Discover more from The Alaska Memo by Matt Buxton
Conservatives push for Eagle River and South Anchorage senate district
They argue it would require fewer changes, but the East Anchorage plaintiffs have shown by keeping Eagle River together, you can minimize the changes even further.
Happy Anchorage Municipal Election Day, Alaska! I’ll be poking my head into the results on Twitter but if the races are close and the process is anything like last time, it could take some time to see the final results… and that’s not to mention any election conspiracy theories that the conservatives start floating around.
In this edition: The Alaska Redistricting Board’s continued its contentious work today with a more-interesting-than-expected public hearing to take public input on the maps, which included a GOP proposal that’d keep Eagle River in the driver’s seat of two senate seats and a new proposal from the East Anchorage plaintiffs; and The House is only partway into the budget amendments, all of which including the big-ticket PFD ones have failed as of writing.
Spice level: 🌶️🌶️
Eagle River split, version 2
As the Alaska Redistricting Board formulates its fix to the Alaska Supreme Court order, conservatives have seemed to quickly coalesce around a plan put forward by former Alaska Republican Party chair Randy Ruedrich (above, with the red Xs marking the districts that would not require changes) that would maintain the split in Eagle River by pairing one district with the South Anchorage/Girdwood district and maintain the other Eagle River district’s pairing with the JBER/Government Hill district. As the time has continued, more conservatives (Jamie Allard, former Eagle River Rep. Dan Saddler and former RNC delegate Fred Brown among many other recognizable names) have started to call in in support of this plan with a blanket accusation that the Bahnke pairings are somehow a political gerrymander and the work of Democrats. They argue the Eagle River/South Anchorage pairing is fair, citing road service areas, fire service areas, avalanches, wealthy residents and bears among other factors. None have been able to actually explain what about the Bahnke pairings makes them problematic, but one testifier tipped his hand when he said it would cause “us to lose two districts.” Before board member Nicole Borromeo could ask what exactly he meant, the caller had hung up. Unsurprisingly, it appears that this concept about the conservatives losing two seats under the Bahnke pairing comes directly from Must Read Alaska, which also appears to have been the source of the continued assertion that Bahnke’s proposal is the work of the Democrats.
Bahnke regularly opposed the characterization, noting that she had worked on the plan with Republican board member Budd Simpson. Even board counsel Matt Singer eventually suggested they stop identifying any plan as any individual’s work, a point that Bahnke was more than happy to support. Still, it’s created for several tense exchanges as Bahnke and member Nicole Borromeo have frequently sparred with conservative members Bethany Marcum and John Binkley. Bahnke, at one point, said her plan had even enjoyed the support of Binkley during a closed door meeting, to which he shot back, “I don’t have any idea what you’re talking about” and said he opposed the plan and would be supporting something else.
Exactly what else the board will consider at this point isn’t clear. Marcum has so far refused to put anything of her own on the record for the public to review, but today said that several of the testifiers and emailed correspondence have given her ideas for what to do next. Borromeo says it’s stalling while they come up with another plan that will hand the advantage to Republicans.
Aside from the potential GOP advantage contained in the Ruedrich map, which has the net effect of keeping Eagle River in the driver’s seat of two Senate districts, the conservatives have flocked to it with the argument it requires fewer House district changes. Bahnke’s plan, which is becoming Board Version 1, would require all eight of the Anchorage area’s districts to be altered. Board counsel Singer has noted that the court would likely want to see minimal changes to the overall maps, suggesting that they try to minimize the number of districts that require changing. This is probably a correct course of action because it’d make for fewer new opportunities for legal challenges to be filed (say, by someone challenging South Anchorage’s pairing with Eagle River).
To that end, the East Anchorage plaintiffs have proposed their own plan that reduces the required changes further. This map would pair Eagle River’s two house districts together into a single senate district and focus the changes in just the northern side of the city. In total, only four Senate districts under this plan would be changed, two of them being the same proposal as Ruedrich had made. Here’s what it would look like:
I think this case for fewer changes is a good one. It maintains certainty for whatever candidates have already been campaigning and gives voters certainty about who to support and where they’ll be voting. It’s also a way for the board to be consistent and clear in its legal thinking behind these plans, lessening accusations of gerrymandering.
Also, if we’re being really clear. There is a way for the Alaska Redistricting Board to make the change by impacting only three already-approved Senate districts. However, this one wouldn’t unite the two Muldoon districts that have been at the heart of the trial. It should be noted, though, that the court has not mandated that the South Muldoon district be placed with any other specific district other than saying it can’t go with Eagle River (and, I’d argue, that it also shouldn’t go with the neighboring Hillside district as it’d raise similar problems to the Eagle River pairing).
The path ahead
The Alaska Redistricting Board adopted a schedule that should see resolution on either Wednesday or Thursday of next week. The next big deadline is tomorrow, when the board has set a deadline for initial public testimony and public-submitted maps for consideration. The board has also scheduled additional public testimony days on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Debate on maps and a final decision would be slated for a pair of back-to-back meetings on Wednesday and Thursday of next week. Here’s the schedule:
Wednesday, April 6 at 10 a.m. — Hears public testimony and public-submitted maps. Holds some discussion on what should be adopted into the record.
Thursday, April 7 at noon. to 2 p.m. — Public hearing
Friday, April 8 at 10 a.m. to noon — Public hearing
Saturday, April 9 at noon to 2 p.m. — Public hearing
Wednesday, April 13 at 10 a.m. — Hearing to debate and discuss updated Senate maps
Thursday, April 14 at 10 a.m. — Hearing to debate and discuss updated Senate maps
Friday, April 15 — Deadline for a status report to the Superior Court
Tomorrow’s deadline is the main one to keep in mind in terms of public engagement. You can testify in-person at the Anchorage LIO, via phone (Anchorage at 907-563-9085, Juneau at 907-586-9085 and other at other at 844-586-9085) or on the board’s website here.
PFD falls short once again
After being sidelined with an outbreak of covid-19, the House got underway today with a slog of amendments on the budget that promises to continue well into the night and likely into the next few days. As of writing, none of the amendments have passed with the House but at the very least the Republicans front-loaded the debate with the PFD-related amendments. The lead-off amendment offered by Big Lake Republican Rep. Kevin McCabe would’ve paid out a $4,200 at the cost of $2.8 billion. McCabe, who is apparently not much of a Greek mythology buff, pleaded for “One person who has heard the siren’s sound of thousands of Alaskans who are hurting.” The warnings from legislators to steer clear of the rocky reef that is depleting the state’s savings won out and the amendment, like many other failed.
The day also included amendments on things like attempting to put capital budget spending into the operating budget, giving Dunleavy additional money to sue the federal government (going from $2 million in this budget to $6 million), paying out oil tax credits, making oil tax credit payments contingent on the payment of a large PFD, introducing raises for non-union employees and backstop language for university scholarships. They all failed.
I was deep in redistricting so I didn’t have a good opportunity to follow everything, but twitterer Don Larson has an excellent blow-by-blow available here. Some highlights:
Yikes! The House wisely broke this evening and will be back at it again tomorrow.