Hottest of Hot Rumors — It’s just a rumor; but the word on the lips of every legislator, staffer, lobbyist, and Juneau gadfly, is that long-serving Speaker of the House Mike Chenault isn’t just retiring as speaker—he may not be running for re-election. If its true, that could be a move with major ramifications: Rep. Craig Johnson is well known to be seeking the Speakership and now that Chenault may be joining fellow announced retirees, Rep. Kurt Olson, and Rep. Mike Hawker (all close allies), this certainly complicates Johnson’s ambitions. Maybe that open Senate seat in his district is looking a little more attractive?
Just For Men — Earlier in the week, Rep. Jim Colver caused eyebrows in the Capitol to raise when he choose to leave Juneau briefly to attend his daughter’s 16th birthday while the session was in its closing days. This sparked a quite a bit of grumbling from his colleagues, who were not impressed with the move. One even commented to us how it appears Colver took the time away to rid himself of his noticeably graying hair. (Hey, some things are a priority.)
“This celebration is in honor of Eric Croft, Forrest Dunbar, John Weddleton and Dick Traini! We also celebrate Elvi Gray-Jackson’s upcoming Chairmanship of the Assembly – the first person of color to do so! Plus we are still holding on to hope for Starr Marsett!”
So… a few problems with that. First, Weddleton made it absolutely, positively, undeniably clear during the campaign that he is an Independent and not a Democrat or progressive. Was he just joshing us? Then there is Dick Traini—isn’t he a Republican? He said he was in 2012 when he ran and lost to Rep. Andy Josephson for the U-Med area State House seat.
Leakage — Word is that Republican Party Chairman Emeritas Randy Ruedrich recently “leaked” an intra-office memo from the Party’s Communications Director Suzanne Downing discussing Fairbanks Rep. Steve Thompson’s activities in working and possibly organizing with House Democrats and discussing the potential need to defeat him for re-election. Reportedly the memo was leaked to GOP State House candidate Lisa Vaught, who is known to have a close relationship with Thompson.
Given that the Alaska GOP only has one full-time employee, so they have no need and no history of intra-office memos, it’s clear to observers this wasn’t so much a “leak” as it was a fairly transparent threat to Thompson that the Party Establishment is ready to take him out if he doesn’t fall in line.
Campaign Announcement — What is the best way to let the world know you plan on running for office? That’s right—leave a comment on a story in the Midnight Sun the way Anchorage School Board candidate David Nees did this week:
Midnight Sun On The Air!!!! — Master of Morning Radio Rick Rydell (AM 650 KENI) has asked us to come on every week and share Friday in the Sun with his audience. So listen for our inside scoop every Friday morning at 7:35.
Who’s In — This week Sen. Bill Stolze shocked many by making public his plans to not seek re-election, and immediately politicos in Alaska began to wonder who could fill his seat. I am hearing Rep. Shelly Hughes, Rep. Cathy Tilton, Palmer Mayor DeLena Johnson, Assemblywoman Amy Demboski, and former state legislator Edna DeVries are all seriously looking at running. The first candidate out of the gate, however, is Adam Crum of Wasilla, who on Thursday filed his Letter of Intent with APOC, allowing him to begin raising money. One widely-speculated name we can cross off the list is Anchorage Assemblyman Bill Starr; according to the Muni Clerk, he doesn’t live in that senate district.
So There’s That… — The race to replace retiring Rep. Kurt Olson promises to be a lively one. Kenai City Manager Rick Koch and Soldotna City Councilman Keith Baxter are already in the Republican primary race, but as of this morning former Kenai legislator Kelly Wolf has also filed a Letter of Intent with APOC. Of all the current and past legislators I’ve heard those in the Capitol speak of, I don’t think I’ve ever heard of one less-well regarded as Wolf. It isn’t likely anyone in Juneau is celebrating even the slim chances of him returning.
Going For IT — The Alaska Republican Party State Convention is being held in Fairbanks in two weeks, where party faithful will be asked to elect a new slate of party leadership. One of the candidates for Chairman, Tuckerman Babcock, is taking his campaign really, really seriously. He has a Facebook page up, has been seen barnstorming district conventions and Republican women’s groups, and I’m told is even burning up the phone lines to delegates asking for their votes. I’m not saying people should or shouldn’t vote for Babcock, but there is something to be said for electing a party chairman based on who ran the best campaign, since aiding political campaigns is in theory a chairman’s top job.
Fly Into The Sun — If you have morsels you’d like shared in this column please email me at [email protected].
Some Upcoming Events You Can Find On Our Political Calendar —