Welcome to the latest installment of Friday… Evening in the Sun, your latest, sometimes greatest and rarely on-time round up of political news and gossip. As always, use your brain and stay skeptical.
A two-way race after all?
That’s certainly the feel we’re getting after Republican Mike Dunleavy once again skipped out on a debate when he no-showed the NAACP’s Thursday-night forum. That makes five different forums or debates that he’s skipped out on that we know of. It’s becoming enough of a trend that other candidates, the media and regular ol’ citizens are starting to take notice.
There are plenty of theories about why he’s skipping these events, but the general consensus seems to be that it’s a calculated move and he figured he had more to lose than win by attending the events (which have tended to be either generally liberal or generally non-white).
A tad surprised by the number of peeps asking me if I think Dunleavy missing debates is a strategy or if something else is going on. Fact: if he thought it would help him win, he’d be there. #akelect #akgov
— amory lelake (@lelakis) September 21, 2018
His absence from the NAACP forum is particularly glaring given the campaign already stepped into the race issue with the unauthorized use of an Alaska Native woman in one of its ads (which was quickly cut out).
We heard that Dunleavy was initially a lock for the NAACP event before cancelling in the last week or so. He was down in Seward for an hour-and-a-half meet-and-greet on Thursday night. One insider brought it to our attention that his calendar looks pretty empty over the weekend. The calendar page also includes this photo:
Both Mark Begich and Gov. Bill Walker pummeled Dunleavy in his absence, frequently pointing out his apparent lack of courage for no-showing and asking if this is the kind of quality that would make a good governor. Instead of going after each other in candidate-to-candidate questions, both asked about Dunleavy.
First, Begich asked if Walker had any clue about some apparently phony budget numbers bandied about by Dunleavy.
“Maybe that’s why he doesn’t show up anymore,” Walker quipped to a ton of applause from the audience, before really laying into the former state senator. “I think he’s a quitter. He’s a quitter. … He thinks the Senate’s tough? Man, he should try sitting in this seat.”
Walker used his question to ask Dunleavy: “Where are you?” to raucous applause from the audience.
It seems in hating on Dunleavy, the two have found a level of camaraderie many would have hoped they would have found before the deadline to withdraw. But, hey, thanks to Dunleavy it’s almost like we’re getting that two-way race everyone hoped for.
At least there’s this:
One last thing
The NAACP did an excellent job with its forum, asking thoughtful and meaty questions while giving candidates plenty of time (two to four minutes depending on the complexity of the question) to answer. It really provided for what’s in your humble editor’s opinion the finest forum of this election cycle, putting each candidate and their positions in the spotlight.
Bummer only three of the four candidates for governor were there.
Though other outlets were there, I have yet to see a full regular-news-y rundown of the event. Check out my Twitter feed for a nearly complete rundown of the questions and answers.
What’s likely the most important high-stakes legislative race of this election took stage on Wednesday when Sen. Pete Kelly and Rep. Scott Kawasaki faced off. It was a back-and-forth with both candidates scoring blows on each other, but the biggest clash of the night came over Kelly’s climate change conspiracy theories. Here’s an excerpt from the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner’s coverage of the event, which is worth a read in full:
An audience question brought up the issue of climate change, asking candidates how they would address the problem.
Kelly questioned the science behind a United Nations study on climate change, noting Alaska scientist Syun-Ichi Akasofu said the U.N. came to the wrong conclusion.
“That is one of the most widely discredited phenomenons in science in the history of science,” Kelly said. “It came from a committee that one of its members said 80 percent of these people either have nothing to do with climate science or are not scientists at all. When I say that climate science is suspect, it’s for a darn good reason.”
Kawasaki was quick to correct Kelly, noting that Akasofu had said that human-caused climate change was suspect, not climate change altogether.
“He absolutely believes in climate change, I absolutely believe in climate change and we need leaders down in Juneau that recognize that climate change is really happening. It’s a serious thing, especially for the state of Alaska,” Kawasaki said.
“If you don’t believe in calving glaciers, if you don’t believe that salmon are not coming back at the right time that they should, that moose aren’t populating like they should, that invasive species are coming to the state of Alaska because of climate change, not only because of climate change but a lot of other things, then I don’t think that you deserve to preside over the Senate,” Kawasaki said.
Kawasaki’s comment was met with cheers from the audience.
We also heard that Sen. Shelley Hughes was up in town. No word on why, but there are plenty of rumors swirling about Senate organization.
This week we saw an escalation of the weaponization of APOC complaints with Stand for Alaska–wait, ahem, Stand for Alaska – Vote No on One–filing of a complaint against multiple groups that are working to support the Stand for Salmon ballot measure.
Stand for Alaska was itself dinged with a $1,925 fine for campaigning with an ambiguous name. That fine amounts to 0.01 percent of the campaign’s whopping $11 million-plus in contributions it’s reported so far.
Now Stand for Alaska – Vote No on One is firing back with its own claims that the Alaska Center should be registered as its own independent expenditure group and that coordination between it and two other groups constitutes another campaign violation and that the three should be merged.
The four groups will be in front of APOC on Monday at 1:15 p.m. to consider the request for an expedited consideration of complaints.
The back-and-forth fought in APOC complaints is a time-honored tradition in Alaska politics with what’s likely negligible political advantage and a high chance that everyone loses in the process.
Still, we’ve heard that there’s some more significant ones on the horizon. Stay tuned.
