Lance Pruitt must really be in trouble because he’s sounding a lot like Speaker Edgmon

Rep. Lance Pruitt takes the head of the fake special session hosted in Wasilla in support of Gov. Mike Dunleavy in July 2019. (Photo by Matt Buxton/TMS)

In 2018, voters in House District 27 voted for Democrat-backed independent Alyse Galvin over Republican Don Young by 150 votes, Democrat Mark Begich over Republican Mike Dunleavy by 121 votes and Republican Lance Pruitt over Democrat Liz Snyder by 181 votes.

Given the margins that suggested Pruitt had bipartisan support in 2018, Pruitt then went on to spend the next two years closely aligned with Dunleavy as the House minority leader, supporting and enabling deep cuts to state services to pay for a big dividend that was never delivered.

It’s a track record that two years later has enabled Snyder to mount a fierce rematch, raising three times as much in campaign contributions as Pruitt, $158,575.41 to $50,042.52. Snyder had nearly as much cash on hand for the final sprint of the race as Pruitt had raised for the entire cycle.

And the challenges for Pruitt don’t end there.

Today, the district has 200 more Democrats than in 2018 and 124 fewer Republicans. Already, twice as many mail-in votes have been cast in the district than in 2018 and the early vote is on place to beat 2018. In both cases, Democrats outpace Republicans and nearly outpace independents.

Taken together, it’s a tough re-election battle for a candidate whose most memorable moment from the past two years is a smirking selfie he snapped as he and fellow Dunleavy allies cleared the Wasilla Middle School gym after protestors interrupted their sham session.

So with that backdrop comes Alaska Public Media’s profile of the race, in which Pruitt not only hopes that a wave of far-right Republican victories will propel him to speaker of the House but also that an eleventh hour moderation on the state’s budget will keep him in the House.

According to the profile, he no longer supports a full PFD, supports reopening the discussion on oil taxes and is open to considering a broad-based tax on Alaskans — all things that would likely disqualify his ambitions of running a GOP majority whose members largely support the full PFD, oppose reopening the discussion on oil taxes and certainly oppose broad-based taxes on Alaskans.

“Do I like the concept of taxes? I hate them,” he told APM. “But I also recognize the reality of our scenario: If people had to choose between public safety and the roads and education, people of all stripes — Republican, Democrat, etc. — they get that those things are important and they cost money.”

Gee, that sure would have been a productive thing to have said at… well… any point in the last decade as the state’s finances went from OK to bad to worse to nightmarish while he and fellow Republicans regularly stood in the way of any meaningful changes to the state’s revenue picture. It’s a change of heart that House Speaker Bryce Edgmon surely would have appreciated instead of the never-ending tantrums thrown by Pruitt and his minority.

Whatever Legislature gavels in next January will face a growing structural deficit and dwindling solutions courtesy of politicians like Pruitt who’ve collectively kicked the can on a durable fiscal plan session after session.

And at a time where the pandemic has finally made a convincing case for supplemental payments to Alaskans—in service of avoiding the worst economic scars created by foreclosures, evictions, bankruptcies and shuttered businesses—Pruitt has given up ground on the dividend to Snyder, who is one of a small group of Democrats who favor a larger dividend.

“We’re in the middle of a pandemic,” she said. “Families and businesses are hurting. … And with the PFD, we have an existing mechanism that ensures families have access to money in a time that we arguably have never needed it more.”

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