Saturday in the Sun (Aug. 15): The ‘Last Closed Primary’ edition

Friday in the Sun is here

Welcome to yet another delayed edition of Friday in the Sun, our weekly column attempting to make sense of the week that was in Alaska politics.

And, hey, if you can’t get enough of your humble editor’s humble ramblings, you’re in luck. I’ll be taking part in the virtual election central as hosted by KONR 106.1 FM Out North Radio and The Alaska Landmine. I’ll be wearing my blogger’s finest.

How low can they go?

Armed with a typo-filled affidavit, MRA and company believe they have scored a fatal blow on Senate President Cathy Giessel ahead of her primary against Roger Holland. The synopsis is that goofus “TV” ““reporter”” Dorene Lorenz definitely heard Giessel call “Alaskan troops” rapists (even though that’s not really even what her paraphrased quote would suggest, which was more along the lines of U.N. troops were raping while the U.S. troops didn’t stop it).

This is honestly an issue that’s better handled by someone with a stronger stomach that me, so here’s what Alaska Landmine editor/political candidate Jeff Landfield had to say:

“The affidavit, which is riddled with clumsy phrasing and misspellings, is frankly unbelievable. It is worth noting that anyone can sign an affidavit claiming that anything happened. Though the incident allegedly occurred on a media production set, Lorenz provides no evidence that the event occurred. … You can disagree with Giessel or not like her politics, but to believe that Giessel made the statements about Alaskan troops, for no apparent reason whatsoever, and to a reporter, strains credulity.”

Jeff also had a follow-up interaction with Lorenz that he posted to Twitter.

Of course, the tape of the segment in question has disappeared. Though libel and defamation cases are incredibly difficult to pursue when a public figure is involved, the fact that they went and got an affidavit makes it… interesting.

What are they running for anyways?

At the end of the day, the direction of the Alaska Republican Party will be decided on Tuesday (or, more likely, in the few days after that as by-mail ballots are counted). Will it be the proverbial big tent that has room for the moderates, the conservatives and the whackos? Or is there only room for the moderates, the conservatives and the whackos who are committed to the party line?

Incumbent legislators who hand one role or another in thwarting the worst of Tuckerman Babcock’s Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s agenda during his first two years in office—things like massive cuts to K-12 education, the decimation of the University of Alaska and the wholesale privatization of the ferry system, the Alaska Psychiatric Institute and the state’s prisons—are in a dire fight to keep their seats.

The question I have, though, is what is all this party purity in service for?

The budget is the key function of the Legislature and the harsh reality of the years ahead is there isn’t really the money for anything anymore. No longer is it a decision between mega PFDs, state services and taxes. To make the books balance—without endangering the future of the state’s lone remaining savings account (which we would hope would be a shared value)—you need to take some kind of action on all three: Continued reductions to the PFD, cuts to state services and some kind of new revenue.

But to hear it from some of these party purity folks, there’s a magical fairy world where you can still get your mega PFD, avoid taxes and everything can be balanced just by cutting that darn government and, uh, finding efficiencies? That wishful thinking hasn’t penciled out for several years now and it’s sure as hell not going to pencil out in January of next year.

If Tuckerman Babcock Gov. Mike Dunleavy and company get their way on Tuesday, jettisoning the few remaining Republicans with a sense of duty to the state in hopes of finally delivering on the PFD, what will Juneau look like next year?

Folks like Sens. Giessel and Coghill and Reps. Jennifer Johnston, Chuck Kopp, Steve Thompson (who isn’t under fire), Bart LeBon (who isn’t under fire) and the late Gary Knopp helped keep things together, pass a pretty dang conservative budget and avoid the worst of it. Knopp and the other representatives saw that a 21-member majority that relied on Rep. David Eastman was destined to fail and it was that destined-to-fail situation—not the prospect of working with Democrats—that drove them to join the bipartisan majority.

And now most—but conspicuously not all—are paying the price in primaries that will be decided by a small segment of voters.

Without them, I guess, we’ll be looking forward to a Legislature that’s a more effective rubberstamp for Tuckerman Babcock’s whatever the Dunleavy agenda is.

But, honestly, judging by how the administration has handled things over the last two years, especially under the pandemic, it doesn’t look like they’ve ever been all that interested in governing. We’re in a mess that’s largely been fueled by an administration that—when the times have gotten tough—has been happy to take the backseat rabid conspiracy theories driven by a group intent on a 2021 mayoral race.

How’s that small business relief program—the one that’s so mangled that millions of dollars are still sitting in the state’s bank account while businesses are going out of business—going again?

There’s a real need for action and leadership to help Alaska stay afloat through this pandemic, anything that would provide an ounce of certainty and stability for businesses. But instead, we’re looking at what a virtual start to the school year will look like because a small group of people were tired of their home cooking.

Instead of any meaningful long-term vision about bettering the state’s direction, it’s all been short-term wins in the realm of right-wing public opinion as cover for two years that have looked a heckuva lot more like a fire sale as the administration rushes to privatize and sell off as much of the state’s public services as possible—an effort that hasn’t slowed amid the pandemic.

