Jim Ayers served as chief of staff in the Tony Knowles administration. You can submit letters, op-eds and cartoons for consideration to The Midnight Sun editor, Matt Buxton at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Jim Ayers
As Alaska’s chaotic governor’s race comes down to the wire, I keep recalling a couple of nuggets of wisdom from experience as a Marine Corps veteran and more than 30 years as an observer of Alaska politics.
The first, which was pounded into my head by our surly drill sergeant during 14 weeks of Marine Corps boot camp and infantry training, and which I still try to live every day: honor is the bedrock of the Marine character.
The second is the old adage: “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
Twenty years ago, Alaska faced a remarkably similar race for governor. In 1998, the Republican candidate was an obscure educator with a checkered past, John Lindauer. His Democratic opponent was a well-known incumbent governor with a long list of accomplishments, Tony Knowles.
The Lindauer campaign was among Alaska’s most entertaining. Many Alaskans recall the infamous “radio mirror,” a tale Lindauer conjured to explain a scandal involving a questionable consulting contract with a Chicago thug known as “Terrible Eddie” and hundreds of thousands of dollars in mysterious campaign cash eventually traced back to Lindauer’s second wife. Lindauer’s failed campaign was overseen by an affable Republican henchman well known to political operatives, one Tuckerman Babcock.
Today, Alaska’s Republican candidate for governor, Mike Dunleavy was equally obscure before winning the primary and equally has dough rolling in from who knows where. Mike Dunleavy’s public service experience is limited to a partial term in the Alaska Legislature. He quit that post, as he had previous jobs. Much of his mysterious campaign cash comes from his wealthy East Coast brother. And the brains behind the Dunleavy campaign? Yes, the same would-be kingmaker, Tuckerman Babcock.
Adhering to the Marine Corps sense of honor, which empowers Marines to strive to exemplify the highest in character, served me well. It taught me to judge character based on a person’s word and performance of duty; including the general standing order to stand your post until properly relieved.
Mike Dunleavy does not measure up, and there is nothing that money from Outside or Tuckerman Babcock can do to change that. In fact, Tuckerman would benefit from my grandfather’s advice, “you can’t make a silk purse out of a pig’s ear.”
With the enormous challenges facing us, Alaska can’t afford to turn the clock back two decades. That’s why today my choice in the Alaska governor’s race is an easy one. Mark Begich is a proven fighter for Alaska who has lived his life with integrity, stick-to-it-ness and honor. I am proud to support him.