They really are that close
Speaking of independent expenditure campaigns, the Dunleavy for Alaska independent expenditure campaign really is that uncomfortably close to Dunleavy’s official campaign office. No doubt people are watching closely for a slip up to hit them with a real deal APOC violation.
The Democratic National Committee announced this week that it was granting the state $150,000 for the Alaska Democratic Party to “to help build organizing capacity” in rural Alaska.
In an accompanying statement from DNC Chair Tom Perez, the focus is specifically to help bolster Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mark Begich and independent congressional candidate Alyse Galvin, who’s running with the Alaska Democratic Party’s nomination.
“Make no mistake, rural values are on the ballot in November,” he said. “Nowhere are rural issues more critical than Alaska, and we recognize a major opportunity to elect forward-thinking leaders like Alyse Galvin and Mark Begich, who has been a tireless champion for issues that matter most to rural families.”
It matters because it means that the DNC at least sees a chance in both races. FiveThirtyEight currently puts Alaska as “Lean R” in the Congress, giving Galvin a respectable-for-Alaska 2-in-7 shot of beating Don Young. She’s currently down by five points in their polling.
At this week’s congressional forum she clearly got under Young’s skin, drawing a “nasty” comment from Alaska’s self-described always-and-forever positive campaigner.
A major haul
While labor and progressive groups have been split on who to endorse for Alaska’s governor, the decision hasn’t been very difficult when it comes to the Congress. The good news continues to roll in for Galvin, who added the IBEW and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund to her list of backers this week.
This week’s no-prison deal for Justin Schneider, the man who kidnapped, strangled and masturbated on a woman is stunning. It’s not only generating a campaign to defeat Judge Michael Corey’s retention on the November ballot, but it also should give legislators plenty of ideas for the next criminal justice reform bill. Talking with someone familiar with the laws, here’s two things that stand out for the Legislature to tackle:
- Masturbating your semen onto another person, somehow, isn’t sexual assault. Schneider not only will get to skip any time behind bars, but he’ll also be able to walk free without the label of sex offender. Backlash to the case has been so harsh that the Department of Law put out a news release stating “Justin Schneider Sentenced in Accordance with Current Law.” It addresses this particular subject, noting that “offensive physical contact with bodily fluids such as semen is not categorized as a sex crime under Alaska law.” Who’ll pre-file the first “semen is sexual assault” law?
- Second is the matter of how Schneider avoided jail time altogether. He actually was sentenced to a full year in jail, but had spent the last year on electronic monitoring and was able to successfully apply to have that count against the sentence. This was created by Rep. Tammie Wilson’s House Bill 15 in 2015 and was actually scaled back by Senate Bill 91. With the long times it can take for cases to be resolved, people can essentially pre-serve their sentences by paying for private electronic monitoring.
But that’s not all
This afternoon, just as we were about to hit publish on this post, Gov. Bill Walker sent out a news release pledging to fix the “semen isn’t sexual assault” loophole.
“Every victim deserves justice. This sort of outcome makes it even more difficult for victims to come forward. The punishment in this case in no way matched the severity of the crime. We must fix this problem immediately, and we will.”
– Governor Bill Walker pic.twitter.com/mxgDB4gqTb
— Governor Bill Walker (@AkGovBillWalker) September 22, 2018
Shortly after that, Begich posted the following to his Facebook page.
Looks like this could become a focal point for the campaign. Question is, where’s Mike?
Helping at the border
One last thing to come out of the NAACP’s Anchorage forum is that Lindsay Hobson, the daughter of Gov. Bill Walker, will be heading down to the border this next week to provide legal assistance and help reunite families that were separated.
The feds missed the deadline eight weeks ago to reunite nearly 3,000 children with their parents, but the most recent estimates put that figure down to about 200 separated children.
The news received the biggest applause of the night–even surpassing the sick Dunleavy burns. As the grandson of immigrants, your humble editor also has to say thank you.
Last week gave us plenty to worry about when it comes to the quality and breadth of political reporting in Alaska when the Anchorage Daily News laid off its D.C. reporter Erica Martinson, but at the very least the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner pulled double duty when it published not one but two race stories about the House District 4.
The newspaper ran back-to-back stories about the entrance of nonpartisan candidate Tim Lamkin via nominating petition into the race for the seat held by the retiring Rep. David Guttenberg. Lamkin’s entrance makes it a three-way race between Democrat Grier Hopkins and Republican Jim Sackett.
The difference between the two stories is pretty night-and-day. The first is a pleasant review of Lamkin’s entry into the race–Race for Fairbanks House District 4 gets third contender through petition–while the gloves come off in the second–Nonpartisan House district 4 candidate is a former Democrat and Juneau resident.
Guttenberg, who’s quoted in the second story (and also the uncle of Hopkins), doesn’t hold back.
“He has no chance of winning so if he had any role at all he’s going to be a spoiler,” Guttenberg said in the story. “I don’t know what his political thinking is, it’s pretty vague and politically pretty naive.”
A lot of Anchorage Republicans are hopeful about a pickup in the district even though Democrat Hopkins would seem to be the odds-on favorite. That’s almost entirely thanks to the spoiler status everyone hopes/worries Lamkin will play in the race.
At the very least, that reportedly translated to quite a bit of enthusiasm for Hopkins when he stopped by Anchorage this week for a fundraiser. A Republican win here would be devastating for the Democrats’ hope of holding the House.
Sarah Palin is reportedly making her exit from Alaska. In an interview with the… the U.K.’s Daily Mail… Palin said “We’re not going to be holed up in Wasilla, Alaska the rest of our life.” See ya.