Saturday in the Sun (Oct. 9): The ‘Hostile and unwell’ edition

Friday in the Sun is here

Welcome to the latest edition of Saturday in the Sun, our weekly column attempting to make sense of the news and stuff from the week that was in Alaska politics.

It’s weird, bizarre and tense time for everyone with the election less than a month away, a pandemic that is growing out of control and wild conspiracy theories are taking root in the last frantic minutes of what feels like a collapsing world. Please understand that some people handle it better than others. Be kind to yourself and others, we need it.

‘Hostile and unwell’

(This is all probably best served as its own post, but I’m exhausted. I’ll probably spin it out once things start to look a little more clear.)

That’s how Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz’s office responded to the bizarre video posted by Fox/ABC/CW/NewsNetNationalAlaska reporter/yelling aficionado Maria Athens that claims the mayor has been creepin’ “on an underage girl’s website.” Scrolling through Athens’ Facebook feed—which includes a couple visits to Kriner’s Diner, some Trump stuff and a post how “NO ONE HATES” Providence as much as her—might give you some reason to doubt the allegations… and to wonder what someone like this is doing on a nightly news channel.

Here’s the mayor’s full response:

From our understanding, “hostile” is an understatement. The jury’s still out on “unwell,” but here’s a rundown of some of the developments:

Even right-wing media held the claims at arm’s length with Dan Fagan writing: “At least Ethan will have something to do one he leaves office in April. He’ll keep busy running the TV stations he’s about to own.” (Though they’ve since changed course a bit and seem to at least be feeding the “it’s all a cover-up” conspiracy theories.)

Amid the haters’ wondering that she might be high or pulling a “Fuck it, I quit,” she later posted a picture of a salt-and-peppered person’s naked back—the sort of photo someone might take to check for moles or a bald spot—as apparent proof of the mayor’s transgressions.

For all the brouhaha, here’s how the 9 p.m. Fox broadcast started…

Also notice that the broadcast has covid numbers from a month ago and later in the broadcast they talk about Ryan Shazier retiring from the NFL, which happened on Sept. 9. It’s almost as if they had to grab something at the last second to fill a suddenly empty broadcast.

Overnight, rumors began to swirl that Athens had been arrested. That was confirmed this morning by Alaska’s News Source, which says she was arrested after an altercation with a man in the parking lot of the television station (contrary to stupid Facebook speculation, I highly doubt that was the mayor).

This is a domestic violence case.

Athens was arraigned this afternoon. We and several news stations were able to listen in.

During the hearing, Athens ranged from defiant—at one point exclaiming “I’m just 94 pounds and the victim is 250!”—to pleading to be released immediately over concerns about her dog’s health, “I need to get out today!”

“Your attorney 1,000% does not want you to say anything,” said Judge Jennifer Manculich at one point.

There was never a mention of anything about Berkowitz during the several outbursts. Athens’ attorney also testified that Athens has no friends or family in Alaska. She’s set to be released on $100 cash with electronic monitoring with orders for no contact with the victim and not to return to the station, from which she was trespassed.

A person familiar with criminal justice, added that she’ll have to wait for the pretrial enforcement division to affix the GPS ankle monitor before she can be released, and they don’t work on the weekend (Tough-on-crime in action!). It can take several days beyond that to get one.

On the whole, this seems to be some sad human tragedy on display. But unlike Athens, we’ll spare her and the victim of posting any additional lurid details of the incident. At least for now.

As for what Athens apparently had on Berkowitz in the first place, the Anchorage Press has a report that suggests it could all stem from an interview Athens conducted with a cookie shop owner whose daughter is a former non-sexual escort in the Anchorage area. Apparently, the mom with Athens’ help connected a few too many dots.

Again, it should be kept in mind that Athens has been deep into the Trump-y Facebook conspiracy world and has been frequently aggressive about Berkowitz’s handling of the pandemic. Still, I have my doubts that anything will matter to a Facebook world that is already primed to believe whatever the anti-Semitic conspiracy theories about Mayor Ethan Berkowitz. We imagine that, at the very least, Berkowitz can’t wait for April 2021 to come fast enough.

