Friday in the Sun (March 15): The Shaping the Narrative edition

Friday in the Sun is here

Another week, another attempt at wrangling together gossip and rumors from Alaska’s political world. As we’re keen to say, we strive to bring you the best rumor roundup to be released on a Friday, but still use your head and have a pinch of salt.

Have a good weekend everybody, and don’t do anything at Sham Jam that will land you in the gossip blogs.

Oh the polls

If there’s one thing we should hate more than polls after all these elections, it’s rumors about polls. Then again, we’ve never been ones to learn from our mistakes. So here goes:

We’ve heard reports from individuals about polling out in the field asking about Gov. Michael J. Dunleavy’s favorability among plenty of other questions about resource development in Alaska—including who should shoulder the blame if the AKLNG project falls apart (hmm). The polls have been going on since election day, but we have yet to see any numbers materialize publicly.

This week, however, we heard rumors about the latest poll, and it doesn’t appear to be so hot for Governor “All Man.”

One tipster suggests the latest results show Dunleavy’s favorability has dipped by as much as 20 percent since he took office. No word on where his favorability stands with Alaskans, but we imagine that it was never that great with Democrats to start off with (meaning he’s losing it with independents and Republicans).

Word is that it was commissioned by some groups in the oil industry and they aren’t too keen on it getting out lest they draw the administration’s ire. We’ve heard so far that any oil tax change proposals are DOA in the governor’s eyes, but could that change? We don’t think so, but who knows.

For comparison’s sake, Morning Consult’s popularity tracker for governors showed former Gov. Bill Walker’s popularity fell by 24 points between his inauguration and the end of 2017, when the public had seen its dividends cut twice.

We wouldn’t be that surprised if the polling is true given the budget cuts, the lack of justification and his anemic response to the backlash, which has given pretty much everyone else the opportunity to shape the narrative surrounding the cuts.

So far, the governor’s biggest response has been to accuse politicians of being greedy (more on that later), demand that he really did promise he’d slash funding for schools, seniors and the University (he didn’t) and to schedule a town hall with a $5 listening fee.

But to hear it from Rep. Lance “My wife has a communications contract with the Dunleavy administration” Pruitt it’s really the Democrats and the “Democrat-led” House Majority who are running scared.


That’s what Rep. Lance “My wife has a communications contract with the Dunleavy administration” Pruitt thinks the House will get out of a series of upcoming town halls they plan to hold around the state.

“I think that they’re nervous hearing that the governor’s going to start talking in public. This is a way to try to mitigate that,” he told the Anchorage Daily News.

The governor’s first publicly scheduled town hall is set for March 28, a whopping 43 days after he released his budget with a shrug, and is labeled as a “special breakfast presentation” between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. in front of the Greater Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce. It also happens to have a $5 per person listening fee and limited seats.

Yes, so very nerve-wracking.

Still, the House Majority could probably still pick up a thing or two from the House Minority’s coordinated messaging as details about the town halls have come at a trickle without an official announcement. The best we have so far is a story by the Anchorage Daily News with three of the seven events still listed as “location TBA” and some events on the group’s Facebook page:

Meanwhile, it’s given the minority Republicans plenty of opportunities to cast this as a big waste of money and time with statements like this from Rep. Colleen Sullivan-Leonard:

“After waiting nearly a month to organize the House, the fact that the Democrat-led House Majority now plans to spend tens of thousands of state dollars to fly members around the state campaigning for an increase in government spending in the middle of legislative session is astounding to me,” she said. “This is a great depiction of why the people of Alaska do not trust in their legislature – we’re in the middle of a huge budget deficit and House leadership wants to spend money that we do not have to try and advocate for spending even more money that we do not have. Other departments in the government are cutting their state travel budgets down by 50% or more – they didn’t give that money to the Democrat-led House Majority to spend for them.”

First off, what’s with all the dismissal of public input by minority Republicans this week? This statement came out just as Reps. Sara Rasmussen was asking why they had to sit through yet another session of testimony (the second of two) about the ferry system. Rep. Sarah Vance also found herself in hot water after slagging high school students, but at least she issued a half-hearted apology about it (but more on the Homer Republican below).

Perhaps the whole “they’re just dirty union teachers and therefore their testimony shouldn’t count because all they care about are their state-funded mansions” line only goes so far.

Secondly, isn’t it a little bit ironic that Rep. Sullivan-Leonard is the sole co-sponsor of House Bill 2, a bill that would move sessions to Anchorage?


