Welcome to a special Friday-was-pretty-busy-so-I’m-finishing-this-up-over-morning-coffee edition of our weekly Friday in the Sun column that attempts to make sense of this week in Alaska politics. It’s been a hectic week and that’s not even getting into everything on the national level.
So, without further front-porching this column, let’s get right to it.
Gov. Michael J. Dunleavy is pushing ahead with his clumsy attempt to reshape the Senate and bolster his legislative support with the appointment of Rep. Josh “Representative, you’re no Laddie Shaw” Revak to the vacant Senate District M seat. Everything about this appointment suggests that it’ll go down in flames—6-6 flames—again.
There’s plenty to unpack, but we think this says a lot about the governor’s remarkably abysmal relationship with the majority-Republican Alaska Legislature. This rift—driven not just by fighting over the PFD but also backroom attempts to strongarm legislators into falling in line with Dunleavy agenda—is still just as remarkable today as it was when his budget shocked the House into a bipartisan coalition, handing Rep. Bryce Edgmon the speaker’s gavel for another session.
For Dunleavy and company, it seems like it’s a product of buying into the increasingly tired idea of Republican Party purity. Republicans good, not-Republicans bad. Just look at the scathing editorial Tuckerman Babcock released in the wake of the Shaw’s rejection.
The message is clear: Step out of line and we’ll come after you.
But the problem is that, like the governor’s political agenda, they have vastly overstated the support for this type of thinking. Instead of looking like a kingmaker, Babcock looks petty and divisive—a man who spent his career working toward this moment only to overplay his hand, get booted from legislator offices and “retire” from public service less than a year in.
With all that in mind, Dunleavy’s appointment of Revak looks like he’s stubbornly going through the motions, putting up an appointee for failure without an attempt to smooth over relationships first.
When asked if he’s attempted to work things out with the Senate Republicans and advocate for Revak, Dunleavy said his appointment of Revak is his advocacy. Oof.
Dunleavy’s insistence on appointing a representative to the seat is interesting. It would give the governor the opportunity to fill not one, but two seats and give himself leverage over not one but two seats.
That seems to have been part of the plan since the seat was opened. It’s a little bit of tin foil hatting, but when the governor appeared on the radio earlier this week, he spoke about having “qualified candidates” to fill “these seats.”
That’s funny given how much Republicans—including Dunleavy—have crowed over district involvement in the appointment process.
Remember all the Republican fury when Gov. Bill Walker went off-list and picked the pro-resource development Randall Kowalke for to fill the seat left open by Dunleavy? We do.
It doesn’t seem like Dunleavy or the party does, however.
There was not even a cursory mention of local district involvement in the selection of Revak, who by all accounts didn’t even finish fourth (that would’ve been Birch’s daughter Tali Birch Kindred) and wasn’t even seriously considering the position when he originally put his name in.
So, let’s all help Dunleavy remember how he felt when Walker went off list:
“The crucial question is this: Who owns this seat – the voters of District E, or Governor Walker?” Dunleavy said. “The Governor has chosen to substitute his own judgment for the views of local leaders. This kind of arrogance has become a trademark of this Governor, and it gravely erodes public confidence that their representative in Juneau is there to represent their values, instead of the Governor’s personal agenda. Once again, Governor Walker ignores the will of the people.”
Yes, who indeed owns that seat?
The voters of that House District 25, Revak’s district, actually favored Democrat Mark Begich over Dunleavy and the overall voters of House District M cast far more votes for the late Sen. Chris Birch than they did for Dunleavy.
So, it’s Republican Party Purity when it’s convenient, huh?
Dunleavy also tied chances of a third special session to deliver his much-promised $3,000 PFD to Revak’s confirmation, which is essentially an easy way to excuse himself from yet another black eye.
So, we guess, at the very least the state will be saving on per diem.
A ringing endorsement
Alaska’s congressional delegation usually steers clear of delving into state politics, particularly where it overlaps with the Legislature, but today was an exception for dear ol’ U.S. Rep. Don Young. He announced today that he supports the appointment of Rep. Josh Revak, a former congressional employee who also spent some time in Sullivan’s office on veterans’ issues, to the Alaska Legislature.
“Josh Revak is not only a great patriot, but he is a man of great character. During his tenure in my Anchorage office, Josh’s dedication and service to Alaskans was evident,” Young said in a prepared statement. “Josh is an exceptional Alaskan, a combat veteran, loving father and husband, and an important member of the community. I am confident that he will continue to be a valuable asset to the State of Alaska.”
We think, like most things related to Young nowadays, that this won’t move the needle.
A coincidence, surely
It’s probably not a coincidence that the day the Dunleavy administration launched its fiercest—and most U.S. Supreme Court test case-y—attack on unions yet, that the governor got some help in fending off the recall effort in the form of the brand-new “Stand Tall With Mike” political group.