Falsehood flies, and the Truth comes limping after it,” Jonathan Swift.

Coronavirus rising

It feels like a month ago that we were all watching—and re-watching—the clip of Gov. Mike Dunleavy packing when he got caught going maskless at yet another maskless, indoor Republican fundraiser (Hey, I thought we weren’t supposed to live in fear, governor!). So, let’s watch it one more time courtesy of the Alaska Landmine’s speedy fingers:

The whole situation puts an underline on the deep hypocrisy on display by Alaska’s Republican officials. While families debating and weighing the risks of having a Thanksgiving together, the governor and his cronies glad-handing at fundraisers with strangers. Caution for you, not for me.

None of this is fun. None of us want to be doing this, but this is where we’re at thanks to the top-to-bottom bungling of the response to the pandemic fueled by conspiracy and machismo bullshit. I imagine that if everyone conducted their lives like Dunleavy has, Alaska’s situation would be worse.

And Alaska’s situation IS getting worse. Daily case counts continue to be above 100, the statewide positivity rate crossed 5% (meaning 1 in 20 tests are coming back positive) and we’re seeing just how fraught the return to classrooms has been as more schools close and sport seasons are cut short.

Look, the reality here is that it’s impossible to completely eliminate the risk of covid-19. We can limit the risk by the actions we take—wearing masks, social distancing, limiting trips and taking seriously the 14-day quarantine for coming into close contact with someone who had covid-19—and save the risks that we do take for things that are meaningful.

Early in the pandemic, I remember as people slowly returned to parks and seeing a couple families got together for a game of kickball. Was there some risk associated with that? Sure, but I thought it served as a useful barometer for how we could make our way through the pandemic and into the school year.

But instead, here we are.

Collectively, we’ve prioritized a return to restaurants, bars and fundraisers over taking the mildly inconvenient efforts needed to watch out for each other.

Oh, and today marked the highest daily case count with a whopping 230 new cases among Alaska residents. Sigh.


Speaking about unhinged stuff, things must not be going well for Team Lance Pruitt (a team, we assume, of one). For a household that, presumably, has $185,000 worth of communications chops, he’s been tweeting out some particularly dumb stuff to his following of… 14. The following post trying to smear opponent Liz Snyder got most of the attention.

Is he even trying anymore?

‘What the heck is going on here’

In one of the stories that was sitting in my notebook all this week, the House State Affairs Committee held a gangbusters hearing this week about the completely shady contracting practices of the Commissioner Kelly Tshibaka and the Dunleavy administration as a whole.

At the heart of the presentation was the work of former Alaska procurement officer Barry Jackson. Let’s just say that the procurement process is serious business and Jackson sure as hell brought the receipts to detail what appears to be Tshibaka’s personal efforts to steer a $5 million contract away from Alaska bidders with some definitely illegal requirements.

You can find the full rundown in my tweets here, the hearing here and the ADN’s written coverage of it here. It stinks.

Pebble Letter

In another story that’s sitting in my notebook, Gov. Mike Dunleavy also responded to a letter from House Speaker Bryce Edgmon and Rep. Louise Stutes voicing their concerns about Pebble Mine following the explosive Pebble Tapes in a very Dunleavy sort of way. That’s to say, his letter is mean, small-minded and filled with thinly veiled racism. In it he suggests that all that’s needed to cure the social ills in rural Alaska is a good job… at Pebble Mine.


That’s how much the state could be on the hook for thanks to creep/former Attorney General Kevin Clarkson’s advice to wrongly can the effort to recall Gov. Mike Dunleavy. The money is owed to the Recall Dunleavy campaign to cover legal fees, which is typical, and could be appealed to the Alaska Supreme Court.

The state’s legal endeavors under Clarkson are starting to come back to roost in the state’s budget and that’s not to mention all the staff time wasted on these destined-to-fail cases.

