Friday in the Sun: Friday the 13th edition

Friday in the Sun is here

It’s been a week, but that doesn’t stop the roll of political gossip and rumors.

One hell of a stump speech

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mark Begich got his campaign underway in earnest this week with his first major fundraiser in Anchorage and a crime town hall that just so happened to be at the same time as a fundraiser for Gov. Bill Walker. Both Begich events had decent attendance, though a notable absence from the fundraiser was reportedly Begich’s running mate Debra Call.

Still, reports we’ve heard from on-the-fence Democrats who attended both events is that Begich has one hell of an inspiring stump speech. One insider, who’s previously told discussed Begich’s decision to enter the race with us in unprintable terms, left one of the events telling us they were solidly on the fence.

Maybe with the newfound support, Begich can get along to updating his website.

It sounds like at its core, Begich is proving he’s got the experience and the speaking ability to make a compelling case for his candidacy and vision for what he’d like to accomplish. Plenty of progressive folks are still torn because they see Walker’s administration as effective particularly in context of the state’s financial catastrophe and legislative obstinance.

A drop out or combined ticket (even as unimaginable as it’d be) is still in many people’s dreams.


This week’s Alaska AFL-CIO polling of the governor’s race and the accompanying interview of AFL-CIO President Vince Beltrami turned up the heat on the governor’s race this week, highlighting the fracture among progressives and among organized labor when it comes to who to back in the three-way race. Beltrami’s putting his weight behind Walker at this point, but it’ll be interesting to watch just how this plays out through August, when the AFL-CIO members will come together to decide on an endorsement for the race.

Just like 2014, a lot of people are expecting that to help give some clarity to the race and perhaps narrow it down to a two-way race (though one reader points out that the 32 percent polling for Dunleavy is within the margin of error of the AFL-CIO poll, the tied Begich and Walker’s 28 percent within striking distance even in a three-way race).

Things have to be looking good for Walker at this point in terms of the endorsement, but one insider warned us that he might not have labor–particularly public employee unions–as locked down as you’d think. There’s quite a bit of vocal dissatisfaction with what’s seen as workplace conditions–and we’re not just talking about automatic step increases and other cuts. Word is the conditions that launched an outside investigation into workplace conditions at the Alaska Psychiatric Institute about retaliations and hostile work environments might not be unique to the organization.

That investigation is underway and a public report is reportedly due out in the next month or two. The administration’s response to that could go a long way to sealing up support from dissatisfied state employees.

Social issues

This week we highlighted Gov. Bill Walker’s late response to President Donald Trump’s appointment of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court in the context of the governor’s pro-life beliefs and the role Kavanaugh could have in overturning Roe v Wade. Begich has certainly worked to drive a wedge between Walker and the progressive coalition that helped put him into office in 2014 over the issue by highlighting the fact that he’s the only supporter of abortion rights in the run for governor, and it’s certainly selling with some.

But to paint Walker’s social beliefs solely on his pro-life position is selling him short. Yes, his administration has defended the 2013 “medically necessary” abortion law to the Alaska Supreme Court (where it’s still being reviewed nearly two years after it was argued).

He’s also found himself on the opposite side of abortion opponents and other social conservatives with appointments like Kenni Linden, a former Planned Parenthood employee, to the Board of Midwives and Drew Phoenix, a transgender man, to the Human Rights Commission. Legislators never had the guts to publicly explain why they opposed both candidates. Walker’s also hired the talented Kati Ward, who helmed the successful campaign against the Anchorage bathroom bill initiative.

Anchorage Assembly

The Anchorage Assembly was host to a wild (in wonky terms) meeting to vote on the appointment of an interim assembly members to fill in for the vacancy on the body by Tim Steele’s resignation. There were multiple tied votes that ended when Jim Kubitz took his name out of the running, handing the position over to Ira Perman, who was appointed to the assembly on a 9-1 vote. Perman will serve through Aug. 28.

Meanwhile, the campaign is underway for the seat. There are seven candidates who’ve filed for the position: Austin Quinn-Davidson, Sam Moore, Nikki Rose, Nick Danger, David Darden, Dustin Darden and Tim Kelly.

Quinn-Davidson appears to be out in front in terms of support and fundraising, where she’s crushing the competition by raising an amount that would be respectable for a midcard legislative race with more than $34,000 in the warchest to Moore’s $3,460 and Rose’s $1,775 (the three were the only that filed reports with APOC).

Here’s a timeline of the three candidates’ fundraising efforts:

Davidson was bolstered by $3,500 from union groups and $3,000 of her own money. Still, she’s way out ahead of the competition.

If you recall, Mayor Ethan Berkowitz also smashed the competition in fundraising on his path to re-election.

Sign problems

The Department of Transportation sent out its annual reminder earlier this week that, yes, all those political campaign signs are almost universally violations of the state’s anti-billboard law. State law bans any billboards in or along public right-of-ways, even on private property.

That’s probably not what one individual had in mind, though, when he went after Sen. Peter Micciche’s sand bags.

Revak rumble

We’ve heard that there’s been plenty of infighting among Anchorage Republicans over the primary challenge brought by Josh Revak (who’s got a $30,000 Jeff Landfield-headed independent expenditure group at his back) against Rep. Charisse Millett. The latest apparently is a tiff over whether or not the anti-Millett crowd will be invited to the picnic of the Anchorage Republican Party, which has already endorsed Millett over the veteran. It’s apparently gone beyond general loathing of Landfield, too, and we’ve heard rumblings about spats over Revak yard signs.

That was fast

No one really expected U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan not to eventually vote in favor of the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court, but even his announcement on Thursday just moments after meeting with him seemed fast.

Don Young targeted

Alaska’s lone U.S. Rep. Don Young is the target of the national Fire Your Congressman PAC, an anti-incumbent PAC that’s targeting 10 incumbents that “are the worst of the worst” according Norbert Richter, the founder of the group. In the spirit of bipartisanship the group is targeting five Democrats and five Republicans, including Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Mitch McConnell.


Meanwhile, Young was up in Fairbanks over the past weekend where he hosted Alaska folk hero John Sturgeon. Sturgeon’s the hovercraft-using hunter who ran afoul of the U.S. Park Service and has since taken the case to the U.S. Supreme Court in a suit that has all sorts of implications in the ongoing battle over federal overreach.

Some in the Alaska Legislature hoped the state would cut Sturgeon a check for his efforts, but those budget amendments have gone nowhere.

Legislative rankings

Thanks for making it this far through this very late and pretty thin edition of Friday in the Sun.

For a little thank you, we’re extending you an offer to participate in our first-ever ranking of Alaska politicians that we’ll be releasing very soon. This is a project that we’ve been kicking around for a while and have asked our political insider friends for help with, but we want to also get your input. Everything you reply in here is, as always, anonymous. (If you’ve received a personal invitation, please take it through that way as this link will silo your response into the public rating.)

Survey: Alaska Legislature 2018: The Good, The Bad and The Who?

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