It’s time to bring a close to all the glitz and grime that was the 2018 election year, which means it’s time for media outlets around the world to publish their retrospectives. Here at The Midnight Sun we’re not above the easily scraped together content to fill the time where we’d rather be out skiing and or in sleeping.
So without further padding, here’s our list of 2018’s Dubious Achievements in Alaska Politics.
The Worst/Best Feud Award – LeDoux vs. Kito
Was it about changes to the smoking bill? The PFD? Office chairs?
The session’s feud between Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux and Rep. Sam “I’m definitely not about to leave the Legislature, just check out this beard” Kito finally came to a head when the Juneau Democrat walked out on a House Rules Committee meeting where LeDoux (the chair) introduced a bunch of changes to the smoking bill.
At the end of the day, Kito essentially walked away from the House Majority Coalition, losing his seat on the legislative council for his efforts. “Speaking truth to power” was his sin, he said via tweet.
Still, for as much of a headache that LeDoux proved to be for the House Majority Coalition, she’s still the one standing (despite Rep. Lance Pruitt’s public claims that she’ll soon be locked up) and a core member of the (Mostly) Coastal Caucus.
Honorable Mention: The brewing feud between Rep. David Eastman and Rep. Gary Knopp over the we-hardly-knew-ye Republican Majority.
The Best Social Media Takeover – The stickers
#TeamHipsterMoose? #TeamMoonlightBeaver? #TeamSnowmachineWalrus? #TeamIHateFunAndWillPostAboutHowTheOriginalStickerIsStillTheBest? #TeamOverIt.
Honorable Mention: DeLena Johnson’s lovably out of context tweets. She’s just getting started, though, so let’s keep an eye out for 2019.
— DeLena Johnson (@DeLenaAK) December 14, 2018
The Too Little Too Late Award – Gov. Bill Walker’s suspended campaign
The week began with the abrupt resignation of Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott (more on that guy below) and ended with Gov. Bill Walker’s graceful-as-possible suspension from the Alaska governor’s race. We finally got the head-to-head race everyone on the left had been begging for (though, you know, Walker would still be on the ballot). Polling numbers (more on that below) painted a somewhat hopeful picture about momentum. Things looked tough, but perhaps winnable.
Then it turned out Walker’s backing of Begich was far more tepid than anyone would have hoped. Instead of going to bat for Begich, it seemed more like a shrug and a “Sure, I guess.”
Was there any permutation of this race that would have lead to a non-Michael J. Dunleavy victory? Who knows, but not in this dimension.
Honorable mention: Union and other financial backing that sat on the sidelines.
The Best Lieutenant Governor of 2018 – Val Davidson
Seriously. Even if her time in office was short, you can’t argue with just how much it meant for a state leader—a self-described village girl—to take the stage of the Alaska Federation of Natives’ convention and talk about the challenges she faced growing up.
The Award for Excellence in Avoiding Responsibility – Sen. David Wilson’s letter of responsibility
Let’s get the most important part of this story out of the way first: The victim of this whole situation never asked for any claims against Sen. David Wilson, never pushed the story—even off the record—and never asked for an investigation. It was the media’s doing that launched the investigation into Wilson’s hallway altercation.
That he didn’t explicitly upskirt the employee was apparently enough for Wilson to hold his own press conference to claim he was completely cleared of any wrongdoing in the incident and call for heads to roll on the other side of the aisle (as well as the one female reporter among those who reported what they witnessed). Turns out that was a bad idea, but who would’ve expected another bad idea from a guy who thought it prudent to slap a reporter?
An investigation found that news conference itself was a “very serious case of retaliation.” The punishment? A three-month probation period, a training course and an insincere letter of responsibility.
That letter of responsibility was, honestly, laughable with lines like:
“It was not my intent to have an uncomfortable situation to occur as reported. I felt that this situation could have been resolved a lot sooner with the proper mediation. I hope in the future we can work in a positive respectful manner to serve the people of our great state.”
Honorable Mention: No one comes close.
The Mocking Laughter Award – Soon-to-be-former Sen. Pete Kelly
Ah, the 2018 session was off to a hot start with Senate President Pete Kelly pledging that any proposal for new income be met with “mocking laughter.” A few months later, Kelly’s Senate voted in favor of the restructuring of the Alaska Permanent Fund and a few more months later it was Kelly who was met with mocking laughter when he was unseated by Rep. Scott Kawasaki.