30-Day reports

It’s been such a week that we haven’t had time to write some important stories or even mess around with the latest 30-day reports filed with APOC. Here’s a few quick takeaways from the latest reports:

  • Calvin Schrage grabbed the largest cash haul of this last fundraising round as enthusiasm around his challenge of the less-than-inspiring Rep. Mel Gillis. He took in a whopping $50,550.00 since primary day to bring his total to $97,450.35.
  • Among the top fundraisers are a lot of races that progressives/moderates hope to pick off from Republican hands: Suzanne LaFrance brought in $48,727.51 after swapping in to the race, Andy Holleman brought in $39,912.50 after getting his campaign against Sen. Revak underway, Marna Sanford—who stood head and shoulders above the crowd in last week’s public media debates—brought in $38,960.00 to round out the top five candidates. Leading their Republican opponents are Snyder, Julia Hnilicka, Elizabeth Ferguson, Kelly Cooper, Lyn Franks, Stephen Trimble, Paul Dale, Jim Cooper and Carl Johnson.
  • During this last quarter the only Republicans to outraise their progressive incumbent opponents are racist Leslie Becker (who wrote herself a big check), Madeleine Gaiser ($11,675.00) who outraised Sen. Bill Wielechowski ($10,755.34) and Kathy Henslee ($14,900.00) who’s outraised Rep. Chris Tuck ($10,789.54). All but Becker lag their opponents overall.
  • Speaking of big checks, Becker led the field overall in dumping money into her campaign. She wrote a $25,000 check, Evan Eads wrote his campaign a $18,000.13, Jim Cooper gave himself $10,000, Paul Dale gave himself $10,000, Lance Pruitt gave himself $6,000, Roger Holland gave himself $5,000, Keith Kurber gave himself $5,000, Carl Johnson gave himself $5,000, Jim Baisden gave himself $5,000, Roselynn Cacy gave herself $5,000.
  • In what is definitely an APOC violation, Pamela Gillham gave her husband, Ron Gillham, $10,000.

Anyways, here’s the chart!

