Welcome to the second-to-last edition of Friday in the Sun before voters head to the polls.
Thursday night’s Debate for the State was the highest profile head-to-head showdown between Democrat Mark Begich and Republican Mike Dunleavy and, honestly, it sounded largely like a greatest hits of the debate season so far. Begich is undeniably polished and has a good grasp of the facts and figures behind his talking points. Dunleavy seemed nervous for the early going of the debate, but seemed to settle in partway through the debate. For as much flack as Dunleavy’s got for being vague about his budget plans (and just about everything else), Begich also proved that he’s good at not exactly answering questions and talking about what he wants to talk about. Politicians, huh?
Perhaps the best exchange displaying Begich’s polish came during candidate-to-candidate questioning when Dunleavy did his best to tie Walker’s record to Begich.
Dunleavy: “Mark, Gov.Walker dropped out of the race after days of negotiations with you and your campaign, now he’s endorsed you as the best candidate to continue his policies and legacy. What policies and parts of Walker’s legacy will you continue? Will it be record unemployment, high crime, reduced PFDs, a bloated budget or all of the above?”
Begich: “Gov. Walker did an amazing thing, putting Alaska first and I’ll give him credit for that. Medicaid expansion, I’ll continue it because I think it makes a difference for 44,000 Alaskans. I’m going to continue the pipeline issue it’s on the 10-yard line of the opponent, we have an opportunity to push that over the line and make sure we have jobs for the future. His work that he’s done with tribal communities all across the state has engaged tribal communities for the first time in our Alaska government, giving them a voice they did not have before. Will I continue it? Yes, I will. We need to declare a disaster when it comes to our opioid crisis. As we’ve talked already about crime and what it’s doing to our state. You betcha, I’ll make sure.”
Begich, continued: “I’ll tell you Mike, you were in the Legislature as unemployment went up, when crime went up because of the cuts you did, education we’re now 46th because you spent the time cutting those budgets and that’s why we are where we are today.”
Dunelavy, forgetting apparently about Senate Bill 91 talking points: “Crime did not go up because of the Legislature, crime went up because of mismanagement over the past three-to-four years of this current administration.”
Regardless, whoever you deem a winner will come down to your own personal politics and, honestly, when it came to some of the big-ticket items like crime and the dividend the candidates didn’t offer much to differentiate themselves from each other. Below, we’ll break down the few new things we actually heard during the debate.
Begich, the now-onboard gasline supporter
Having been a skeptic of Gov. Bill Walker’s gasline deal with Chinese banks and companies, Begich made a significant shift in tone on the gasline this week. In both head-to-head forum appearances this week, Begich had positive things to say on the gasline and praised Walker and his team for getting it “to the 10-yard line of the opponent’s field.” Though there wasn’t any overt consolidation between the Begich and Walker campaigns, there were likely talks about this one particular issue. The gasline is likely Walker’s biggest personal accomplishment during his time in governor’s office.
At the Alaska Chamber forum Begich said he wouldn’t shake up the team that’s leading the project, saying that the relationships the team’s formed with China will be critical in seeing the project through to success, but we won’t be surprised if he does make one change to the team: Adding soon-to-be-former Gov. Bill Walker to the team.
Dunleavy, the not-so-solid PFD defender
There was less PFD talk at the debate than expected, but perhaps that’s for the best as Republican Mike Dunleavy seems to be softening his hard-line stance on defending the PFD. In an interview with the Associated Press, Dunleavy conceded that a full dividend might not be viable forever and on Thursday he said he would be open to putting the future of the PFD up to an advisory vote.
Begich pounced on this, pointing out that advisory votes are non-binding votes, and pointed out that he’s pushing for a constitutional amendment to enshrine the PFD. Dunleavy responded by saying he would also support a PFD vote. Overall, it seemed like a missed opportunity for Dunleavy to talk up his key campaign platform.
When push came to shove on Thursday night, Dunleavy finally talked about what he would cut from the budget. His answer: The $4.5 million fast-rail commuter study and “climatologists.” Dunleavy, who was endorsed this week by Trump, also went on to downplay the state’s need to get involved with climate change, saying “Our contribution to climate change is probably minimal.”
