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.)
Quick thanks to the new and old friends of the blog who’ve reached out with rumors in the last week. As a long-time reporter I was always a little nervous about taking over this weekly feature and filling it with good, interesting material. You guys have made it easy.
No luck for Tuck
House Majority Leader Chris Tuck, D-Anchorage, is reportedly out of a job with the IBEW after his run for business manager. Tuck came in second in a runoff election. The move initially was reported to us as a consolidation of power, but word is there’s more going on here beyond petty disagreements. The third candidate in the race, Doug Tansy, still has a job.
Tuck was rumored to likely leave the Legislature if he had won.
The only candidate who’s openly filed to run for governor, Wasilla Republican Rep. Mike Dunleavy, was spotted meeting potential gubernatorial candidate Loren Leman at an Anchorage coffee shop this week. Leman is a former lieutenant governor and state legislator. Leman and Dunleavy were both at a closed-door pitch meeting for Republican candidates, which also included Bob Gillam, Scott Hawkins, former Sen. Charlie Huggins and Fairbanks businessman and father of the ADN’s new publishers John Binkley.
Of that group, Binkley is also strongly rumored to be preparing to run for governor—though the timing of his children’s bottom-dollar acquisition of the Alaska Dispatch News is certainly complicating (John Binkley also sat in on Thursday’s bankruptcy court hearing according to KTVA). Word is Binkley could make an announcement much sooner than later, perhaps at the Alaska Republican Party dinner hosted by the Republican Women of Fairbanks at Pike’s Waterfront Lodge tonight.
Binkley has after all already registered Binkley2018.com.
The only other person from the Anchorage meeting with a registered 2018 domain is Dunleavy.
The ADN also reports that former state Sen. Ben Stevens, the one who was investigated for political corruption, is also considering a bid.
Mallott a lot
Word is Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott phoned into the Alaska Democratic Party‘s State Central Committee this week. It was apparently a pretty friendly check-in by the party’s former gubernatorial candidate who settled for lieutenant governor in the 2014 unity ticket. Mallott told the party officials that he plans to run with Walker on an independent ticket, saying there’s still more work to be done.
Word is Mallott didn’t make any pitch asking the party bless his plans to run with Walker or pull some sort of move to make way for a two-way race between the independent ticket and the Republican ticket, though the possibility of a Democratic ticket was discussed. Folks seemed to be confident that Walker and Mallott would face good odds if the opponent is Dunleavy even with a Democratic spoiler in the race.
Trump to Alaska?
A wild rumor we’ve heard this week is that President Donald Trump could be an attendee of the Alaska Federation of Natives‘ annual convention in Anchorage later this year. Though word of this came before Trump’s awful Charlottesville press conference that’s earned him the title of Divider in Chief that’s shaken the White House so badly that strategist Steve Bannon was shown the exit today. The dates for the convention are Oct. 19-21.
ADN out in the open
All of the Alaska Dispatch News‘ dirty laundry has been set to air out this week, and it looks like everyone involved with the process is holding their breath to watch how the bankruptcy process works out. Things look to be getting more and more grim with every court filing. Before people can even start to fret about the paper’s shape under Binkley ownership, there’s the question of whether the courts will even allow the Binkleys to take over.
Creditors owed more than $2.5 million (which doesn’t even include the $10 million owed to Northrim Bank) have filed various objections to the process. Yesterday, the Binkley’s attorney made clear they don’t intend to pay back that debt. Even if the court signs off on the plan, the Binkleys want the latitude to decide at any point during the process to just fold if the numbers don’t work out.
The paper and the Binkley family is due back in bankruptcy court today. The only bright spot in the developments from Thusday’s hearing is that KTVA has a courtroom sketch artist. Delightful.
— KTVA 11 News (@ktva) August 18, 2017
Out in force for Young
Word is turnout to a Rep. Don Young fundraiser this week was the highest in many years with more than 200 people attending. The fundraiser was hosted by former Gov. Bill Sheffield and included some notable attendees like former Mayor Dan Sullivan, Steve Colligan, Charlie Huggins and wife Becky Huggins, Perry Green, Hugh Ashlock, Art Hackney, Larry Baker and Barbara Huff, as well as some other GOP regulars.
Another Alaskan to join the Administration
Tara Sweeney, Arctic Slope Regional Corporation executive vice president of external affairs and Young’s rumored chosen one, is soon to be in for a big new job as undersecretary for the Bureau of Indian Affairs. She’d be one of a handful of Alaskans appointed to high-profile spots in the Trump administration.
Sweeney held the high-profile position as the chair of the Arctic Council’s Arctic Economic Council during the United States’ chairmanship that ended earlier this year. She was also co-chair of Sen. Dan Sullivan’s 2014 campaign. She’s been rumored to be Young’s hand-picked replacement once he decides to leave office, if anyone can ever imagine that happening.
Sad hair day
Department of Revenue Commissioner Randy Hoffbeck’s last day in the office was this week.
The Hoff has left the building. Randy Hoffbeck will be a tough act to follow as Revenue Commissioner. Alaska thanks you for your service. pic.twitter.com/pDKe8yCX4g
— Governor Bill Walker (@AkGovBillWalker) August 18, 2017
Frank not feelin’ it
The group hoping to ban commercial marijuana in Fairbanks may not have a lot of friends, but it does have the support of former Gov. Frank Murkowski. Murkowski has pitched in $150 to the independent expenditure group pushing initiatives in the city of Fairbanks and the Fairbanks North Star Borough.
Meanwhile the pro-industry group up in Fairbanks has mounted some pretty public displays against the ballot propositions, including this huge sign on Airport Way outside Grass Station 49. Election day in the Interior is Oct. 3.
There haven’t been many folks filing for the Legislature or statewide office this week. According to the Alaska Public Offices Commission’s letter of intent report, just Reps. Les Gara and Ivy Spohnholz have filed. Gara has filed an open letter of intent while Spohnholz has filed for reelection to the House.
Spohnholz also has the distinction of the first incumbent legislator to officially file with the Division of Elections (the APOC filing just allows fundraising). She’s since been joined by Rep. Mark Neuman.