NameDistrictPartyTotal Raised30-day RaisedTotal SpentCash on Hand
Bart LeBonHouse 01R$49,371.85$17,170.25$12,020.11$37,351.74
Christopher QuistHouse 01D$16,368.06$9,091.00$13,385.15$2,982.91
Steve ThompsonHouse 02R$18,300.00$5,400.00$7,836.74$10,463.26
Jeremiah YoumansHouse 02D$2,195.93$1,410.00$930.51$1,265.42
Mike PraxHouse 03R$1,327.00$1,050.00$277.00$1,050.00
Grier HopkinsHouse 04D$57,662.14$20,050.00$35,565.91$23,343.03
Keith KurberHouse 04R$47,716.31$18,184.81$36,256.59$11,459.72
Adam WoolHouse 05D$56,481.46$19,520.00$17,760.67$39,421.99
Kevin McKinleyHouse 05R$37,895.70$12,080.00$32,509.18$5,386.52
Julia HnilickaHouse 06D$66,512.19$34,218.83$35,835.75$30,676.44
Mike CronkHouse 06R$21,291.75$7,025.00$15,745.78$5,545.97
Elijah VerhagenHouse 06U$17,165.65$8,545.65$16,671.19$495.34
Deborah Williams RileyHouse 06NA$350.00$350.00$2,632.23-$2,282.23
Christopher KurkaHouse 07R$26,302.14$6,800.19$21,098.48$4,843.66
Jamin L. BurtonHouse 07U$8,703.00$1,700.00$1,278.31$7,424.69
Kevin McCabeHouse 08R$42,363.19$7,053.12$38,572.67$3,790.52
Alma HartleyHouse 08D$41.71$41.71$400.12$0.00
Bill JohnsonHouse 09D$28,001.00$12,711.00$15,195.18$14,519.32
George RauscherHouse 09R$25,061.83$6,985.39$20,899.37$4,162.38
David EastmanHouse 10R$38,907.43$5,523.00$33,781.49$5,125.94
Monica Lynn Stein-OlsonHouse 10D$16,852.03$7,505.00$11,537.58$5,314.45
DeLena M JohnsonHouse 11R$17,646.29$3,901.20$10,903.84$6,791.46
Andrea HackbarthHouse 11D$0.00$0.00$0.00$0.00
Cathy L. TiltonHouse 12R$21,597.00$4,050.00$6,059.55$17,037.45
James Allen Canitz, SrHouse 13D$11,151.01$1,051.01$2,031.22$9,119.79
Ken McCartyHouse 13R$2,370.00$2,370.00$3,675.90-$1,305.90
Kelly MerrickHouse 14R$41,867.97$4,422.77$12,856.11$33,524.32
Mike RisingerHouse 14NA$4,128.08$2,218.06$2,200.08$1,928.00
Lyn FranksHouse 15D$32,764.32$16,155.82$13,217.16$19,764.86
David NelsonHouse 15R$22,343.00$14,985.00$19,833.40$2,509.60
Patrick McCormackHouse 15D (Write-in)$1,785.13$543.26$1,785.13$279.51
Ivy A SpohnholzHouse 16D$60,110.00$20,945.00$35,799.70$24,638.10
Paul BauerHouse 16R$3,881.19$3,396.29$1,829.48$2,051.71
Scott A KohlhaasHouse 16L$2,404.00$804.00$1,940.28$463.72
Andy JosephsonHouse 17D$20,217.41$1,260.00$5,335.63$17,439.91
Harriet A. DrummondHouse 18D$10,730.00$250.00$3,291.13$12,438.87
Geran TarrHouse 19D$1,100.00$1,100.00$2,508.95-$1,408.95
William Z "Zack" FieldsHouse 20D$20,044.26$1,650.00$7,133.53$10,714.47
Matt ClamanHouse 21D$100,820.08$28,125.00$47,293.43$56,009.49
Lynette LargentHouse 21R$0.00$0.00$104.38-$104.38
Sara RasmussenHouse 22R$82,941.00$22,547.00$25,900.55$57,040.45
Stephen TrimbleHouse 22NA$47,272.28$26,151.42$25,970.58$21,301.70
David NeesHouse 22AI$1,550.00$1,550.00$18.10$1,531.90
Chris TuckHouse 23D$20,342.47$10,789.54$6,530.83$13,811.64
Kathy HensleeHouse 23R$14,900.00$14,900.00$10,589.89$9,715.60
Timothy R. HuitHouse 23AI$1,048.02$497.00$1,048.02$0.00
Tom McKayHouse 24R$52,446.70$15,832.00$42,812.19$9,639.51
Gloria Susan LeviHouse 24D$4,054.88$4,054.88$3,981.13$73.75
Calvin SchrageHouse 25NP-D$97,450.35$50,550.00$52,867.28$44,583.07
Mel GillisHouse 25R$70,492.49$7,250.00$40,782.65$29,709.84
Laddie ShawHouse 26R$30,697.92$852.64$3,715.30$31,982.62
Liz SnyderHouse 27D$158,575.41$37,504.21$120,837.53$41,951.21
Lance PruittHouse 27R$50,042.52$28,562.96$32,383.47$18,204.35
James KaufmanHouse 28R$61,255.13$30,342.00$41,669.25$19,585.88
Suzanne LaFranceHouse 28NP-D$48,727.51$48,727.51$10,880.45$41,473.36
