Welcome to the latest edition of Friday in the Sun, where we try our best to keep up with the news of the week. As always, speculating on political news in Alaska is a favored pastime of many Alaskans, second only to speculating on who’s got the clout to win it all: Santa Claus or, sigh, Sarah Palin.
You can get of your dear ol’ editor at [email protected] with tips, tricks and corrections.
Adapted from The Midnight Sun Memo, a newsletter project from your humble Midnight Sun editor. For everyone who’s been asking about keeping up via email or how to support the work we’ve been doing here, we finally have an answer in this nifty newsletter… which comes with two free editions per week and extras for subscribers (though, as you might have learned from following this blog, the schedule can’t be entirely guaranteed). Sign up now!
‘It’s a $100 lottery, baby!’
Santa Claus, Christopher Constant, Jeff Lowenfels, Nick Begich, John Coghill and Lady Donna Dutchess are just some of the names to have filed to run when I started writing this column. With the close of the election filing deadline, that field has grown to include Andrew Halcro, Tara Sweeney, Emil Notti, Rep. Adam Wool, Sen. Josh Revak, former legislator Mary Sattler Peltola and, sigh, Sarah Palin.
There’s reportedly somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 candidates to have filed, but a final count and breakdown won’t be available until the Division of Elections has certified all the candidates and uploaded them to the website here. Candidates have until noon on Monday to have second thoughts and withdraw from the race. Election day is June 11 and will be Alaska’s first all-mail election.
The national media is just going to have a field day with a race that includes Santa Claus and, sigh, Sarah Palin. Also, talk about a bad day for Nick Begich. While Democrat Christopher Constant’s lane got a bit more crowded today, it’s nothing compared to the conservative side of the ticket dominated with heavy hitters like Sweeney, Revak, Coghill and, sigh, Sarah Palin.
Remember, that it’s not ranked-choice voting until the special general election. You only get to vote once in the open primary race, so make your vote count.
If you want a really good breakdown of all the candidates, the team over at the Anchorage Daily News has the election offices staked out and has been reporting on filings throughout the day.
Also, shoutout to KPen’s favorite progressive stoner Karyn Griffin, AKA Twitter’s Krazy Thee Alaskan, for what has got to be the best and most-Alaskan of campaign announcement videos. “My family and I would also like to have health care for life, wouldn’t you?” she said. “Medicare for all, Medicare for me, Medicare for you, It’s a $100 lottery baby!”
Anchorage is having another election
I haven’t written very much about Anchorage politics because, well, who would want to? This election is perhaps the least exciting and most consequential we’ve had since, well, the last boring and consequential election we had (which gave us Lyin’ Mayor Dave Bronson). While we can talk about all sorts of various issues at hand with this election and the various things that they should be focused on, it’s really about whether the Bronson-skeptical incumbents hold onto their seats and continue to serve as a check on the mayor’s worst impulses, or a surge of Bronson Believers take over their seats, erase the Assembly’s veto override numbers and effectively give Mayor
Demboski Bronson carte blanche.
There’s really not a lot more to it than that and it’s, frankly, just about the most depressing thing about politics these days.
It all comes as the Blue Alaskan has been doing yeoman’s work in digging through the Denali-sized mountain of suspicious crap surrounding the city’s relationship with tactical bros-turned-covid treatment bros WEKA. Here, Blue details how WEKA scored a lucrative contract to provide covid-19 treatments after donating some serious cash to the Bronson campaign. If you had concerns about a company that seemed to be primarily focused on selling holsters and providing armed security getting involved in administering medical treatments, then it sure sounds like you had something to be concerned about. In one anecdote about care, which was reported by EndPoints News earlier this month and brought to my attention by Blue Alaskan, an immunocompromised man went to WEKA’s location at the muni-owned Golden Lion Hotel—which is a whole other can of worms—to receive the government-supplied shots only to A) be charged $550 up front and B) be administered the drug incorrectly by injecting it intravenously instead of in the hip, as was required. It’s truly so horrid that here’s the entire section from that EndPoints News write-up:
He pulled up not to a doctor’s office, but to the wide-open parking lot of a shut-down hotel. When he walked inside, there was a registration sign above the check-in desk and signs offering various treatments outside the guest rooms. A receptionist took down his information and told him he would have to pay $550 by credit card before he could even be treated. They would then bill his insurance another $950, she explained, and if insurance didn’t cover it, he would have to.
Selman thought it sounded bizarre — thought the whole thing was bizarre, from the repurposed hotel to the upfront cost, to the mysterious absence from the site — but felt he didn’t have a choice but to hand them his Visa.
“I’m extremely susceptible. I feel desperation,” he recalled. “My team said I need to get this. I want to get it because I had exhausted all my other resources and the state has sent me there, so okay.”
Then things got stranger, Selman said. Evusheld is authorized as two shots in the hip, but a nurse gave him the antibody by IV infusion. Selman, deferential to doctors since they saved his life a decade prior, said nothing. But afterward, he said, his transplant team called and reprimanded Weka, who said they hadn’t known and recommended Selman come back in 45 days.
Just weeks later, though, he got a call from a state official saying that Weka had shut down. The official pointed him to a site at a nearby mall, where he was given the antibody properly free of charge. He never heard from Weka for the $950, but they also never refunded the $550 charge.
A spokesperson for AstraZeneca said it was “concerning” that the clinic administered the drug by IV and referred Selman’s case to the medical affairs team for investigation.
Blue’s continued the digging and has turned up stuff that is quickly throwing this all into the Very Serious realm of malfeasance. And it sounds like the Anchorage Assembly has been bulldogging it behind the scenes to get answers, something a Bronson-pliant assembly would never imagine.
