Friday in the Sun (Oct. 12): The Race Everyone Wants to Talk About edition

Friday in the Sun is here

Happy end of the week everyone. Let’s all go celebrate with some now-legal-again distillery cocktails. In the mean time, take everything in here with a grain of salt.

Kawasaki v. Kelly

This is the race anyone is talking about (seriously, everyone I called up for this column wanted to talk about this race almost exclusively). But, hey, it’s going to be a barn burner. Right-wing Senate President Pete Kelly is going up against his only real competition he’s seen since returning to office in 2012 in the form of Democratic Rep. Scott Kawasaki. Kelly won the seat in 2012 after ditching out of the country in the run-up to election day and faced a nearly non-existent challenge in 2014. Now, Kawasaki’s giving him a real run and things may just be in the Democrat’s favor. Kawasaki’s strong fundraising has erased the early fundraising advantage Kelly took into the race. Kawasaki is currently up on Kelly by less than the cost of a Nintendo Switch with over $330,000 total raised on the race.

We’ve heard from a few sources that there are a handful of polls that give Kawasaki the advantage in the race, but no hard numbers that anyone wanted to share.

It sounds like Kelly wasn’t all that prepared for a bitter fight for the seat and is playing catch-up when it comes to the campaigning apparatus. We’ve heard some weird stories about how this is playing out, including some late-night lit drops but we’ll wait on harder evidence before we buy any of them as anything more than stories. Still, Kelly’s gone down an interesting path of cutting his own attack ads instead of leaving it to the independent expenditure groups (which are out there, more below) including radio ads (including one that dips into George Soros territory) and attack signs, which has to be a first in Alaska politics.

Also, one insider sent us this quote from the recent Greater Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce forum where Kelly had this response to a question about getting refined products to rural Alaska: “Two Words: Pinemute Saloon. I mean, Pinemute Slough.”

Kawasaki’s victory could certainly help shift the balance of the Senate. While his race alone won’t shift the overall numbers enough to a bipartisan coalition, there’s the complicating factor on the far other end of the political spectrum in the all-but-certain arrival of Lora Reinbold. There’s already early efforts to organize a Republican majority underway, but Reinbold and the Valley Republicans who’ve been resistant to signing off on any binding votes have made things difficult.

Bullshitting over coffee

Also out of the chamber forum was Republican candidate for House District 1 (Kawasaki’s seat) Bart LeBon’s closing comments, which apparently consisted almost entirely of a lengthy list of all the boards and commissions he’s served on. One person’s response? “That’s not really impressive considering everyone knows boards and commissions primarily consist if bullshitting over coffee and not doing anything.”

House District 15

There’s also a ton of attention on House District 15, where Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux is either in the race of her life or likely to prevail in what’s become one of the messiest races in recent memory depending on who you ask. It’s probably somewhere in the middle, but either way it’s been a messy one.

First, the Republican Party is going all-out against LeDoux. We’ve heard GOP chair Tuckerman Babcock has been sending out a two-page letter to voters that gets about as close as you can get to suggesting LeDoux might have had a hand in the death of campaign consultant Charlie Chang (and there’s always rumors that some kind of voter fraud investigation may be underway). The party and its backers has also dumped nearly $20,000 into the write-in campaign of Jake Sloan, and we’ve heard that even North Pole Rep. Tammie Wilson might be out campaigning with him (Wilson’s always had ambitions of organizing her own caucus in Juneau, so that’s probably why she made the trip). It’s hard to see how the write-in campaign could win it, but who knows.

Meanwhile on the other side of the ticket, we’ve been surprised to not see much support materialize behind Democratic candidate Lyn Franks. Word is that for as many headaches as LeDoux caused the bipartisan coalition during her tenure as Rules Chair, she still has some ardent allies within the party who’ve convinced the powers that be to invest their resources elsewhere.

It doesn’t actually seem like the worst strategy in the world, setting everything else aside. A Democratic pickup over LeDoux doesn’t mean much for the balance of the bipartisan coalition because who really thinks LeDoux would ever caucus with Republicans after their treatment of her and her fellow bipartisan-minded Republicans (Rep. Paul Seaton left the party altogether). Whatever prgoressive time and money that would be spent on this race, it’s been argued, can be better spent in other races.