According to its APOC report, the group’s purpose is to “Oppose signature collection effort to recall Governor Dunleavy.” Like other political groups it will be able to take unlimited contributions from individuals and corporations from anywhere in the country. Will Francis be willing to write another check?
Anyways, the group has a woe-is-me description on its website explaining that it’s going to fight “the Special Interests that seek to thwart Mike Dunleavy’s fiscally conservative agenda at every turn” and that Dear Leader’s “opponents have near total control of the airwaves and the news most Alaskans are seeing, hearing, and reading.”
One reporter pointed out this week that it’d be easier to write about the good stuff if the administration didn’t make it so incredibly hard. But, hey, “Stand Tall With Mike” is coming to the rescue:
“Your generous donation,” writes the group, “will allow us to get the other side of the story out. This will lead to increased public support for Mike and his conservative agenda that Alaska so desperately needs.”
The group’s chair is Lindsay Williams and its treasurer is Alaska Board of Education member/Alaska Policy Forum guy Bob Griffin. Griffin was the treasurer of the Francis-bankrolled Dunleavy for Alaska.
As always, columnist Dermot Cole has a thorough takedown of the group already published, including some fact-checking on some of the group’s claims.
As for the group’s claims that if not for the dang media everything would be going perfectly, Dermot summed it up well:
“The recall campaign and Dunleavy’s political problems are entirely the result of his mistakes in hiring, firing and failing to work with the public or negotiate with the Legislature. No amount of posturing, state-paid propaganda and attacks on the messenger will heal the self-inflicted wounds.”
Attorney General Kevin Clarkson quietly made his debut on Twitter earlier this month tweeting out Breitbart articles, walks around the National Mall and tweeting about how the latest union-busting efforts are not at all about union-busting and getting ratioed while doing it.
At least he appears to know how hyphens should be used.
That’s how much a group of nonprofits and business leaders plan to invest in combating the Anchorage-area’s homelessness issues over the next five years that’ll go to several different types of services. It’s good news, but we’re just a little bit concerned that the governor and the Legislature will take this as proof that nonprofits can step in and fill the gaps left behind by budget cuts.
It’d sure be interesting
With everything going on with the whistleblower allegations against Trump, it sure would be interesting to hear from a certain Alaska senator who just so happens to have experience working for the National Security Council and the State Department. You’d think that maybe he’d have some thoughts about whether this is breaking norms or perhaps, hey, this is all how things have always been run and it’s no biggie.
Let’s check in with Liz Ruskin, Alaska’s lone D.C. correspondent, on this:
Hmm. Maybe he’s just busy figuring out who’s really to blame: Obama.
That’s the local election date for pretty much everywhere that isn’t Anchorage (a spring election) or the Mat-Su Borough (which moved its election to the general election date). There’s a load of interesting elections playing out around the state, including a whole new slate of young progressives looking to make a mark on things.
We had hoped to delve into some of these races a little more, but here’s what we’ll be watching:
- In Fairbanks, Mayor Jim “My Girlfriend Did It” Matherly will be facing some stiff competition from Kathryn Dodge—the Fairbanks Democrat who came up a vote short of tying the House District 1 race last year. Matherly has attempted to turn the election into a referendum on the political leanings of the city, laughably calling Fairbanks “a pretty conservative town.” To that end he’s vetoed the city’s much-negotiated equal protection ordinance and then went on to say he’s in favor of an anti-transgender “bathroom bill.’
- Down in the Kenai Peninsula Borough, there’s an interesting ballot initiative that would essentially strip the mayor of any duties of operating the government and hand it over to a city manager selected by the Assembly. We don’t have any special inside line on this, but we wouldn’t be too surprised if this has been inspired by KPB Mayor Charlie Pierce’s time in office. We’ve heard him described as a Trump guy and he may have been the only mayor to offer his full support of the governor’s budget right out of the gate.
- Staying down on the peninsula, resume-fabricatin’ former Commissioner-appointee John Quick is running for the assembly. Best of luck to Jesse Bjorkman.
Last week, I misreported some rumors that I had heard regarding Clarkson getting creative about some other pesky laws on the conservative housecleaning list. I said that Clarkson was looking to stop enforcement of Alaska’s right-to-work laws when I meant to say he’s looking to stop enforcement of Alaska hire provisions is public project contracts (I still haven’t learned any lessons about proofreading this).
Alaska doesn’t have “right-to-work” laws (also known as anti-union laws) on the books but it does have a somewhat limited ability to require the hire of Alaskans on public projects. There’s a legal case challenging these from this summer and the talk is that Clarkson could potentially pull the “Oh, dang! We just realized that this progressive policy isn’t constitutional! What a shame! Better just unilaterally stop enforcing it with no warning!”
So, yeah, keep your eyes and ears out.