No number of attack signs could undo the years of mocking laughter, apparently.
— olivia but festive 🎄 (@notoriousOBG) November 16, 2018
Honorable Mention: This mocking laughter is reserved just for Kelly.
Most Likely to be a Target of 2020 Redistricting – Soon-to-be Sen. Scott Kawasaki
The Republicans will be in charge of at least three of the five seats on the Alaska Redistricting Board. Last time around, they hoped to off Kawasaki with the “Kawasaki Finger” (a very real and very overlooked piece of Alaska politics). You can bet they’ll be gunning for him this time around, too.
The only question is what appendage will it be this time?
Honorable Mention: Probably LeDoux?
The Worst Hangover – The Cocktail Clash
Everything about the battle over whether or not distilleries could mix cocktails onsite was just the worst. From the regulatory overreach—including questioning whether “fun” could be permitted at distilleries—to the battle over the legislative fix—including, but not limited to, cuts to serving sizes, changes to distillery and brewery distribution and the total implosion of the alcohol bill (which has tangled up the liquor license of the Alaska State Fair)—nothing about this has us feeling warm.
Honorable Mention: The 2018 Elections
The Merry Christmas, Ya Filthy Animals Award – Gov. MJ Dunleavy’s Contempt for State Employees
We’re nearly a month into Gov. Michael J. Dunleavy’s tenure at the helm of the Alaska government and the only thing that seems to be certain (because, ha, no one really cared about PFDs, right?) is his contempt to state employees. First he came into office with his loyalty-or-resign letters to most non-union employees, then came the installation of a handful of commissioners with zero experience in the field, then came word that a bunch of other employees were having their hours slashed in order to get below the benefits level and we most recently heard that he couldn’t even be bothered to send out holiday messages to state employees.
Honorable mention: The continued lack of organization in the Alaska House.
The Christopher Constant Award – Christopher Constant’s Bike Registration Proposal
The Getting It Wrong, But Looking Great While Doing It Award – The Anchorage Press
The Anchorage Press hoped to be the leader in breaking political news this year by pedaling the unsubstantiated rumors about Michael J. Dunleavy’s, ahem, personal predilections. We’d heard plenty of similar rumors, but mostly about how efforts to substantiate them were coming up short.
Also, hey, they jumped the gun with a post declaring Mark Begich had dropped out of the race. Dang.
Honorable Mention: Ivan Moore’s polling.
Greatest Unforced Errors – Reps. Paul Seaton and Jason Grenn
Hindsight is 20/20 or something, but it sure feels like Reps. Paul Seaton and Jason Grenn could still have their seats if they had done things a little differently in the 2018 elections.
Seaton erred in trusting voters to look past party labels when he ran as an independent on the Democratic Party’s nomination, skipping out on a winnable Republican primary (It worked for the much-more-targeted LeDoux, after all). Grenn, on the other hand, could have run with the Democratic Party or the Democrats could have done something to block the Trump-supporting Dustin Darden from getting on the general election ticket.
Either way, it’s hard to chalk their losses up solely to their involvement in the House bipartisan coalition (LeDoux and Stutes, again).
Honorable mention: Everyone, including myself, who moved out of House District 1.
The Leastman Award – Rep. David Eastman
There’s so much we could say about Rep. David “75 times a N-Eastman” Eastman, but we think one of his colleagues summed it up best.
The Trashy Even for Them Award – Attacks on Albert Fogle
We’ve never looked to the Alaska Family Action as a paragon of virtue, but even Jim Minnery’s gay bashing of (pretty conservative) Republican Albert Fogle was pretty low. Minnery, he promised, wasn’t actually gay bashing, just setting the record straight about the Republican in the three-way race for Rep. Chris Birch’s former seat. Sure.
It was also followed up with a particularly scummy mailer by primary opponent Joe Riggs.
Honorable mention: There’s plenty of material from the Republican Party’s mouthpiece that could go on here, take your pick. Off the top of our head, let’s go with the claims that Begich was born with silver spoon in hand.
The Taking out the Trash Award – Rep. Zach Fansler, Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott and Rep. Dean Westlake
Seriously, fuck those guys.
Honorable mention: Justin Parish