That’s not to mention, either that both of Franks’ primary challengers, Patrick McCormack and Rick Phillips, have also filed to run write-in campaigns though they’ve not had nearly as much financial support on their end.

Possible pickups?

Politicos say the races to watch in the Anchorage area are most likely the House District 27 race between Democrat Liz Snyder and Republican Rep. Lance Pruitt and the House District 25 race between Democrat Pat Higgins and Republican defeater-of-Charisse-Millett Josh Revak.

There’s word going around that Pruitt has a strong lead in polling, but it’s been met with skepticism (as Pruitt has never had a strong lead on election day). There’s a lot of enthusiasm surrounding Snyder, particularly when it comes to her tough campaigning. Snyder doubled Pruitt’s fundraising during the most recent reports this week with $21,972.12 to Pruitt’s $11,150.00. Snyder has a running total of $63,258.69 with $33,825.74 on-hand. Pruitt has a running total of $42,467.27 and $27,357.83 on-hand.

Meanwhile, the abandonment of Higgins after Revak’s upset win over Millett appears premature. There’s some concern, at least how we’ve heard it told, that Revak may not be as much of a home-run candidate as people thought. Still, Revak holds an huge fundraising lead with a running total of $62,728.73 ($38,073.59 raised since the primaries) to Higgins’ $30,925.00 ($10,657.00 since the primary). Higgins does, however, have a $20,000 independent expenditure in his favor (being paid to Lottsfeldt Strategies) from the AFL-CIO-backed Putting Alaskans First Committee.

Something afoot?

Things are starting to really come down to the wire in the race for Alaska’s governor. Quibble as much as you want with the polling by Ivan Moore (more on that later), but it sounds like Dunleavy’s lead is similar across polling (giving plenty of Republicans enough to declare that the race is pretty much over). That’s certainly helped by the continued infighting among Democrats, progressives and moderates over whether it should be Bill Walker or Mark Begich that gets the consolidated anti-Dunleavy vote. There’s still really no sign of who’s ahead and public-facing consolidation efforts have been pretty much non-existent. It’s kept support, volunteers and, importantly, a lot of money on the sidelines.

Still, we’ve been told that it won’t take long if and when something breaks in the race. Big-figure independent expenditure money—you know, the kind that’s backing Dunleavy—can get mobilized in a matter of days.

That said, we’ve heard rumblings that something just may be afoot on that front. Stay tuned.

Running out the clock

Meanwhile, Dunleavy’s continued his strategy of avoiding any and all opportunities to put his foot in his mouth. We’ve noticed that he’s already set to be a no-show at the University of Alaska Anchorage’s gubernatorial debate on Monday due to “a scheduling conflict” as well as one to be hosted at the University of Alaska Fairbanks later in the month.

Standing tall.

There’s also this:


There’s been very little that the media has done to look into Dunleavy’s time at the helm of the Northwest Arctic Borough School District, but this column from 2009 that resurfaced this week can lend some insight into what kind of job the governor-elect might do as the state’s top executive. It paints a pretty uninspiring picture of the Republican’s tenure, including a personal pay hike amid problems with teacher retention before an early departure from his three-year contract.

“Why so soon an exit? Some wondered why a schools chief would so hastily walk away from an agreement with generous benefits that, according to regional board minutes of Aug. 26, 2003, included $5,000-a-year pay hikes. About the only explanation Dunleavy himself offered was the typical one: He wanted to spend more time with his family.”

“His brief tenure was his choice, because less than eight moths after signing a lucrative three-year contract, Dunleavy announced his resignation. The Inupiat have a name for someone who quits: ‘qiviter.'”