Adam S. LeesHouse 28D$2,399.36$61.36$2,322.69$76.67
Benjamin FletcherHouse 28NA$0.00$0.00$20.00-$20.00
L. Adolph GarciaHouse 28NA (Write-in)$0.00$0.00$0.00$0.00
Paul D. DaleHouse 29NP$46,868.45$26,723.45$33,494.57$13,373.88
Ben CarpenterHouse 29R$13,454.55$7,295.00$6,779.14$7,205.78
James BaisdenHouse 30NA$25,919.60$14,653.74$20,151.08$5,768.52
Ronald Dale GillhamHouse 30R$13,530.00$13,530.00$7,448.00$6,082.00
Kelly CooperHouse 31NA$89,357.75$29,932.82$73,767.55$15,590.20
Sarah L. VanceHouse 31R$57,335.50$16,269.25$42,063.26$15,272.24
Louise B StutesHouse 32R$18,218.33$2,700.00$1,186.71$17,031.62
Sara HannanHouse 33D$13,059.48$225.00$3,375.73$12,891.46
Andi StoryHouse 34D$50,847.04$15,605.00$21,320.30$29,526.74
Edward KingHouse 34NP$14,173.93$9,669.00$11,558.10$2,615.83
Jonathan Kreiss-TomkinsHouse 35D$59,132.04$9,496.95$24,432.22$36,395.54
Kenny SkaflestadHouse 35R$800.00$0.00$0.00$800.00
Leslie BeckerHouse 36R$75,159.93$34,372.85$38,791.67$30,075.45
Dan OrtizHouse 36U$59,360.95$26,105.10$43,410.38$18,450.57
Bryce EdgmonHouse 37U-D$16,805.00$2,000.00$4,676.71$16,769.59
Tiffany ZulkoskyHouse 38D$25,791.00$14,291.00$4,172.60$26,618.40
Neal FosterHouse 39D$17,815.24$11,557.24$23,379.09-$563.85
Dan HolmesHouse 39R$2,023.97$2,023.97$2,058.80$995.45
Tyler L IvanoffHouse 39AI (Write-in)$1,150.00$1,150.00$480.37$669.63
Elizabeth FergusonHouse 40D$49,308.60$33,027.80$11,351.28$37,384.30
Josiah Aullaqsruaq PatkotakHouse 40NA$6,035.81$6,035.81$48.49$5,987.32
Marna SanfordSenate BNA$86,991.71$38,960.00$64,217.68$22,774.03
Evan A EadsSenate BNA$31,740.29$24,470.69$9,953.39$21,786.90
Robert H Myers JrSenate BR$24,815.00$24,815.00$348.72$24,466.28
David S. WilsonSenate DR$43,033.82$24,250.37$29,317.84$18,724.63
Dan MayfieldSenate DNP$34,388.32$12,735.00$24,468.83$12,244.31
Stephen WrightSenate DR$6,322.25$2,472.47$5,565.25-$327.22
Stephen WrightSenate DR$6,322.25$2,472.47$5,565.25-$327.22
Shelley HughesSenate FR$40,342.37$14,223.04$23,324.09$17,018.28
Jim CooperSenate FD$17,366.00$17,366.00$6,624.83$10,741.17
Gavin ChristiansenSenate FL$820.00$0.00$704.00$116.00
Stephany JeffersSenate FU-D$0.32$0.16$2,012.09$0.00
Bill WielechowskiSenate HD$41,803.06$10,755.34$13,192.25$28,610.81
Madeleine GaiserSenate HR$18,060.00$11,675.00$12,357.69$5,702.31
Tom BegichSenate JD$49,517.21$4,277.29$20,865.17$28,657.11
Natasha Von ImhofSenate LR$32,252.00$32,252.00$64,319.72$67,766.58
Jeff LandfieldSenate LNA (Withdrawn)$15,250.00$1,150.00$8,472.73$6,777.27
Roselynn CacySenate LD$13,379.06$7,760.49$11,908.07$3,134.88
Stephen J. DuplantisSenate LR (Write-in)$2,041.00$109.00$1,441.47$599.53
Josh RevakSenate MR$115,133.00$33,926.00$74,115.34$45,083.28
Andy HollemanSenate MNA$48,592.50$39,912.50$25,307.22$28,285.28
Roger HollandSenate NR$51,622.20$23,218.00$33,930.90$17,691.30
Carl JohnsonSenate ND$44,600.00$28,980.00$24,797.62$10,704.49
Carolyn "Care" CliftSenate NU$10,272.19$500.11$4,804.07$6,305.36
Lynette Moreno HinzSenate ND (Write-in)$239.79$239.79$0.00$239.79
Gary StevensSenate PR$19,300.00$2,400.00$6,470.33$14,875.67
Dr Greg MaddenSenate PAI$4,468.14$4,468.14$3,898.00$724.06
Bert StedmanSenate RR$35,225.00$15,175.00$30,089.68$6,124.76
Michael D. SheldonSenate RR (Write-in)$6,270.00$175.00$6,176.71$163.84
Donny OlsonSenate TD$10,800.00$1,600.00$1,450.21$10,995.34
Thomas Ikaaq BakerSenate TR$4,209.00$1,852.00$2,869.74$1,339.26

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