Candidate crime fighter
It was crime—not the PFD—that dominated much of Thrusday’s televised gubernatorial debate. Both candidates pledged tough responses to crime, including beefing up police forces, reworking criminal sentencing laws and upping substance abuse treatment, but it was Begich that brought the most hands-on approach to crime. Begich said he broke up a fight on the way over to the debate at 13th and Gambell and was nearly late for the debate.
Meanwhile, Dunleavy’s personal anecdote was that Alaska was so safe that he didn’t know where his house keys were for 13 years, which sadly didn’t get nearly as much attention as Begich’s fisticuffs.
The run of ads up prior to the debate included one by Unite Alaska, which apparently pivoted hard from supporting independents to bashing Dunleavy after the withdrawal, by running an attack ad highlighting Dunleavy’s efforts to commandeer the Bree’s Law bill in 2016 in order to insert provisions that would have banned Planned Parenthood from doing any teaching in public schools, snarling the bill in the legislative process. It was one of the more shocking ads of the cycle and the right wingers are crying foul over the ad. The ad didn’t have the involvement or input from Bree’s parents Butch or Cindy, but it should be said that Dunleavy’s efforts certainly imperiled the bill.
“We feel like it has totally killed the opportunity for this bill to pass,” Cindy Moore told the ADN in a story titled “For parents behind ‘Bree’s Law,’ a blunt education in Alaska politics.”
One of the changes the now-Republican candidate for governor proposed for the bill would have allowed parents to opt out of the education programs, which some worried would protect parents who molest their kids. Dunleavy said it was about parental rights.
“To label parents as potential perpetrators and we must compel them–the state must compel them–to have training for their kids? I think you’ve crossed the line into a police state,” he told KTVA in 2016. “You don’t help the child by taking away the rights of other Alaskans, other people, especially their parents.”
Claims that the group had to disintegrate over the ad seem premature as the group has largely, and more appropriately, reformed under the banner of Alaskans Opposing Dunleavy.
A few weeks ago, we reported on some rumors that Rep. Tammie Wilson is back at her usual efforts to organize a caucus around herself (she’s done this before and it’s never gone much of anywhere). It’s not entirely surprising given the fact that House Republicans were likely even more fractured than the bipartisan majority. Still, we heard a bit of talk that there’s certainly some interest on the Democratic side of the aisle to organize and boot a few of the problem members from the caucus. We don’t doubt there are people who were dissatisfied with last year, but doubt there’s really any room to get cute with organizing this year.
Shrug of the Week: Landfield v. Hickman
Alaska Landmine Editor Jeff Landfield and Anchorage Press Editor Matt Hickman have been going back and forth over the rumors about Mike Dunleavy’s… personal life over the last week. There’s been stingers like “Matt Hickman Doubles Down on Dumb” and lines like “Stomping and stamping like Rumpelstiltskin revealed.” The whole things stinks of ego and we’re really no closer to the truth of the matter, but the combined efforts of both men has certainly put more of that “Prometheus” rumor out there than anyone could have hoped.
Tomorrow’s the final day to request a by-mail absentee ballot from the Division of Elections.
But who would really vote like that when you can go early vote in person and some of the best election stickers ever made?
— James Brooks (@AK_OK) October 26, 2018
That’s how many people have either returned an absentee ballot (9,268) or cast an early vote (10,470). The daily average early votes cast this year is 2,618 compared to the last gubernatorial year, 2014, when the average was 1,586. It’s probably irresponsible to attribute that boom entirely to those sweet stickers, but it’s entirely because of those sweet stickers. Also, we hear they’re limited edition so get out and vote before they’re gone.
History made at the FNSB
The Fairbanks North Star Borough’s Assembly meeting this week was the site of a historic event: Mayor Bryce Ward was spotted an official event without his trademark Carhartt’s that defined his term as North Pole governor.
Ok, jokes aside. The meeting actually makes the history books because the swearing in of Assemblywoman Liz Lyke marked the body’s first ever transgender assembly member.
