Discover more from The Alaska Memo by Matt Buxton
Let's wildly speculate about the special election
Who’s going to run for Don Young’s seat? Who’s not going to run for Don Young’s seat? Who's going to win Don Young's seat? Who knows!
Happy Friday, Alaska!
BREAKING: The Alaska Supreme Court has delivered its decision on the Alaska Redistricting Board trial a week ahead of expectations. The justices found the Anchorage Senate pairings were, in fact, an unconstitutional political gerrymander; struck down the ruling that found the Skagway/Juneau House districts needed to be revisited, leaving them in place; and upheld the maps in the Mat-Su and Valdez challenges with the exception of striking down the Cantwell carveout. I’ll have a bigger write-up on this on the blog later today. See my Twitter thread here.
In this edition: It’s been a while since I’ve really hiked up my pants and waded into the world of political gossip, and there’s never been a better time to do so than now. So let’s get into all the rumors about who’s running and who’s not running for the open U.S. House seat; the test for Ballot Measure 2; Dunleavy still doesn’t have a running mate; the Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation may not have anything to hide, but it sure looks like it does; the threads; and weekend watching.
Spice level: 🍵
Legislative day: 67
Who’s going to run for Don Young’s seat? Who’s not going to run for Don Young’s seat? Who’s going to win Don Young’s seat? Why do we keep calling it Don Young’s seat? Why are we all kind of assuming whoever wins Don Young’s seat will also hold it for the rest of their life and not face deeply bitter biennial challenges that will likely result in many, many butts filling Don Young’s seat for years to come? Who knows! Plus, we have a whole new election system that brings several extra layers of who knows! But we have, at least, been hearing a lot. Some of it’s probably super legit, some of it is probably wishful thinking, and some of it is just us trying to be funny. Which is what? We’ll never tell. So, let’s get to it.
The filing deadline is 5 p.m. April 1.
Update: And, as I've been reminded, there are already five people who've already officially filed to run. They include undeclared candidate Gregg Brelsford, nonpartisan candidate Bill Hibler, Republican candidate Bob Lyons, Libertarian candidate J.R. Myers and Republican candidate Stephen Wright.
Christopher Constant – Anchorage Assemblymember Constant has already indicated his plans to run for the special primary election as well as the regular race. He’s about to get a whole lot more company in the race as the vacancy is one of those all-bets-are-off situations, which could make his path to victory (even more) tough. Still, to his credit Constant has run a respectable campaign.
Nick Begich – Like Constant, it sounds like Begich will also get into the special primary election. Unlike Constant, however, Begich has spent the majority of the campaign so far attacking Don Young. That might come back to haunt him in a race that will largely revolve around Don Young’s legacy.
Al Gross – He’s got plenty of money. May or may not have killed a bear.
Tara Sweeney – It’s hers if she wants it, is a thing that I’ve heard several times about the former Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Indian Affairs. She’s got a long list of accomplishments, not the least of which includes successfully navigating her time in the Trump administration. Well-liked by the state’s major political forces—oil companies, Republicans and, apparently, even labor—she’s got a coalition ready to go to bat for her. Plus, her husband ran Lisa Murkowski’s write-in campaign back in 2010.
Sen. Josh Revak – That the Anchorage senator is near the top of the chatter for potential candidates is unsurprising to anyone who’s been paying attention to Alaska politics. He’s considered to be relatively moderate, but that’s largely just by comparison in a Legislature that has slid off the rails. However, not everyone is quite ready to forgive and forget the time he palled along with Rep. David Eastman for the bizarre swearing-in stunt with Rep.-appointee Sharon Jackson back in 2019. Word is he’s already organizing the effort and the reflexive opposition from the far right at least means it’s going to be an entertaining race.
Rep. Chris Tuck – Through a series of unfortunate events, it sounds like the Anchorage Democratic representative is considering getting into the race. Sen. Elvi Gray-Jackson is backing out of the U.S. Senate race after national support for her candidacy apparently failed to materialize like promised. She will be running for re-election to her state senate seat, which is the seat Tuck had his eyes on rather than run against fellow Democratic Rep. Andy Josephson. It’s a tough spot, but there’s honestly a world where you can squint and see the pro-labor, anti-abortion Democrat giving frontrunners a run for their money. After all, he’s been inexplicably winning races in his Republican-leaning district for years now.
Sen. Mia Costello – Word is she was promised the seat by a certain someone who was never really in a position to keep the promise. But who will worry about who will bag our groceries?!
(When it comes to any legislator running for office, the big question is whether they’ll stay in the Legislature during the campaign. From my layman’s reading of state statute, legislators can fundraise and campaign for federal office while still holding state office. The rules barring legislators from fundraising only apply to state and municipal offices, not federal office. The law only bars legislators from fundraising on behalf of federal candidates during session. The big question is whether they’d want to stick around and take a bunch of votes they’d rather not have to.)
Meda DeWitt – The former head of the Recall Dunleavy effort, DeWitt has a lot of goodwill that would help her hit the ground running. If only Gov. Dunleavy and his vetoes were running.
Valerie Davidson – Val’s great and she belongs on any list.
Jeff Lowenfels – Yep, the gardener who’s been doing a column for the Anchorage Daily News for more than 45 years, so I’ve heard from a credible source. And, hey, he’s probably got better name recognition than most. The list grows.
Andrew Halcro - 🎵 Life. Politics. Entertainment.
Sarah Palin – Let’s be honest with ourselves, Alaska could probably do worse than Sarah Palin (it could also do a lot better). As I’m frequently reminded, she wasn’t all that bad before the national spotlight.
