June 1st is a big day for political junkies like me here in Alaska, and if you are reading this, I suspect like you too. It’s what Signing Day is for college football or what Christmas Day is for kids.
It’s candidate filing deadline day!
It’s the day we all get to find out exactly which folks threatening to run for office really are and which were just hot talk. It’s when we find out which elected officials are serious about retiring and which names no one has even mentioned come out of the woodwork to run. And unlike Star Wars prequels, Iron Man sequels, or Fairbanks, candidate filing day never, ever disappoints.
This year was no exception. The media lost their mind over the surprise filing of Mayor Dan Sullivan to run against Sen. Lisa Murkowski in the Republican primary, mostly it would seem because they can’t get over the apparently unimaginable confluence of fate and coincidence that would allow two people with a name as unique as Dan Sullivan to be elected senator from the same state at the same time.
In the long run, the more significant last-minute filing for U.S. Senator will probably end up being Edgar Blatchford. He is a Republican who changed party registrations to Democrat only days before filing to run for office.
Blatchford is well known in Alaska political circles from owning newspapers the Seward Phoenix Log and the Tundra Drums and having served in several high profile political positions including Mayor of Seward, Commissioner of Community and Regional Affairs under Governor Wally Hickel, and Commissioner of Community and Economic Development under Governor Frank Murkowski.
There are real reasons to question whether his filing is a run in his own right or a Machiavellian attempt to aid either Sen. Murkowski or Independent candidate Margaret Stock.
So what is going on here?
In a phone interview last night, Mr. Blatchford said he’s running because his irritation with the failings of Washington had simply reached a boiling point:
“I’m frustrated with the gridlock down in Washington D.C. When I look at the current line up, everyone is hunkered down. It’s the frustration I think millions of American feel and I think it’s certainly felt here in Alaska.”
Asked if incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski is the kind of moderate who could work across party lines to break that gridlock Blatchford said:
“No she does not. When Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, said we are going to block all of the judicial nominees the President submits to the Senate, she has stood lock step with Mitch McConnell. I think there’s almost 100 in the federal court system. I think that is the best indicator anyone could point to of the unwillingness of the majority party in the U.S. Senate to work with the President and the minority party.”
The frustration Blatchford feels for the U.S. Senate also extends to the Republican Party itself. Blatchford said he felt compelled to change party affiliations before running:
“It would have been hard for me to run as a Republican. Over the years i’ve become disenchanted with the Republican Party. I didn’t like their nominee for President last time around; I endorsed President Obama’s re-election campaign.”
“It’s just that America has become incredibly diverse and we have to recognize that every group of Americans have a lot to contribute. And the steadfast determination to embarrass the President of the United States is insulting to the American system of government. I just didn’t see how I could become a part of that.”
“I’ve been Independent all my life. When Wally Hickel was elected Governor he was as an Independent. Then I went to work for Frank Murkowski who was a Republican. But in between that I served as an nonpartisan Mayor of Seward and as a city councilman.”
The idea of President Trump being the head of his party didn’t help matters either::
“If I were to become the Republican nominee and go into the Senate as a Republican when you have person would could be President of the United States who prefers to build walls around people. It’s just a awful thing to stomach.”
There had been rumors circulating for months that Blatchford was eyeing a run to be Alaska’s guy in D.C., but they focused on a primary challenge to Rep Don Young, not a general election fight against Sen. Murkowski. Blatchford said those rumors were true, but after listening to advice from friends around the state he ultimately felt a run as a Democrat against Sen. Murkowski is the best way to get to a campaign that discusses issues he cares about rather than focus on negative attacks.
Blatchford squelched any idea that he is just a name on the ballot to help Sen. Murkowski or a placeholder for Margaret Stock or even Alaska Republican’s favorite Democrat boogeyman former Senator Mark Begich. He said,“I have no plans to drop out. If I win the nomination I’ll go all the way to the end.”
Over the coming weeks and months, Blatchford will have more of an opportunity to tell us about the issues important to him.
For now, it looks like this year candidate filing day brought Alaska Democrats what has become the rarest of gifts; a statewide candidate who sounds like a Democrat and is willing to run registered as a one.