Friday in the Sun (Aug. 28): The ‘Premature caucusing’ edition

Friday in the Sun is here

Welcome to Friday in the Sun, our weekly column trying to make sense of the senseless.

As always, we don’t really know what’s going on with anything but who does? Enjoy the weekend, be kind to your defeated incumbent legislator and take it easy on yourself.

Close a door, open a window

What was never so much as window as it was a skylight has finally closed for several Republican incumbents this week after it turned out that absentee ballots weren’t enough to make up deep deficits set on primary election day. With today’s count, it’s so long to incumbent Reps. Jennifer Johnston, Chuck Kopp, Gabrielle LeDoux, Mark Neuman and Sharon Jackson as well as Senate President Cathy Giessel and, as of today, long-time North Pole Sen. John Coghill.

After the final count, Coghill lags challenger Rob Myers by 16 votes and while it’s within recount country, it doesn’t sound like he’s planning on taking that route.

In their place, we’ll be getting some uniquely unqualified party loyalists with relatively clear paths to victory. Of course, we’ve already heard that Mat-Su Republicans Sen. Shelley Hughes and Rep. DeLena Johnson are already working to organize the chambers—did they not learn anything from the premature caucusing of former Rep. Tammie Wilson? (who, by the way, is running for Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly, for some reason)—betting pretty heavily on those “relatively clear paths to victory” coming through.

The primaries have, after all, only shifted “moderate” (read: traditionally conservative) seats to “conservative” (read: Libertarian conspiracy theorist) candidates. There’s still a general election—and, importantly, the Aug. 31 deadline for candidates to withdraw and potentially be replaced by the party—between now and Senate President Mat-Su Valley.

(Though if the Mat-Su takeover does come to pass, please, please, pretty please stick to your foolhardy opposition to binding caucuses. We need some reason—other than sad sack watching the dismantling of the state—to watch next year.)

There’s a lot of buzz around races that could as they currently stand prove to be pickups for moderates and progressives—Liz Snyder, Calvin Schrage (I’m feeling higher on Schrage after a friend of the blog reminded me that Pat Higgins came within 300 votes in 2018 and that Schrage, importantly, isn’t Pat Higgins), Lyn Franks, Julia Hnilicka and Kelly Cooper—and other races that could be really interesting with some changes before the close of business on Aug. 31—Marna Sanford has a great shot to pickup Coghill’s seat as an independent in a two-way race (it’s currently a three-way race) and potentially the seat of soon-to-be-former Rep. Jennifer Johnston (editor’s note: This used to have a snide comment about an I-took-someone else’s-word-for-it accusation, which upon doing the most minimal of homework was wrong. I apologize for the error).

(While I’m never particularly enthused by the whole placeholder candidate switcheroo as it gives the challenger relatively little time and fundraising to make their case, a friend/frequent copy editor of the blog reminded us Rep. Adam Wool was swapped in ahead of the general election and went onto win it.)

And then there’s the South Anchorage senate race where Sen. Natasha von Imhof mercifully kept dipshit Stephen Duplantis more than a general election away from the Legislature. Still, she did it in less-than-convincing fashion given that Duplantis had all-but-given up on the race and that could make the general election race, which is set to be a three-way race with Jeff “I’m serious” Landfield and Democrat Roselynn Casey, certainly more interesting.

A two-way race would likely help Landfield—who, if we’re being honest, can probably successfully consolidate the anti-von Imhof vote, the conspiracy theorist vote and the “Maybe he’ll be open to a bipartisan coalition” vote—while a three-way race is who knows. Perhaps it would give an advantage to Casey, but we might take our time and energy to more sure-fire bets (see: Every other race above).

The major line of thinking here is that while a lot of the insurgent Republicans won by capitalizing on a pro-PFD anti-Cathy Giessel platform in the kiddie pool that is the Republican Party’s semi-closed primaries, how much of that will carry over to the general election (probably plenty because, after all, many of these districts are Republican advantage in a year where there’s gonna be little air for legislative races). And there’s also the level of intestinal fortitude moderate Republicans, coastal Republicans or moderate rural Democrats have to joining a power core who’s message to rural Alaska has been, largely, “Get fucked.”

And that’s not to mention what potential effect the top of the ticket (and general voter suppression both domestic and foreign) will have on turnout.

