It’s that time of year again, when we need to figure out some way to sum up the year. What better way than to view this dumb year through the lens of everyone’s favorite form of sports entertainment: Professional wrestling.
So, dear #akleg Universe bear with us as we borrow a bunch of silly terms from the WWE Universe. If you’re in doubt about any term, have a look at the fantastic Wikipedia page of wrestling terms. For a less wrestling-heavy awards, check out TMS’s awards for 2018.
Best tag team – Bryce Edgmon and Cathy Giessel
That was the response from a former Alaska politico upon hearing about the remarkable alliance that formed this year between House Speaker Bryce Edgmon and Senate President Cathy Giessel.
A year ago, a team up between Edgmon—hot off his first reign as House Speaker—and the so-conservative-she-was-in-the-Republican-superminority Giessel would have been peak ridiculous fantasy booking, but here we are.
United by the common goal of “Not lighting Alaska on fire and watching it burn to the ground,” the team-up has been remarkably effective and broadly popular, even turning AFL-CIO President Vince Beltrami into a Giessel fan just two years after their bitter general election battle.
What a time to be an #akleg fan.
Best face turn – Rep. Tammie Wilson
North Pole’s own Rep. Tammie Wilson was a stunning addition to the list of Republicans that broke ranks with Rep. David Eastman to team up with the Democrats and form the bipartisan coalition in the House.
Of course, Wilson got a sweet spot as co-chair of the House Finance Committee in the deal, but she quickly became one of the sharpest critics of the Dunleavy administration, making her a face worth rooting for.
Best heel turn – Rep. Tammie Wilson
Then Wilson showed up to the Wasilla special session, making her exit from the coalition and returning to her role as one of the Legislature’s top heels at a time when other heel legislators like Rep. Lance Pruitt and Sen. Mia Costello just weren’t up to the task.
Her run as a face was fun, but Wilson is back in the role she was born to play.
Worst performance on the mic – Mike Dunleavy
Gov. Mike Michael J. Mike Dunleavy’s first year in office could dominate this entire list, but in an attempt to keep it to just a few let’s talk about Dunleavy’s communication skills.
His vetoes? His draconian budget? Just starting a conversation, he said. Will he listen to Alaskans with the next budget? Only once they’re done venting. Does he have time to answer questions about his new budget? He’s got about 11 minutes before he needs to head to D.C.
Every time he takes the mic, we can’t tell if he’s lying to us or lying to himself, but I guess that’s what happens when you live in your own little coddling media bubble where everything is a woman on Twitter’s fault.
Seemingly incapable of having a straight conversation with Alaskans, Dunleavy left room for anyone and everyone to fill in the blanks. Is he really this mean-spirited? Or does he just not really care that much and handed off a bulk of his job to his partisan lackeys? Is he trying out for a new job with Trump?
His administration seems to constantly be caught blind-sided and his social media presence is, well, not great. Does his team know that you can re-record pre-recorded promos? Or was this the best they could do after a dozen attempts?
Go Away Heat Award – Rep. David Eastman
There are some heels that you love to boo and some that you just want to boo off the screen.
Rep. David Eastman is the latter.
Feud of the Year – Eastman vs. Edgmon
But then again, every time Eastman raised his mic to make some bizarre point of order set up some delightful heavy sighs and reprimands from Edgmon. Sure, it mostly ended up being squash match after squash match, but it provided the #akleg Universe with plenty to tweet about.
Best gimmick – Donna Arduin
Cast into the role of heartless outsider keen on cutting the budget with no regard to its political feasibility or impact on communities or Alaska’s most vulnerable, now-former Office of Management and Budget Director Donna Arduin excelled this year. Arduin generated plenty of heat from #akleg Universe with a smirky “I couldn’t care less” attitude in front of the Legislature, where she simply couldn’t be bothered to understand the impacts of slashing the budget so deeply.
Arduin really grabbed the proverbial brass ring this year, accentuating the “I’m not from here and don’t plan on staying here” role with notably un-Alaskan fashion choices and frequent trips back home.
While we had to say good-bye to Arduin when she was “future endeavored” by Dunleavy and company, we’re still waiting to see how that whole private prison storyline will play out.
Best debut – Sarah Vance
Rep. Sarah Vance had some big shoes to fill after her upset victory over Rep. Paul Seaton in 2018, but she proved to be one of the best new heels in the #akleg roster. She got things started off on a great foot with a Facebook video where she feuded with a bunch of school kids for not properly addressing her by her title.
Worst show of the year – The Wasilla special session
With a crowd of angry protestors outside, a bunch of self-important Republicans mugged for the camera in a swelteringly hot middle school gym while the city’s mayor grabbed the arm of a protestor. Though legislators boasted about access to the public and Wasilla’s decadent fast food dining, it was clear just moments into the sham session that it wouldn’t have been capable of hosting the real thing.
It was an incredible waste of time and ultimately damaging for the momentum of many involved.
At least it gave anyone running against Rep. Lance Pruitt some prime marketing material.
Best return – Liz Snyder
After coming within 200 votes of knocking off Pruitt in 2018, Anchorage Democrat Liz Snyder announced this summer that she would be giving it another go in 2020. Fueled by the petulant antics of Pruitt, Snyder raked in an unheard of (for a House race) $35,000 at a single fundraiser this summer and is shaping up to be a serious contender for the seat.
Whether we get the rematch is unclear, though, as there’s been plenty of rumors about whether Pruitt will stick with his seat or vacate it instead of putting her over.
Biggest fall from grace – Laddie Shaw
Pruitt would have been a shoo-in for this one, but one must be in grace to fall from it. No, this one goes to Rep. Laddie Shaw, who went from a broadly well-liked and respected representative to yet another in a long line of petty partisans when he lit up Senate Republicans for refusing to confirm his appointment to the chamber. The parasailing representative went from likable enough to surprisingly bitter and entitled in a matter of radio interviews.
His cries of unfairness at the hands of the Senate looked particularly bad with the smooth-sailing confirmation of Sen. Josh Revak, who approached the appointment with an “I’ve gotta earn it” attitude later in the year.
Best new promotion – The House Special Committee on Tribal Affairs
In a year where most everyone’s efforts were put into keeping things together, the newly formed House Special Committee on Tribal Affairs gave the #akleg Universe something to get excited about. For the first time, policies and issues dealing with tribes and Alaska Natives got their own venue.
It resulted in some particularly interesting and hard-hitting meetings on issues like rural public safety. We’re looking forward to what chair Rep. Tiffany Zulkosky has in mind for 2020.
Biggest botch of the year – Dunleavy’s appointment process
It was botch after botch for Dunleavy’s appointees. First, we saw Department of Administration Commissioner John Quick remove his name from consideration after he got caught lying and fabricating his resume. Then we were treated to a team of jobbers, including a QAnon conspiracy theorist, a foul-mouthed jerk, a ghost hunter and a bunch of other weirdos.