So, yeah, I guess that’s what to think about when you’re filling out your ballot.
Hey, ma! I’m in the Washington Post!
In addition to all the action going on in Alaska politics, folks are pretty interested in what Alaska’s U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski might do when it comes to voting on Biden Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson. They even asked me about it! Find that story here: On the other hand, Buxton said Murkowski has “a lot to lose” if she opposes Jackson. “There’s a lot of people who would support her who I think would be really soured by that, especially running into an election year, especially at a time when the Supreme Court is more tense and political than it’s ever been,” he said.
Of course, Midnight Sun publisher Jim Lottsfeldt raised with an appearance in the New York Times, where he really hit the nail on the head with the decisions so far: “There’s no right to shore up,” said Jim Lottsfeldt, a lobbyist and political consultant based in Alaska who is close with Ms. Murkowski. “The people who love Trump will not forgive her for the impeachment vote; it’s a waste of time to chase them.”
Also, there’s this really fun anecdote from the NYT story:
Ms. Murkowski has often recounted to friends back home a story about a private meeting of Republican lawmakers where senators were reviewing the political makeup of each state. When Alaska flashed on the screen, showing more than 60 percent of voters not registered as Republicans or Democrats, Senator Joni Ernst, Republican of Iowa, gasped.
“Oh!” she exclaimed. “That’s why you vote the way you do.”
The reality of that map appears to have stuck with Ms. Ernst.
“It is very complicated, but I know Lisa will do what is right for her constituents,” she said in an interview on Wednesday. “I trust her judgment, and she knows her state best.”
This week was supposed to be the operating budget week in the House, a milestone in the legislative session where legislators’ one constitutional duty of keeping the state government open and functioning clears its biggest and most aggravating hurdle of the session. I’m talking, of course, of the countless amendments that Reps. David Eastman, Christopher Kurka and their merry cadre of extreme-right buddies can dream up and that the rest of the Republican Minority will happily humor if for no other reason but to aggravate everyone involved. Last year, we saw 70 amendments drafted up, several amendments to the amendments and many more process battles that have come to define Eastman’s time in the Legislature.
Anyways, that was the plan until it seems just about everyone in the Alaska Legislature was exposed to covid-19. The floor sessions in the House have been canceled as have loads of committee hearings, bringing pretty much everything to a standstill in the building. A big problem, it sounds like, is that folks just aren’t exactly being all that straight-forward about their covid-19 cases, leaving some people finding out they’ve been exposed well after the fact if they ever find out and potentially spreading it more. It’s marked the return of masking in the building, but not everyone is playing along because, after all, there’s political points to be scored.
From a process standpoint, it makes sense to delay the House floor sessions even if there’s technically enough people to meet. The House Majority Coalition is already right on the edge with just 21 members. As we saw with the Turo bill debate, things can quickly get out of hand if the majority is missing a few people. As one legislator explained to me, why push ahead with a disadvantage? It’d be one thing if the House Republican minority was more willing to work with the majority, but they’re not and it’s unclear if the budget itself could even pass given the absences.
Also, hey, it’s probably also a good example of what the “post-panny” phase of the pandemic is going to look like with middling vaccine uptake, ongoing freakouts over middling mitigation and, truly, the lack of any actual middling mitigation efforts. It’s almost like the vaccine is good for business.
Back to the drawing board
The Alaska Redistricting Board will be back at it at 2 p.m. this Saturday with a hearing to go over the Alaska Supreme Court’s decision that, most significantly, strikes down the Senate pairings in East Anchorage. While it’s a pretty clear decision with little wiggle room—especially since it appears the Alaska Supreme Court didn’t buy into the “hard look” standard, which would’ve let the board sidestep public testimony by pretending to consider it. The ruling found the board definitely committed a political gerrymander that benefited Eagle River over East Anchorage. It should be an easy enough remedy, but given this is an Alaska Redistricting Board that has regularly been pushing the limits on what they can get away with, I’m not quite so certain that the outcome will be completely above board. And to that end, the board has already scheduled a trio of meetings for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
It’s important to note the court ruling struck down the East Anchorage/Eagle River Senate pairing but wasn’t prescriptive with the solution. From a mere logistical point, it’d be hard for the board to do anything other than put Eagle River with Eagle River as all other pairings would likely run afoul of the Voting Rights Act, the Alaska Supreme Court or basic logic. Still, that means there’s plenty of potential for hijinks when it comes to redoing the Senate pairings and it could result in a full shakeup that could make life significantly more or significantly less complicated for incumbents.
Board member Bahnke has an alternative proposal for the Senate maps that at least one of the conservative members has already conceded was fair and reasonable, but I wouldn’t bank on those words mattering much as the board’s conservatives have already proved willing to bend things to their advantage. Here’s her plan:
And here’s what the board had approved that was struck down:
Similarly, the Alaska Supreme Court’s ruling to delete the Cantwell Carveout should be easy enough. By moving the 200 residents from the rural Interior House District 36 to the Denali Borough/Mat-Su House District 30, it would bring HD36’s population deviation to near-perfect while HD30’s would remain within the acceptable margin. That’s a point the Alaska Supreme Court made in its ruling, getting about as close as possible to a prescriptive solution. Still, the board could probably think up a way to do it differently.
At least board members Nicole Borromeo and Bahnke will be there, keeping everyone as honest as possible, ready to tell everyone when the emperor is wearing no clothes.
The Alaska Superior Court has set an April 15 deadline to hear back from the board.
A merry trip into the world of Reinboldia
There’s not a lot of Twitter threads to be had this week, but be sure to check out Don Larson’s thread on Sen. Lora Reinbold’s “egregiously unconstitutional online censorship bill.” (And here’s the Thread Reader version of it.):