At the end of the day, all this consternation over independent-minded Republicans or well-meaning efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus is a distraction intended drum up the right primary voters in order consolidate power into the right hands.

Are the folks that schlepped it out to Kriner’s Diner profiting off any of this? Are the folks who are yelling anti-Semitic threats at the mayor going to be doing any better because of this? Are the folks who are wishing death to the “PFD THIEVES” ever going to see their PFD? No.

This isn’t a group of people who are at all interested in the betterment of Alaska.

If they were, there would be a helluva lot more effort to get that CARES Act program fixed.

The last closed primary

Reminder, if Ballot Measure 2 passes on the general election that this will be Alaska’s last closed primary where Republican voters will singularly get to decide who gets to represent their districts. For a little trip down memory lane, here’s what Alaska Republican Party chair Glen Clary had to say about it:

“Political parties will become extinct. There will be no need for candidates or voters to affiliate or associate with one another under a banner of common principles or ideas.”

We can only hope. Well, hope and vote.

Well that’s one way to do it

Gotta hand it to charged-on-voter-fraud Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux for, uh, tackling the issue head-on.




National attention

It’s not just the breathy fundraising emails anymore. Alaska’s congressional races are getting attention as Democrat-backed independent candidates Alyse Galvin and Al Gross are putting up serious challenges for Congress with the latest coming from The Washington Post: In Republican Alaska, GOP incumbents face strongest challenges in decades amid the coronavirus pandemic

The attention she deserves

Republican candidate Leslie Becker’s blog has been making the circles–including a mention in this column–for, well, a pretty racist post about Alaska Natives and resource development. KRBD Radio has a full breakdown of it here along with responses from the community. The gist of the story, which we don’t need an affidavit to prove, is that Becker writes how the jobs the “righteous” Pebble Mine will help cure all that ails rural Alaska and Alaska Natives. She’s since taken down her blog, WHICH WASN’T MEANT TO OFFEND, GUYS, but the most egregious part of the blog has been memorialized in this sent to us by a friend of the blog.

To be honest, Becker just said the quiet part out loud. This kind of sentiment–that mining and resource development jobs are the cure-all for the generational trauma and continued systemic inequities facing Alaska Natives and rural Alaska communities–isn’t new. We’ve definitely heard it before…

Pebble Mine

One of the governor’s biggest behind-the-scenes victories has been getting President Donald Trump—who’s just enthralled by Big Mike—to rush through the review and permitting of the deeply unpopular Pebble Mine project. With the help of some coaching by Pebble Mine officials, Dunleavy got Trump to reverse the Obama-era veto on the project even though he’s definitely 100% neutral on the project even though he’s also been a fan of the “mining jobs fix everything” line of thinking (oh, right, that’s where we heard it).

But even that looks like it could all be for naught.

That’s because we’ve been hearing rumblings to expect some kind of executive action on Pebble Mine anytime following Don Jr’s opposition to the project, which made it onto racist thought leader Tucker Carlson’s newscast in “The Case Against Alaska’s Pebble Mine” this week.

Unfortunately, expect all the work of Alaska Natives, fishermen and others to be overlooked with whatever happens and for there to be a heaping helping of “Look, Trump doesn’t believe in the universal plundering of the nation’s natural resources. CHECKMATE AOC.”

But, hey, up until now that mine has looked like a grim certainty. We’ll take all the good news we can.

Have a nice weekend y’all and support the USPS.

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3 Comments on "Saturday in the Sun (Aug. 15): The ‘Last Closed Primary’ edition"

  1. Matt, regardless of what Glen Clary said, Proposition 2 will not make parties extinct. In other places where Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) is, the parties are still going strong. Look at the Maine Senate race. The Democratic Senate Campaign Committee is all in on that race and spending and raising millions to elect Sarah Gideon. The party system in Maine has not changed. In fact, in almost all places where RCV is, the Democratic or the Republican candidate still wins the majority of the races.
    The REAL issue with RCV is how it disenfranchises voters. When voters don’t rank every single possible candidate in a race, then their votes can be thrown out and not counted in the final tally. In some places as many as 25% of the votes are thrown out in the 2nd and 3rd count and the average of discounted votes is around 15%. This means that underinformed or new voters are often disenfranchised in the process. In New York, the NAACP and other groups that support minority voters has=ve come out against RCV because studies have shown the disenfranchised voters are most often seniors, young people, people who speak English as a 2nd language and Blacks and Latinos. The League of Women Voters-a non-partisan group organized to inform voters and protect the vote has also come out against RCV.
    In this day where we are concerned about allowing every person the right to vote, we should not support a proposition that disenfranchises up to 25% of the electorate.
    Because of these reasons and most likely because of the complicated rules for RCV, several places have reversed RCV and have gone back to one-person-one-vote elections.
    If we wanted to have open primaries, we could do that with legislation or even a shorter, more focused proposition. You don’t have to have RCV to have open primaries. Many people who were voting in Alaska before 1990-ish will remember our primaries were all open without resorting to RCV. We can do this again without a 26 page initiative that disenfranchises voters.
    Thank you.

  2. I have a real problem with claims that people are “disenfranchised” by RCV. The people all voted and their votes were counted and contributed to the process. That is the opposite of being disenfranchised.

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