We’re coming up on the end of the first week of the legislative session and there’s already plenty to talk about. If you’re wondering what happened in the spotlight, check out our newly debuted AKLEG Recap series.
If you’re wondering what’s going on behind the scenes, then you’re in the right place. Here’s the latest in the rumors and gossip from Alaska’s political world, which given the start of session is just barely scratching the surface. And, as always, I’m always looking for more juicy gossip so hit me up at [email protected].
We had something extra special planned for today’s Friday in the Sun, but given the rumored news about appointments we’re publishing early (but keep an eye out later in the day or sometime over the weekend for a Friday in the Sun supplement).
Word going around Juneau is that Walker is expected to decide on appointments to fill both legislative vacancies today (or soon). Rep. George Rauscher is expected to be the pick to fill the vacancy left behind by Republican gubernatorial candidate Mike Dunleavy in the Senate, which is an obvious move given Rauscher’s a sitting legislator and it also gives the other finalists a chance at his House seat. There’s a long history of sitting legislators being favored for vacant Senate seats, so his appointment is an easy one for Walker and it also means the seat will only be vacant for a far shorter than it could’ve been.
Back to the drawing board
Given the tepid response to the three Democratic candidates put forward to fill the House District 40, Walker is expected to outright reject them today. The candidates all have their varying degrees of problems, including domestic violence charges and shady business dealings. There’s even more lurid rumors lurking in the shadows, but on top of that it sounds like legislators just aren’t very impressed.
“Not super thrilled,” one legislator said of the slate.
Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz and GOP-backed challenger Rebecca Logan both filed their paperwork to run for mayor this morning. It ought to be a fun, completely civil race.
We’ve heard plenty of talk that there’s some big bucks going to support Dunleavy’s candidacy for governor, both through direct contributions and a yet-to-be-announced independent expenditure campaign. As to who’s backing that campaign, we’ve heard suggestions that it’s some megadonor who’s interested in universal income and the permanent fund. That would seem to hint in a very Facebook co-founder-y direction, but we’ve been told that’s pretty clearly not the case and could be misdirection.
Either way, the talk of big money in the governor’s race was enough to get Sen. Charlie Huggins to reconsider his shot at governor. It’s just as well, too, since last week’s round of stories of Huggins turning a blind eye to former legislator Bill Stoltze’s tantrums directed at Rep. Tammie Wilson wouldn’t do him any favors.
$1,000 to $2,000
That’s the reported value of the gift bag handed out by the City and Borough of Juneau to legislators at its annual start-of-session reception, at least according to Walker’s financial disclosure. He’s probably playing it safe as the gift bags mostly include coupons for free yoga classes, some coffee and a few other goodies contributed by local businesses.
To err is human
Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux today admitted in a House floor special order that she was wrong when she blocked Rep. David Eastman from using a personal phone to call into a Rules Committee executive session. She said she thought it would go against the rules of an executive session, but said she was completely wrong and extended a heartfelt apology to Eastman, asking for his forgiveness. In a later special order, Eastman said it was “well-received.”
Per diem delight
There’s not a whole lot more to be said at the moment about the battle between Walker and the Legislature over per diem, but suffice it to say that there’s quite a few people who are taking the utmost delight in watching Republicans getting spun up and say things like “the masses” or “we know best.” It’s going to make for an interesting campaign season.
Next in line
Gov. Walker put forward the popular and, in our own assessment, totally kickass Health and Social Services Commissioner Valerie Davidson as the next-in-line to lieutenant governor in case there’s a vacancy or change for whatever reason.
In his final State of the State address of his term, Walker savaged the Legislature for failing to pass a budget. At least a few Republicans felt he was meaner than he needed to be. It probably won’t help him find teammates for his legislative league bowling team, which we’ve heard no one wants to be on.
Former Gavel Alaska producer and current KTOO/360 North News Director Jeremy Hsieh took home first place in the Triangle’s annual chili cook off. It’s a hard-won victory for Hsieh, who’s competed in the challenge for years. This year he said the secret was determination and science, having punched up the umami flavor with a mix of diglycerides (a few dashes of fish oil and soy sauce). Hsieh’s a legendary bacon connoisseur, but he said he left it out this year.