Friday in the Sun (Aug. 4): Bet on Binkley, Walker re-election and some serious shade

Friday in the Sun is here

Speculating on rumors and gossip surrounding Alaska politics is a time-honored tradition. It’s time for our weekly trip through the grand, gross, weird, wild and wonderful world of Alaska politics. (Also if you feel like you have something good, you can always shoot me a tip via email at matt at midnightsunak dot com.)

Bet on Binkley

Word is Fairbanks businessman John Binkley, a Republican, is “really serious” about running for governor in 2018, and he’s reportedly been in talks with a potential campaign manager for the run.

It wouldn’t be the Riverboat Discovery owner’s first time running for the spot. He came in second in the 2006 Republican primary, behind Sarah Palin and well ahead of incredibly unpopular Gov. Frank Murkowski. He’s also won office before, with a single term in both the House and Senate.

Binkley has been well-rumored for some time and participated in a closed-door pitch meeting with Republican donors. That meeting also included investor Bob Gillam, former Sen. Charlie Huggins, Sen. Mike Dunleavy (who was the first to file), former Lt. Gov. Loren Leman and businessman Scott Hawkens. Binkley is clearly the favorite of the Interior Republicans and was cheered at a dinner hosted by the Fairbanks Republican Women earlier this year.

Lt. Governor scrum

There are now two (probably serious) candidates in the Republican primary for lieutenant governor. Last week moderate Kodiak Sen. Gary Stevens filed for the seat, and former Wasilla Rep. Lynn Gattis filed today. The two represent very different flavors of Republicans and will present a stark choice for Republican voters next year.

Stevens was the final Senate President under the now-defunct Bipartisan Coalition, a well-respected moderate who stymied conservative efforts to enact school vouchers.

Gattis served two terms in the Legislature as a conservative budget hawk, and made headlines for suggesting that some seniors should consider moving out of Alaska to “other places that are less expensive to live.” Those comments would come to haunt her in the 2016 election when she attempted to run for Senate, but was beat by David Wilson.

Wilson, aside from making headlines for allegedly slapping a reporter, briefly considered running for lieutenant governor himself. He withdrew in a bizarre fashion about 24 hours after submitting his initial paperwork.

Follow the filings

In addition to the filings for lieutenant governor, here’s a round up of the last two weeks of filings for office.

Senate Majority Leader Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna, has filed for re-election. He was one of the senators rumored to be considering a bid for the governor’s office. Rep. Chris Birch has filed an open letter of intent for re-election, which comes as Sen. Kevin Meyer is rumored to also be considering a run for lieutenant governor. Rep. DeLena Johnson has filed for re-election for the House, as has Anchorage Rep. Geran Tarr.

Fairbanks North Star Borough Assemblywoman Kathryn Dodge is the first legislative candidate to officially file with the Division of Elections (everyone else has filed with APOC). She’ll be running as a Democrat for the west Fairbanks House seat long-time held by Rep. Scott Kawasaki. Kawasaki will be leaving the seat in order to challenge Senate President Pete Kelly in next year’s general election.

Also, congratulations to Juneau Assemblyman Jesse Kiehl on being the first candidate to file for re-election in the Juneau assembly.

Meyer mulling

If Sen. Kevin Meyer files to run for lieutenant governor, word is Rep. Charisse Millett is eager to file for his seat. She’s apparently been openly talking about running for the the seat though, as noted above, Birch is keeping his options open with his open letter of intent.

The Apple Store of pot

Great Northern Cannabis opened today in downtown Anchorage. The store is partly owned by the oh-so-stylish Andrew Halcro, and opens despite talk of backroom efforts to put a moratorium on pot businesses in downtown Anchorage.

Hip Hopkins

While perusing an antiques sale in Fairbanks over the weekend, a friend of The Midnight Sun spotted this delightful picture of a certain former Fairbanks North Star Borough mayor.



This week, Gov. Bill Walker‘s administration found out that it’d be losing some of the best hair in Juneau when Department of Revenue Commissioner Randy Hoffbeck announced he’d be leaving. The Midnight Sun has been asked multiple times about doing a ranking of hair in Juneau, but there’s just no second to Hoffbeck’s fine, flowing locks.

In serious news, however, it sounds like Hoffbeck’s departure won’t be the last commissioner departure before the end of the year. It’s not entirely uncommon for commissioners to move onto something new after this length of time, and there’s no indication that there’s inner turmoil forcing anyone out, either. Instead, it sounds like some might be hoping to help Walker with his re-election bid.

Walker re-election

While Walker has remained mum on when he’ll officially run for re-election, his running mate and best buddy Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott hasn’t been so tight-lipped. It became all but certain this week, with Mallott’s concise “Yes” to KINY’s Pete Carran in an interview this week.

More concrete than talk, however, is word that Walker is currently working on putting together his re-election campaign team. His supporters are also working on putting together a PAC in support of his re-election bid. No word, yet, on who might be leading that effort.

Anchorage departures

Gov. Bill Walker’s office isn’t the only one with some high-profile departures. Word is in the last month Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz‘s office has lost its chief of staff, communications director and deputy communications director. This is all on the heels of the police chief being moved out.

Lisa “The Grandmaster of Shade” Murkowski

Folks are still reveling in the amount of shade Alaska’s senior senator cast in a recent interview with the ADN.

The interview was about the beers Murkwoski and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke shared in a twitter post that seemed to suggest the two had patched things over from last week’s row over the health care vote. Zinke had been widely reported to have threatened Alaska’s development projects for Murkowski’s votes against health-care, based on interviews Sen. Dan Sullivan gave at the time.

The best part of the interview was when Murkowski declined to talk about the details of the latest meeting, telling the ADN she doesn’t “like to take the private conversations that I have and outline them in the media.”

Wondering who she could possibly be talking about.

Battle of the blocks

Following last week’s court victory in challenging the President Donald Trump‘s predilection for blocking people on Twitter, the ACLU of Alaska took to Facebook to test the waters on legislative blocks. There have been a handful of reports about legislators blocking people on Twitter, including but not limited to Les Gara, Charisse Millett and Cathy Giessel. Also, do these legislators really not know about the mute function on Twitter?

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