Beer-and-switch advertising


Endorsements galore

Boy, there were a bunch of endorsements this week. The ones that we can recall off the top of our heads, include:

  • The Public Safety Employees Association’s endorsement of Mike Dunleavy. The PSEA represents the troopers and plenty of municipal law enforcement and public safety folks. It prompted a reminder from the Walker campaign that Walker and Begich also got nods from the public safety sector. Walker got the endorsement of the Alaska State Firefighters Association, and Begich got the nod from the Anchorage Police Department Employees Association.
  • Begich got the nod from Alaska’s maritime unions: The Inlandboatmen’s Union, International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots, and Marine Engineers Beneficial Association. This is apparently a big deal, but I’m from Fairbanks. All maritime stuff is foreign to me.
  • AFN’s first president, Emil Notti, also endorsed Begich. (OK, most of the endorsement news seems to come from the Begich camp).
  • Begich can also put UNITE HERE Local 878 in his camp.

Television ads

Begich has a new ad out and take note because it takes the apparently unusual strategy of prominently featuring the candidate.

There’s a reason a lot of us don’t use Ivan anymore

That’s what one insider said when asked about the flip-flopping results from the Moore’s first to second tracker poll.

Republican health care plans

Your humble editor had the opportunity to spout progressive-to-socialist ideas on health care out at this week’s State of Reform conference in Anchorage alongside Must Read Alaska’s Suzanne Downing and Alaska Public Media’s Nat Herz. It was an overall pretty interesting experience and I appreciated the frankness Downing brought to the table when it comes to conservative thinking on health care (that it, along with housing, aren’t human rights and something about how immortality isn’t meant to be obtained). Herz and I also made the case that health care reporting in Alaska is seriously hampered by the thinning state of newsrooms and, hey, maybe someone should consider opening their pockets and funding some reporters.

The conference also gave some hints at brewing battles over health care that we’re sure to see when legislators return to Juneau in January, like Alaska Health Care Authority and Medicaid reimbursement rates. We also heard some Republican ideas floated for health care, including separating Medicaid into its own state agency outside the Department of Health and Social Services and something about privatizing Medicaid determinations. It’ll be… fun?


Speaking of newspaper-reporter-turned-radio-guy Nat Herz, he’s still at it with the newspaper-y stories like this one busting lobbyists Ashley Reed and Jerry Mackie for, um, “alerting” their clients to some fundraisers. It’s against state law for lobbyists to help candidates campaign, but there seems to be some confusion over at APOC whether or not these kinds of emails are permissible. Which, you know, is par for the course.


Someone really needs to get these Outside Republican groups a spelling guide for Alaska’s politicians. After the Republican Governors Association’s proxy group apparently couldn’t get Dunleavy’s name right, the proxy group for the Republican State Leadership Committee (which itself appears to just be a proxy for big business interests) went two-for-three in its attack ad on Rep. Scott Kawasaki.

In classic Republican attack ads, we wouldn’t be surprised if this is the template for attack mailers targeting Democrats.

A solid 4/10 effort.

Rejected Dunleavy campaign slogans

Brought to you by Juneau’s Pat Race:

Race penned an editorial for the Juneau Empire that combines his signature irreverent humor with good ol’ fashion sincerity. Check it out: Opinion: Decision time is now, not in November.

Judicial retention

There’s been plenty of effort spent waving aside the appalling case of not-a-sex-offender-thanks-to-a-technicality Jason Schneider and everyone involved in reaching his no-prison deal. The prosecutor was just following the law, the judge was just following the law and the sentencing was just the law, but former prosecutor Val Van Brocklin laid out in pretty clear terms why that’s all a sorry excuse in an editorial that appeared in the ADN.

“The things I can’t reconcile are the apparent lack of support for the victim and Schneider’s sentence,” she wrote.

Neither can we.

More from TMS

1 Comment on "Friday in the Sun (Oct. 12): The Race Everyone Wants to Talk About edition"

  1. Elaine O'Brien | October 13, 2018 at 6:43 pm | Reply

    It looks like Dunleavy also is a no show for the Oct. 22 fisheries debate in Kodiak. He said in early Sept. on public radio’s Talk of Alaska that he would be there. Since then, he has refused to tell the Kodiak Chamber of Commerce if he is attending the debate or not. If he does not show up, he will be the first major candidate for AK governor or US Congress to blow it off since 1991. So much for being Governor for ALL Alaskans.

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