Here is what we’re hearing from around the world of Alaska politics this week:
Musical Legislative Chairs — Last night, the new Alaska House Majority got ahead of us and announced their full list of committee assignments for the coming session. The most notable takeaway, which we were going to break here, but can now report officially, is that freshman Independent Rep-elect Jason Grenn got himself a seat on the Finance Committee. That is a really good get for a freshman legislator.
Loyal readers will remember we questioned why Grenn, who had substantial bargaining power as an Independent in a coalition that only has 22 members, was only able to get a Chairmanship of the relatively low-level Military and Veterans Affairs Committee. Well, now we know why.
But there is a deeper story to how Grenn got the finance spot and why over a month went by between the release of committee chairs and the full list of committee members.
As we hear it, caucus leaders had held out hope they could add 2-3 more members to their thin 22 member majority. In order to have something to offer Republicans like Rep-elect Gary Knopp or Rep-elect Delena Johnson to come over a spot was kept open on the Finance Committee was left open. Those talks didn’t go well. We hear that Knopp particularly was asking for the princely sum of being Co-Chair of the Finance Committee to make the move. That was a deal breaker.
Those recruiting failures left an opening on Finance that the young Grenn was able to swoop in and claim.
Musical Offices — Here are some more staff moves in the legislature:
Ridiculously longtime finance staffer James Armstrong appears to be heading to Sen. Lyman Hoffman’s office. We’re also hearing Armstrong has let it be known this will be his last session in Juneau.
It sounds like Rep. Kurt Olson’s staffer Konrad Jackson is headed to Anchorage to be Senator-elect Natasha Von Imhof’s new Chief-of-Staff.
It is pretty well known that Rep. Steve Thompson had a pretty plumb spot waiting for him in the incoming House Majority if he wanted it, maybe even the Speakership. Thompson opted to stay in the GOP minority, feeling that group is more in-line with his values. His staff, however, have no such qualms. We’re hearing both Jane Pierson and Brodie Anderson are moving to the other side to work for Rep. Paul Seaton and/or Rep. Neal Foster. Such moves aren’t surprising, we won’t bore you with details, but Majority staff make more than Minority staff so when the body flips you can really get a sense of who are the true believers and who’s there for the money.
Days Until The Next State Election — 691
Days Until Muni Election — 109
Former Leg Drama — It sounds like outgoing Senator Bill Stoltze is pushing hard to get an appointment from the incoming President-elect Donald Trump for a USDA job in Alaska. From what we’re hearing, Stolze has been camped out in Sen. Dan Sullivan’s office for much of the last month campaigning for the job.
Sticker Shock— Not too long ago we did a story on the Muni going entirely to a vote by mail system in 2018. As a fun end to the piece, we joked about how would we get our “I Voted” stickers in such a system.
Worry not, sticker lovers. The Muni Clerk’s office, who are avid readers of The Midnight Sun sent us this after the story was posted:
“The Clerk’s Office wanted to reassure you and the public that we are exploring options to include the sticker in each voter’s ballot envelope sent out for the April 2018 election. Voters can wear them proudly after they return their ballot. As we continue to explore these options, we will work to keep the public informed.”
Of course, this plan is fraught with potential controversy. What happens when someone wears the “I Voted” sticker but doesn’t turn in their ballot? Or let’s take this a step further, what happens when someone, maybe an illegal immigrant, moves into a house or apartment close to the election and gets a ballot and sticker intended for the previous tenant. Just imagine the horror of hoards illegals parading around town wearing “I Voted” stickers.
(This section was in jest, but does anyone want to bet that we just blew Anchorage Assemblywoman Amy Demboski’s mind?)
The Office — Governor Bill Walker is recovering from cancer surgery, so before we launch into palace intrigue of his administration let’s take a second to wish him a speedy and full recovery. Hope you get back to top form soon big guy.
Now on to the Governor’s Office. It is pretty well known that the Governor’s new Chief-of-Staff Scott Kendall is shaking up the staff. We’re hearing the primary impetus for the shake-up is to improve the Governor’s relationship with the legislature, so it isn’t a surprise that most of the talk of changes surrounds the Governor’s legislative liaisons. Deputy Legislative Liaison Lacy Wilcox was already dismissed over the summer and we expect Darwin Peterson to be on the chopping block as well.
We’re hearing former staffer to Rep. Cathy Munoz, Nicole Gorle is being brought in for one of the spots, probably the deputy position.
All of the changes almost certainly need to be in place before the legislative session begins in January, so we’ll keep you apprised in the coming weeks.
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.
Assembly Drama — Nobody can officially file to run for one of the six Anchorage Assembly seats up this spring until January 27, so now is the time when decisions about whether to run or not start coming into focus.
In West Anchorage — Assemblyman Tim Steele has made it clear he is running again. He had been saying the opposite until just recently which spurred several progressives to eye their own potential run. We are starting to hear from a few of them that a Steele run won’t necessarily be enough to make them bow out. In fact, this morning Mark Butler filed a letter of intent with APOC to do just that. That could open the door for a Republican (Maybe Adam Trombley?) to have a good shot in a three-way race, although the district’s previous 4-way race didn’t go that well for him.
In Midtown — There are three guys registered with APOC to run, lefties Felix Rivera and Marcus Sanders and rightie (and self-proclaimed “Father of the Tax Cap”) Don Smith. What we heard at the Alaska Republican Party State Central Committee meeting last Saturday is that conservatives are heavily recruiting for a better candidate than Smith. They strongly expect that Smith would bow out if someone can be found.
In East Anchorage — Incumbent lefty Pete Petersen is running for reelection against righties Kevin Smestad and Terre Gales. We’ve heard from several Republicans that even though Gales filed with APOC, he has since decided not to run. If so, that leaves the relatively unknown Smestad against Petersen, this won’t be much of a race.
In South Anchorage — Names are flying hot and heavy about who could run. Names like Rep. Craig Johnson, Bruce Schulte, Joy Bunde, and Albert Fogle are among the many that have been speculated who could throw their hat in the ring.
In Downtown — Right now the race is between two lefties, community activist Chris Constant and longtime Democratic campaign manager David Dunsmore. In what may be the first major indication of who the progressive establishment is getting behind, we are told that as of this morning Constant has secured the endorsement of the International Association of FireFighters (IAFF) Local 1264.
Buying Support — Credit to reporter Nat Herz for tweeting this interesting $7,500 donation by anti-Pebble activist and Alaska’s richest man, Bob Gillam to the Alaska Republican Party in October. Is it possible Gillam is trying to buy some friendly relationships within the Party ahead of a rumored run for Governor? Yup.
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