Discover more from The Alaska Memo by Matt Buxton
Long-rumored sexual harassment allegations against Charlie Pierce brought into the light
Sick of the election mailers and calls? Here’s one weird trick to make them stop (vote early)
It’s Monday, Alaska!
In this edition: After months of rumors and guarded responses from the Kenai Peninsula Borough, a lawsuit has finally put on the record the sexual harassment allegations against gubernatorial candidate Charlie Pierce. It renewed calls for Pierce to drop out and put a spotlight on Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s apparent support for the fellow Republican. Sick of all the campaign mailers and calls? Well, I have one weird trick for making them stop (vote early). And the update I’m sure everyone wants on the APOC complaint reporting that has dominated this newsletter as of late.
Current mood: 🍂
Long-running sexual harassment allegations against Pierce brought into the light
After months of rumors and tight-lipped answers by Kenai Peninsula Borough officials, a lawsuit has finally dragged the sexual harassment allegations against former mayor and GOP gubernatorial candidate Charlie Pierce into the light of day.
The civil lawsuit was filed on Friday by Kenai resident Pamela Wastell, who worked as the executive assistant to Pierce in 2021 and the first half of 2022, and it was first reported by the Anchorage Daily News. The basics of the allegation are that during the course of Wastell’s employment, Pierce made sexual remarks, made unwanted and unsolicited embraces that included massages, kissing and touching her breast, threatened to fire her if she said no and of “false imprisonment in her office.”
The lawsuit also alleges that the Kenai Peninsula Borough, which is also named as a defendant in the lawsuit, was aware of Pierce’s conduct and did nothing to stop it.
“KPB knew or should have known that Pierce was a sexual harasser and bully,” the lawsuit says. “Prior to Wastell’s constructive discharge, KPB, through Pierce, subjected at least four other employees to discrimination, bullying, harassment, retaliation, and/or termination.”
The lawsuit comes after the borough already paid more than a quarter-million dollars to settle workplace complaints brought by two other employees—one female employee and one male employee—against Pierce.
Pierce resigned as KPB mayor earlier this year, claiming that he was intending to focus on the race for governor despite an exodus of campaign staff and calls from other conservatives to drop out so they could run a “serious campaign” against Gov. Mike Dunleavy. Pierce has been surprisingly active in the final month of the campaign and has attended several gubernatorial forums, including one last week where Dunleavy signaled his support for Pierce as a second-place choice.
Those calls to drop out were renewed today with the Walker/Drygas campaign releasing a statement calling on Pierce to drop out and Dunleavy to revoke his support, renewing attention to the fact that two of his attorneys general resigned while one faced accusations of workplace sexual harassment and the other of sexual abuse of a minor, which has since resulted in an indictment.
“On the rare occasion Mike Dunleavy bothers to show up, he tells Alaskans to vote for him first and to rank Charlie Pierce second,” Drygas said in a prepared statement. “What Dunleavy doesn’t talk much about is the sexual harassment that he allowed to happen steps away from his own office. He also likes to pretend Alaska is safer than ever even though we have dozens of communities without any law enforcement, and in spite of the fact that we just experienced the highest number of sexual assaults in our state’s history over the past four years. Alaskans deserve better.”
Walker isn’t unfamiliar with cutting ties. In 2018 his then-running mate Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott resigned after a woman said he propositioned her at a hotel.
“Integrity matters,” Walker said in the same statement. “When a person in a position of power does something wrong, you don't urge your supporters to vote for them. You demand accountability. Charlie Pierce should suspend his campaign immediately, and Mike Dunleavy should not continue to support Pierce just because it helps with his personal political ambitions.”