Let’s look at the House organization:

  • House Speaker Bryce Edgmon, I-Dillingham
  • Majority Leader Rep. Steve Thompson, R-Fairbanks
  • Rules Committee Chair Rep. Chuck Kopp, R-Anchorage
  • Majority Whip Rep. Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak
  • Finance Committee Co-Chair Rep. Tammie Wilson, R-North Pole
  • Finance Committee Co-Chair Rep. Neal Foster, D-Nome
  • Finance Committee Vice-Chair Rep. Jennifer Johnston, R-Anchorage

A veritable Bernie fan club right there. We’re sure they’ll make AOC proud.

Dunleavy’s Twitter

Thanks to Jeff Landfield, a good chunk of the dirt we scrimp and save up during the week gets blown up well ahead of time. He already had a write up about Dunleavy’s odd use of an link shortener to mask that he was sharing an article from, in his words, “Alaska Republican Party and Dunleavy administration propagandist” Suzanne Downing and Must Read Alaska.

The too long; didn’t read explanation goes like this:

  • Governor tweets out now-deleted tweet with link from, which goes to MRA article
  • is a redirect service, similar to, charging between $30 and $500 per month
  • is registered to the personal address of Austin McDaniel
  • Austin McDaniel just so happens to be the governor’s digital media manager
  • Austin McDaniel also happens to run Five Nine Solutions, which set up MRA.

It’s no secret that the governor is friendly with MRA (administrations are allowed to have preferred bloggers or whatever), but this is an interesting development. Perhaps Pepe Silvia is involved.

One politico’s thoughts: “In most of my world MRA stands for ‘men’s rights activists’… I guess that kinda fits though, huh?”

Cruise shipping

The administration’s insistence on shutting down the Ocean Ranger program has struck more than one politico as odd this week, especially when you consider the program pays for itself and the cruise industry is booming.

One reader suggested taking a look at some of the places where the governor is proposing increases to spending: A $25 million capital request for a new visitor center in Denali State Park (it’ll get a $1 million donation from Princess, too) and a shift from $3 million in annual funding for the Alaska Travel Industry Association to a $12 million multi-year grant.

Hmm. Perhaps we shouldn’t put away the red string quite yet.

Free speech defender

Gov. Michael J. Dunleavy is pledging a full investigation into the state Commission for Human Rights bizarre handling of a “Black Rifles Matter” sticker. After all, free speech is “of the utmost importance to this administration.”

The marijuana on-site regulations

Color us about as surprised as anyone that the Alaska Marijuana Control Board’s regulations allowing on-site marijuana use in licensed stores were approved by Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer this week. The approval comes after a lengthy time with the Department of Law, leading plenty to doubt they’d ever get approved.

Gov. Michael J. Dunleavy did appoint teetotaling solitaire master Vivian Stiver to the Marijuana Control Board after all.

But one reader reminds us that it should serve as a reminder that Meyer’s office—and its duties related to elections and regulations—is independent from the governor’s office… and perhaps that was the point.


As much grim enjoyment everyone (chiefly us at The Midnight Sun) got out of Rep. Sarah Vance’s treatment of high school students from her district, it overshadowed an exchange the Homer Republican had that was on the entirely opposite end of the spectrum.

The House Special Committee on Tribal Affairs has quietly been one of the most important steps forward made by this Legislature, providing a safe and open space for legislators and Alaska Native leaders to meet to discuss policy and open a dialogue. In last Thursday’s meeting, Vance asked Andrea Akall’eq Sanders, the director of the Alaska Native Policy Center, about the values she felt weren’t being recognized in exchanges between the state and Alaska Natives.

“The very first value that comes to mind is respect,” she replied. “I think that oftentimes on the receiving end as a Native person we feel quite a blatant disrespect. We feel that the invisibility of our true history of who we are, the whole narrative of North to the Future and the Last Frontier, this narrative is actually really problematic to who we are. And for us receiving it, it feels like disrespect like the state is disrespecting us by not mentioning indigenous people in our state constitution. It talks about the pioneers and all those who came after and on the receiving end it’s hurtful. It hurts. Establishing a committee on tribal affairs is an opening of the door to respectful relationship.”

It took Vance a moment to respond as emotion welled up.

“You speak of respect and how the Alaska Native people have not felt respected. I see that, and I recognize that. The lack of that respect is portrayed in one of our most valued documents, our Alaska Constitution,” she said. “If I may take the liberty as an Alaskan and as a representative to ask for forgiveness for not honoring the people that were here first before the Alaska statehood and the U.S. Constitution and for the trespass that was committed upon these lands. I ask for your forgiveness as a representative of the 31st Legislature that we may show respect and honor to all of the Alaska Native people as we move forward, not only in this special committee, but in everything that we do so that we can build a stronger Alaska.”

Turns out people are complicated.

See the whole exchange below:

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