartisan majority, which he refuses to do.
  • Relegated to the minority has affected Rep. Thompson’s style. He’s not suited for bomb throwing.

Top-level assessment

As we mentioned last week, the survey respondents–whether it was our insiders or the public–tended to favor Democrats over Republicans. We can’t say whether or not political affiliation had anything to do with this because our survey was anonymous (we just know who we invited, not who actually ended up taking the survey). That said, Senators on average ranked higher than House representatives on average.

The highest-scoring caucus was the Senate Minority with an average rating 3.31 in the combined results (thanks to Sen. Berta Gardner’s 3.74 rating and Sen. Tom Begich’s 3.55 rating) and the House minority Republicans ranked the lowest with an average score of 2.64 (not likely helped much with a bottom-of-the-barrel rating of 1.5 achieved by Rep. David Eastman).

The Democrat-led House Majority Coalition had an average score of 3.16.

The Republican-led Senate Majority averaged a 3.02 even with Sen. David Wilson’s second-to-last rating of 1.75 thanks in large part to several solid ratings to members like Sens. Anna MacKinnon (3.53), Lyman Hoffman (3.53), John Coghill (3.44), Bert Stedman(3.44), Gary Stevens (3.43) and Click Bishop (3.33). This caucus also ranked the highest in terms of effectiveness.’

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