Joe Miller – An example of doing worse than Sarah Palin.
Reps. David Eastman or Christopher Kurka – Two examples of doing much worse than Sarah Palin.
Jeff Landfield – One thing’s for sure, it’d be loose.
Lance Pruitt – For some reason, people once thought he was a likely successor.
Sean Parnell – It’s your time to shine, Captain Zero! The bad man is gone.
Dustin Darden – Because is any election really complete without Dustin Darden?
Reps. Ben Carpenter, Matt Claman, Mike Cronk, Harriet Drummond, David Eastman, Bryce Edgmon, Zack Fields, Neal Foster, Ron Gillham, Sara Hannan, Grier Hopkins, DeLena Johnson, Andy Josephson, James Kaufman, Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, Bart LeBon, Kevin McCabe, Ken McCarty, Tom McKay, Kelly Merrick, David Nelson, Dan Ortiz, Josiah Patkotak, Mike Prax, Sara Rasmussen, George Rauscher, Calvin Schrage, Laddie Shaw, Liz Snyder, Ivy Spohnholz, Andi Story, Louise Stutes, Geran Tarr, Steve Thompson, Cathy Tilton, Chris Tuck, Sarah Vance, Adam Wool, Tiffany Zulkosky – Because why not?
Sens. Tom Begich, Click Bishop, Mia Costello, Elvi Gray-Jackson, Lyman Hoffman, Roger Holland, Shelley Hughes, Scott Kawasaki, Jesse Kiehl, Peter Micciche, Robert Myers, Donny Olson, Lora Reinbold, Josh Revak, Mike Shower, Bert Stedman, Gary Stevens, Natasha von Imhof, Bill Wielechowski, David Wilson – Because why not?
Ballot Measure 2 in the crosshairs
The upcoming special election will not only be a test of candidates’ ability to quickly stand up campaigns and build coalitions, but it’ll also be a test of the state’s new election system. Judging by the raising noise from the far right and Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s tantrum at this week’s news conference (where he was apparently not supposed to even be speaking), conservatives are seeing this as a prime opportunity to build the case for immediately undoing the election reforms passed by voters (the protections against repeal will expire next year). They’ve long been telling themselves that the measure only passed because of the dark money provisions and now they’re blaming it for the gap in congressional representation. It’s only the beginning.
The disdain for voters is pretty clear with Dunleavy also reaching out to legislators to gauge interest in canceling provisions of the law in order to have a single ranked-choice election with 20-some candidates on the ballot. He didn’t deny the effort, and also said several times through the news conference that he didn’t believe two elections were actually required (except for you know, the part of the law where it says two elections are actually required). Luckily, legislators and Lt. Gov. Meyer saw it differently and the idea was shot down as both unrealistic and bad faith.
That didn’t stop Dunleavy from bashing the measure about as much as he bashed the Anchorage Daily News during the news conference, which are both things that I expect we’ll hear and see plenty more of throughout the rest of the election year. After all, Dunleavy seems the happiest while yelling at things.
The Alaskans for Better Elections group will have its work cut out for it, but at least it’s getting some great new talent with the recent hires of Amanda Moser and Juli Lucky.
Lt. Gov. Who?
Just a reminder that Gov. Dunleavy still doesn’t have a running mate.
‘If you’ve got nothing to hide…’
Those were the words of Sen. Natasha von Imhof at last week’s meeting of the Legislative Budget and Audit Committee, where legislators unanimously approved subpoenas for several Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation officials as part of the panel’s investigation into the abrupt and still-unexplained firing of Angela Rodell. What was particularly interesting about that hearing was the committee stayed out in the open and on the record for the entire meeting, including discussions with the independent counsel. In a time where it seems like everyone is running to executive session for the slightest of reasons, it was a refreshing opportunity to see some frank discussions about the situation and left us all with more understanding of what is going on.
Let’s see how the Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation’s Board of Trustees handled their response to the Legislative Budget and Audit Committee:
Yup. Seems about right.
Follow the threads (from the last two weeks)
Gov. Mike Dunleavy holds his news conference boasting about how high revenues might be if everything holds firm (which it never does) and then renewed his pledge for the same $3,700 PFD payout he’s been calling for all session.
The Legislative Budget and Audit Committee took the next step in the investigation of the Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation’s abrupt and still-unexplained firing of Angela Rodell by approving subpoenas for 11 individuals they believe could have critical information. They won’t be automatically used, but it marks an escalation of the battle. Read more on the blog.
After two weeks of floor sessions dominated almost entirely by amendment-o-ramas, the House finally gets around to voting on bills that have been handing around a while: The marriage solemnization bill that also repeals some child marriage laws passed 27-13; The Turo bill requiring carsharing companies to collect the vehicle rental tax that users are already legally liable for passed 22-18; and the campaign contribution bill passed 21-18 in a late-night vote.
Meanwhile, the Senate passed legislation banning private businesses from enforcing any vaccine mandates on a bizarre 13-6 vote with far-right Republicans pairing up with a majority of Democrats. At least, I guess, it included non-binding intent language affirming constitutional support for a person’s right to an abortion.
Bonus thread: Your Russia-sympathizing side is showing. The House passes what ought to be a simple-enough resolution supporting Ukraine but not before several attempts by Rep. Eastman and other conservatives to either defang the resolution… or echo bizarre pro-Russia conspiracies.
It’s basketball time! This year has been full of surprises and upsets in both the women’s and men’s brackets, providing for loads of great sports watching. Here’s a time where it ended in a not-so-great finale.
Have a nice weekend, y’all.