The one camp that has been surprisingly quiet about the news is Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s campaign. According to the ADN, this is how the governor responded to questions when approached at AFN on Friday:
A spokesman for Dunleavy, Andrew Jensen, did not respond to emailed and texted questions about whether the lawsuit Friday impacted the governor’s endorsement of Pierce as second choice on the ballot. When a Daily News reporter approached him after the AFN forum on Saturday, Dunleavy stopped talking to bystanders and walked out an exit. Jensen later wrote in a Tweet that by the time the reporter approached, Dunleavy had already finished speaking to everyone who had been waiting to speak with him. Another member of his staff said the governor was too busy to talk to a reporter.
Jensen proceeded to throw a fit about the line on Twitter, claiming that the Anchorage Daily News and reporter Kyle Hopkins made up the interaction. Later, when asked if the governor has a position on whether he still supported ranking Pierce second, deflected by suggesting that Hopkins and the ADN, which earned a Pulitzer for their reporting on sexual abuse in Alaska, “are now profiting from that suffering, so I’d check how that looks first.”
You know, before we know whether a governor—who has had two attorneys general resign for sexual harassment and sexual abuse of a minor—still supports another GOP candidate who’s credibly accused of sexual harassment.
Sick of the election mailers and calls? Here’s one weird trick to make them stop (vote early)
The Alaska Division of Elections opened early in-person voting today for the Nov. 8 election at dozens of locations throughout Alaska, marking one of the easiest ways to take yourself on the mailing, calling and door-knocking lists.
Campaigns keen on maximizing their time and money keep track of who’s voted and who hasn’t with regularly updated lists by the Division of Elections. Don’t want to spend resources getting someone to vote who has already voted, after all. (Your mileage may vary, though, as I’m told Democratic campaigns are more on the ball than Republican campaigns when it comes to updating voter lists.)
Locations are open in throughout the state and they come in two flavors. There’s a handful of official Early Voting Locations, which come equipped with special equipment for voters who need additional help voting as well as a wider selection of house district ballots, where you’ll be casting an early vote. The other polling locations, which make up the majority of places to cast an early ballot, are technically absentee voting locations and are typically limited in what ballots they have available.
Beyond ballot selection, the real big difference between the two is that casting an early vote at an Early Voting Location will be reflected more quickly in the voter rolls the campaigns are working off. So, if you’re really keen on halting the targeted campaigning, the Early Vote Locations are the way to go.
Voters wishing to cast their votes by mail still have that option. Applications for by-mail absentee voting are being taken through Saturday, though keep in mind that there’s been a bit of confusion over return postage. The messaging that comes with the ballots say they require 84 cents in postage—about two first-class forever stamps—but the U.S. Postal Service has indicated it will deliver ballots with insufficient postage.
Remember, though, when it comes to by-mail voting that very rarely will dropping it in the mailbox on election day mean that it gets the necessary election-day postmark. If you’re pushing up against election day, it’s a wise bet to either drop off your by-mail ballot to a voting location or to have it postmarked by hand by a postal worker.
Election day is Nov. 8. Results in contested races in multi-candidate races where no candidate crosses the 50% threshold will be determined through the state’s new ranked choice voting system, which leaves the tabulation for about two weeks after election day. Hold tight.
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Senator, you’re no redistricting trial
The Alaska Public Offices Commission was supposed to have a written decision out today on the latest complaint against the Republican Governors Association and its independent expenditure group A Stronger Alaska, which alleges they’re basically one in the same and that the RGA should be reporting directly to APOC instead of masking its activity with the group.
As of writing, that has yet to be released because—surprise—the commissioners have yet to reach a decision and the whole thing continues to drag on. Following Friday’s hearing, the commissioners requested additional information from the groups about a handful of laws requiring groups register with APOC to participate in elections (which would be the main complaint against the RGA) and a handful of advisory opinions dealing with bank accounts. Today, commissioners met late in the afternoon to continue the executive session discussion on the matter.
“We will be issuing a decision shortly after we make those decisions in executive session,” APOC Chair Anne Helzer said today. “Please understand we will be working as quickly as possible to reach a decision in this case.”