The next few days ought to be… fun? Either way, the primary results have moved a lot of people (the kind of people who look at fundraising and assume it’s a key indicator of votes, something I have never been guilty of) into the “rut row” camp.

Ballot Measure 2

Of course, supporters of Ballot Measure 2 will point to the election’s results as reason to implement open primaries in Alaska. The underlying case here is that more than just the minority of the minority that participate in party primaries in safe districts should have a say in who represents them in Juneau.

(Courtesy Alaskans for Better Elections)

Of course, this is really a problem that’s largely limited to the Republicans’ limited-access primary system combined with the increasingly partisan and divisive politics of the right. And the best progressive argument I’ve heard against the measure so far is: Why do we have to give up the limited ground we have to moderate Republicans when it’s really the core of the Republican party that’s rotten?

Not an entirely bad point. Counterpoint: The building is on fire.

Anyways, Alaskans for Better Elections has gone big with reserving airtime ahead of election day. Enough so that it’s scared the conservative opposition to finally get their stuff together and form an independent expenditure group with the Alaska Public Offices Commission after several months of “education campaigns” against the measure (read: a creative way to skirt Alaska’s election laws).

While Defend Alaska Election’s chair is John Sturgeon (the hovercraft hunter who I believe we are all required to stand and salute for, presumably, shooting federal overreach from said hovercraft), it sounds like this is where former Dunleavy campaign manager Brett Huber and company will be heading.

Jobs for them, not for you

Credit to columnist Dermot Cole for doggedly pursuing the $4.5 million contract that Anchorage Mom with a Petition/Department of Administration Commissioner Kelly Tshibaka inked with Seattle-based Tandem Motion. Everything about the contract stinks of the administration’s efforts over the last two years to dismantle state government while quietly shuttling money into Outside hands.

He’s a jobs creator, just not for Alaska.

In his latest post, Cole broke down how $2.1 million of the contract is slated to go to just eight Tandem Motion employees for six months of work to “improve personnel management.” Apparently Tshibaka and company couldn’t find a bunch of inexperienced recent graduates in Alaska to pay between $250 and $500 an hour and had to issue a request for bids that seemed tailor-made for the firm. That they had to look Outside, and they had to look Outside at such monstrously exorbitant rates should be alarming to everyone.

With Attorney General Kevin Canceled out of the office, Tshibaka’s in position to take over the mantle of the administration’s chief lawsuit loser. As the head of the Department of Administration, Tshibaka was right there with AG Creeper losing their anti-union lawsuits left and right and now her Tandem Motion contract is the target of a new complaint with the Alaska Labor Relation Agency alleging unfair labor practices.


That’s how many more votes Democrat-backed independent candidate Alyse Galvin secure in the relatively low-stakes Democratic Primary than Rep. Don “Beer Virus” Young secured in a Republican Party Primary that had nearly 7,000 more votes. Sure, there are a lot of caveats here but it’s still an impressive feat.

Galvin’s helped here by the fact that Democrats and independents far outclassed Republicans in terms of by-mail voting, but that’s not something that will be going away any time soon. Here’s the numbers from the latest report on general election ballot requests:

General Election (As of 8.28.20)
Undeclared 19,954 6.77%
Nonpartisan 13,581 15.16%
Republican 17,832 11.54%
Democrat 19,043 22.49%
AK Independence 1,576 7.89%
Moderate Party 15 7.56%
UCES’ Clowns 9 7.92%
Green Party 182 10.60%
Progressive 30 30.21%
Libertarian 373 4.34%
Veterans Party 62 3.98%
AK Constitution 14 1.86%
Owl Party 3 12.00%
Patriot’s Party 4 4.26%
Alliance Party 1 12.50%
Total 72,679 12.36%

Fixed that

In light of the news of the Trump administration putting the brakes on Pebble Mine, we went ahead and updated this mailer. 


One last thing

On a final note, right now it’s particularly easy to feel despondent about everything. After all, we’re six months into a pandemic with a large bit of our social interaction coming through the cesspool that is the internet. We’re bombarded by increasingly grim and worrying headlines so take some time to enjoy this truly boisterously happy story about the wedding of the fabulously talented Liz Raines and champion musher Matthew Failor:

You, Me and 53 Dogs

Have a nice weekend, y’all.

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