Liz Lyke makes history as FNSB’s first transgender assembly member. pic.twitter.com/Eg3XkvMWqb
— Robyne (@AlaskaRobyne) October 26, 2018
That’s reportedly about how much Begich picked up during his fundraiser up in Fairbanks this week. That’s pretty notable given that most of the big-time political donors Fairbanks—which decides any statewide race, at least according to people from Fairbanks—had firmly been in the Walker camp throughout most of the election (Begich had just a dozen contributions with a Fairbanks address in his first campaign finance report). It sounds like many of the area’s hardcore Walker supporters have came over to the Begich camp. There was really never any risk of them going over to Dunleavy, but certainly a chance that some of them sat on the sidelines.
Must Read Alaska took issue with Grier Hopkins’ campaign apparel last month, suggesting that a “$249 Arcteryx down vest, with muscle-fitting, purple-on-teal plaid shirt” isn’t quite as Alaskan–or manly–as Republican Jim Sackett, who’s “a Cabela’s sort of guy — more camo and less purply.” But who really has the local cred after the finish of last week’s debate hosted at West Valley High School (from which Hopkins graduated)? (Warning: The sound is kinda loud).
Also, kudos to the students for coming up with some really hard-hitting questions for the candidates. Just too bad that Sackett apparently had more important things to do down in Anchorage.
That’s the grand total of independent expenditures made since Walker suspended his campaign last week in support of Mark Begich. $80,025 of that came from The Alaska Center, which has been one of the primary supporters of the salmon habitat initiative. Another $20,00 came in from Begich for Alaska, which draws most of its money from land developer Dean Weidner ($100,000) and Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii ($50,000).
Other notable spends include $14,750 spent by analyst and budget commentator Brad Keithley in favor of Ron Gillham’s write-in campaign against Sen. Peter Micciche. Gillham came startlingly close to unseating Micciche in the primary this year.
Here’s the full breakdown of the independent expenditure reports, but keep in mind that there’s a lag in when independent expenditures are made and when they have to be reported.
|Target||Supports||Opposes||Who Supports||Who Opposes|
|2018 - Mark Begich||$109,853.66||$0.00||The Alaska Center, Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii, 2018 - Begich for Alaska, Native Peoples Action, Inc.|
|2018 - Michael J. Dunleavy||$42,469.87||$9,706.18||2018 - Dunleavy for Alaska||Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii|
|Yes for Salmon - Ballot Measure 1||$18,040.09||$518.40||Stand for Salmon, Tanana Chiefs Conference,Trout Unlimited - Alaska Program||2018 - Stand for Alaska--Vote No on One|
|2018 - Bill Walker||$15,607.60||$9,275.38||2018 - Unite Alaska for Walker||Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii|
|2018 - Ronald D Gillham||$14,750.00||$0.00||Bradford Keithley|
|2018 - Jesse Kiehl||$133.30||$6,445.19||The Alaska Center, Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii||2018 - Republican Women of Juneau|
|2018 - Ed Alexander||$1,573.86||$0.00||The Alaska Center|
|2018 - Kathryn Dodge||$1,866.39||$0.00||The Alaska Center, Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii|
|2018 - Lyn Diane Franks||$1,573.86||$0.00||The Alaska Center|
|2018 - Pat Higgins||$1,573.86||$0.00||The Alaska Center|
|2018 - Liz Snyder||$1,936.70||$0.00||The Alaska Center, Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii|
|2018 - Ivy Spohnholz||$1,573.86||$0.00||The Alaska Center|
|2018 - Andrew Louis Josephson||$1,573.86||$0.00||The Alaska Center|
|2018 - Matt Claman||$1,655.11||$0.00||The Alaska Center|
|2018 - Sara Hannan||$1,573.86||$0.00||The Alaska Center|
|2018 - Tiffany Zulkosky||$1,479.00||$0.00||The Alaska Center|
|2018 - Peter Gene Kelly||$10.00||$403.38||2018 - Families of the Last Frontier||2018 - Fairbanks Versus Pete Kelly, Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii|
|2018 - Joshua C. Revak||$350.00||$0.00||2018 - Let's Back Revak|
|2018 - Scott Kawasaki||$263.63||$0.00||The Alaska Center, Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii|
|2018 - Lance Pruitt||$0.00||$202.05||Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii|
|2018 - Elvi Gray-Jackson||$64.64||$0.00||The Alaska Center|
|2018 - Andrea "Andi" Story||$41.92||$0.00||Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii|