Friday in the Sun (Dec. 14): The Coalition Theory edition

Friday in the Sun is here

Time for another edition of Friday in the Sun, the sometimes latest, sometimes greatest collection of wild baseless rumors, gossip and speculation from the Alaska political world.

Knopp’s Coalition

It sounds like things are starting to come together for the bipartisan coalition proposed last weekend by Rep. Gary “Now You’ll Know My Name” Knopp, especially after Rep. Dan Ortiz endorsed the plan in an email to legislators on Thursday.

Ortiz’s email, which we reported about here, was sent out with everyone’s email address in the to line, which means—in a very Alaska legislator move—there’s a bit of a reply-all thread going. As it’s been relayed to us, legislators and legislators-elect have been using it to politely draw caucus lines in the sand.

Rep.-elect Ben Carpenter, R-Kenai, said he appreciated the call for teamwork, but offered his own pitch that a “focused and humble team will help enable the success of our new governor and his administration.”

He apparently got kudos, including an  emoji, from Rep.-elect Laddie Shaw and Rep. DeLena Johnson (who despite her lovably out-of-context Twitter account, was not the source of the emoji).

Ortiz reportedly got some kind words from Reps. Louise Stutes and Harriet Drummond.

That’s all to say, there’s not a lot in there that tips anyone’s hand in any particularly surprising way (though depending on who you speculate with Shaw might be?). Sounds like most of the Republicans, who’re the main question mark in this whole exercise, have been mum on the prospects.

With that said, it won’t be surprising to hear many Democrats, always the pragmatists, are generally on-board with the proposal though there was initially some concern about who would be let in and who’d be left out under Knopp’s proposed 12 Republicans and 12 Democrats makeup of the coalition.

It sounds like, however, that requirement is more of a “No one party can pass anything on their own” sort of thing, meaning that there’s not quite as strict of a requirement on the party affiliations. Still, it likely means that there’s not room for everyone in a proposed coalition, but that might not be a bad thing for them (more on that wild speculation below).

Still, the loss of committee chairmanships for some is a far deal better in the mind of many progressives than letting Reps. Tammie Wilson and Lance Pruitt take the reins of the House Finance Committee (and perhaps let Rep. David “75 Times a NEastman” Eastman take the helm of the House Health and Social Services Committee).

Not today?!?

By the way, we heard a wild rumor on Thursday that a new coalition might be announced as early as today, but there’s few signs that would point in that direction (Namely the lack of any other Republicans signaling they might be on board and that Democrats are just starting to get on board).

Still, we’ve been told to stay tuned and expect some more news over the next few days.

Minority maneuvers

Still, here’s an interesting move (and completely wild speculation from some legis not directly involved in the caucusing process) that could give the Democrats on the outside some solace and, as with seemingly everything about the 31st Legislature, it’ll revolve around the minority membership charts from the Legislature’s uniform rules.

Namely, under Knopp’s proposal there’s an outcome where neither the leftover Republicans or leftover Democrats would be able to muster the 10 members needed to get on any committee (an outcome that’d be more likely if wary Republicans could be sure they wouldn’t be outnumbered).

We wouldn’t expect them to organize in a unified outsiders caucus (the requirement to be recognized as a minority under the uniform rules), but the bipartisan coalition could play nice and give both minorities seats on committees like the House Finance Committee (perhaps two minority Democrats and two minority Republicans?).

Yes, this is all speculation, but the more I write about it, the more I’d be sold on an idea like this. A truly moderate core with representation for the far-left and far-right?

Sounds kinda Alaskan, which means it won’t happen.

Burning bridges

Reps. Lance Pruitt and David Eastman went on the offensive against Knopp after his announcement.

“This is more likely posturing for what potentially could be his own personal gain as opposed to truly doing what’s right for the state,” Pruitt told the Associated Press, while Eastman took to his blog to bash Knopp with a post titled “Give Me More Power.”

Such a move is expected out of Eastman, especially because he was more or less the reason Knopp said he didn’t want to stick around, but you’d think you’d do less bridge burning when your position as co-chair of the House Finance Committee relies on him falling back in line.

But I guess that’s probably par for the course when you’re also out claiming that the FBI is getting the handcuffs ready for another Republican.

Deadly deadlines

I downplayed the impact of the tight deadline between the House District 1 lawsuit and the start of session, but was quickly informed by people who know the ins and outs of the Legislature better than I do that it will, in fact, be a major headache this might be.

Without knowing who’s in power, legislators will have to wait on office assignments, hiring decisions (not to mention the whole process of getting those staffers a place to live in Juneau) and just about everything else until potentially the DAY BEFORE they’re supposed to be gaveling in.

If we really must wait until the day before session to know who’s going to hold a majority, we could expect an unusually slow start to session. Still, thanks to House Bill 44, legislators will be watching the clock like never before as their per diem will be cut off after day 121 if they can’t pass a fully funded operating budget.

So, yeah, kind of a big deal.


With all the talk of a bipartisan coalition going on, the importance of House District 1 in setting the power balance for the House has been diminished, and it sounds like efforts to organize are hoped to reach to some kind of conclusion prior to then.

Elections shakeup

Gail Fenumiai will be back as director of the Alaska Division of Elections starting Jan. 2, 2019. Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer this morning announced the appointment of Fenumiai, who had the gig under Republican Govs. Sarah Palin and Sean Parnell.

One insider noted that it probably doesn’t hurt that under Fenumiai a ballot with both ovals filled out and “X” over one vote—you know the kind of vote currently at the heart of the legal battle for House District 1—should count for the candidate with the “X” over their oval (legal precedent says otherwise).

Anchorage awaits

As if the prolonged election season wasn’t enough, the Anchorage municipal elections are already underway. Assemblyman Eric Croft has announced his plans to step aside and has endorsed Kameron Perez-Verdia, who served on the school board from 2013 to 2017 and currently works as the President and CEO of the Alaska Humanities Forum. Here’s the full list of Perez-Verdia’s endorsements:

Assemblyman Forrest Dunbar also announced his plans to run for re-election and will have a campaign kick off next Wednesday.

Nominated names

Republicans for House District 13 and House District 14 nominated Craig Christenson, Clayton Trotter, and Sharon Jackson for consideration by Gov. Dunleavy to fill the seat left open in House District 13 after Rep.-elect Nancy Dahlstrom jumped over to the administration before being seated. House District 14 Republicans (who reportedly outnumber House District 13 republicans) were successful in arguing that they should get a say in nominating the other district.

So much for the sacredness of local input that Republicans argued for last year.

$25 million

That’s the increase in federal highway funds the Legislative Budget and Audit Committee approved during its Thursday meeting. The committee also voted to audit the Office of Children’s Services mentioned in this year’s House Bill 151.

Dec. 15

That’s the deadline for Gov. Mike Dunleavy to submit his new budget. With just a few weeks on the job, don’t expect it to be the fully completed vision Dunleavy has for state government but it should have some of the broad strokes like investment in crime fighting and supersized PFDs.

Right on cue

We’re surprised that it took a whole day for Alaska’s Republican mouthpiece to get on board with the George Soros conspiracy theory train about the Anchorage Daily News’ partnership with investigative nonprofit ProPublica. Perhaps the news that Kentucky Republican Gov. Matt Bevin already raised the alarm bells took some time to make it to Alaska.

ProPublica replied directly to Bevin’s accusations.

Instead of fretting about George Soros, these folks could be reminded that the grant is for local investigative journalism. And last time we checked, things in the Anchorage area aren’t being run by Republicans.

Suitable suits

Anchorage Daily News’ latest hire, former Juneau Empire reporter James Brooks, has been plenty busy at his new gig, reaching more people than ever with the state’s largest newspaper. And it looks like it’s not just his reporting that’s going statewide, but also his fashion sense.

Media moves

It’s been a busy week in the media, with some job moves of note:

  • Fairbanks Daily News-Miner opinion editor (and former roommate of your humble Midnight Sun editor) Kevin Baird announced on Thursday that he’s taken a job with the Juneau Empire and will be heading down to the state’s capital to start the new year, but it doesn’t sound like he’ll be on the legislative beat.
  • At the end of today’s broadcast on 650 KENI, Rick Rydell reportedly said it was his final show and is retiring, saying he had another job lined up. He didn’t say what, but the tipster’s guess would be the Dunleavy administration. That’d make sense as Rydell’s had a hand in the transition and some of the inauguration events.
  • It sounds like KTUU reporter Rich Mauer is on his way to retiring. Long a thorn in the sides those in power, he’ll be missed.

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1 Comment on "Friday in the Sun (Dec. 14): The Coalition Theory edition"

  1. Doesn’t an “X” over something usually mean, “No, NOT this”?

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