The Sunday Minefield – January 21, 2018

Well the 2018 legislative session is finally underway in Juneau and the characters have continued to provide the kind of content Landmine readers dreams of. The Anchorage mayoral race is also starting to heat up.

Governor Stuff

Governor Bill Walker gave the State of the State address to a joint session of the house and senate this week. He was escorted out by Senator Natasha von Imhof (R – Anchorage) (Hi Natasha!) and Representative Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins (D – Sitka). Oddly enough, they were both walking in front of him and not at his side or behind him. Is that a metaphor? Dean Westlake’s former seat was noticeably empty. Guarantee nobody wanted to sit there.

When asked to comment on Walker’s speech, a high level Republican told me, “Yawn.” Damn.

A high level Democrat said, “I think it’s the best one he’s ever given. When compared to how shitty the others have been.” Poor Bill.

Charlie Huggins announced this week he will suspend his campaign for governor. This comes not long after Mike Dunleavy got back into the race. The Valley ain’t big enough for the both of ‘em. Word is Charlie’s wife was way more into him running than he was. Sorry Charlie.

Not sure what Representative Mike Chenault (R – Nikiski) is up to with his gubernatorial campaign but he is running some bizarre online ads of him as the GOVERNATOR. A fan of the Landmine sent me this awesome video that I uploaded to YouTube.

 

Chenault’s campaign hasn’t gained much traction and no one has yet filed to run for his house seat, so don’t be surprised if he drops out of the race and just stays in the house. I just hope he keeps running these kinds of awesome ads.

Word on the street is that the Republican Governors Association is eyeing Alaska and may spend a lot of money up here, depending on who wins the primary. Alaskan PR and ad agencies are definitely going to be competing for all that money.

Speaking of PR and ad agencies, Mary Ann Pruitt and Dave Stieren seemed to have settled their dispute over their company PS Strategies. I went down to the Court House to read the case. It’s pretty wild. Pruitt had Stieren served at the Anchorage airport and then posted a security guard at the office door preventing him access. A lawyer friend and fan of the Landmine provided the following analysis:

“My basic take on the lawsuit is that Pruitt sought judicial removal of Dave Stieren from the PS Strategies board of directors, alleging that he used company assets for his personal use. Stieren responded that Pruitt was unlawfully keeping him out of the PS Strategies premises, and that he wanted to review the books and records of the company. Judge Lamoreoux sided with Stieren as far as granting him access to the company’s office. The parties settled before anything else happened.”

Real winner – the lawyers.

Legislature

Trolling has become a big part of politics. This week the House Majority demonstrated their trolling ability is next level. The house sent Representatives Scott Kawasaki (D – Fairbanks) and DeLena Johnson (R – Palmer) over to the senate to give the customary announcement that they had gaveled in. Kawasaki is challenging Senate President Pete Kelly (R – Fairbanks) for his senate seat. Kelly did not seem at all amused. He awkwardly commented, “Nice suit.” #Winning

Legislators took the new mandatory sexual harassment training this week. Well most of them did; it seems Representative Tammie Wilson (R – North Pole) did not attend. House Rules Chair Gabrielle LeDoux (R – Anchorage) said those that don’t attend will lose their staff. Let’s see if Wilson will lose hers. Apparently, during the training Representative Dan Saddler (R – Eagle River) asked if the training itself could be considered sexual harassment. Classis Saddler.

Representatives Gabrielle LeDoux and Tammie Wilson have been at odds over the mandatory sexual harassment training. But in 2016 LeDoux’s PAC donated $250 to Wilson. Is Wilson going to give the money back? Can’t we all just get along.

Multiple sources tell me that morale amongst legislative staff, both sides, is low, very low. One staffer suggested that the legislators should just attend training the entire session so their staffers could actually get the work done and pass a budget on time. What do we have to lose at this point?

Lots of Republicans in the legislature complain about government bureaucracy, red tape and burdensome regulations. Maybe they should get their own house in order first. Check out this Legislative Affairs Agency maintenance request form:

Speaking of the Legislative Affairs Agency, longtime director Pam Varni recently retired. Her retirement party, celebrating 40 years of legislative service, was held in Juneau on Saturday (1/20/2018). Several hundred people reportedly attended – many told me the party was absolutely lit!

The joke in the Capitol this week was that several U-Hauls will be required to haul out all of the skeletons she has stored. Pam, if you are reading this, I will take you to dinner wherever you want so we can have a little chat about all the current and former legislators.

Representative Lance Pruitt (R – Anchorage) is sporting a new beard. Glad you have joined the club Lance. How about you pledge not to shave until a budget is passed? I think it will help speed things along. #PruittBeard

It sounds like Senator Anna MacKinnon (R – Eagle River) will not seek re-election this year. Can’t say I blame her. Senator Reinbold anyone?

Check out this Tweet from this week. Presented without comment:

Other Happenings

The Alaska Democrats are meeting in Juneau this weekend. Reports from Saturday’s meeting are solid gold. There was an effort to kick Ray Metcalfe out of the party. Apparently it was awesome. Laura Herman was speaking in favor of booting Metcalfe and some guy in the audience started berating her. When she was done talking, she left the room upset. Representative David Guttenberg (D – Fairbanks), unaware she was upset, started following her and tried to get her to stop to ask her for some information. A campaign worker for candidate for Congress Dmitri Shein, Arianna Cocallas, told Guttenberg, “Hey! Leave her alone,” in a very stern voice, not knowing who he was. YES! Looks like Dimitri is going for the Russian approach with his staff. Молодец товарищ. The meeting sounded like it was as lit as Varni’s retirement party.

Multiple sources reported a number of Democrats were out drinking and partying hard all over Juneau last night (1/20/2018). Texts and live updates were coming in to me all night. It sounds like absolute madness in Juneau this weekend. I really need to get down there.

Rebecca Logan and Ethan Berkowitz both officially filed to run for Anchorage mayor last week. It looks like these two will battle it out. But wait, let’s not forget about Dustin Darden! He also filed to run. Check out this clip of him at a 2015 debate. Andrew Halcro’s reaction is priceless. Darden says he loves homosexuals, among other things.

 

This will be the first municipal vote-by-mail election. Maybe Darden will get enough votes to force a runoff. Hey how would a runoff even work? I guess they would have to mail out new ballots right after the first round. Imagine what that would cost.

Overheard by a high-level oil company employee was the suggestion they rename one of their fields “Gasline” so Walker would pay their owed credits and get 100% behind the project. That’s genius.

This Week’s Loose Unit

This week’s Loose Unit was again a no brainer. On 1/15/2018 the Landmine posted on Facebook and Twitter about the House Majority’s former webmaster, Peter Stein, taking down their website, http://akhouse.org/, and demanding a $1,000 ransom to put it back up. Word is he was unhappy about being let go. No shit. And only $1,000, come on Peter. If you are going to be this dumb you need to ask for a lot more or at least say the money is going to charity. Damn he’s a bit of a Loose Unit.

Several people were upset that I posted the story about it because, apparently, the House Majority was in the process of working it out with Stein. But several hours after I posted about it, the site was back up. It seems that Landmine publicizing it had something to do with this. You’re welcome.

A source told me that someone in the majority commented about the situation, “We don’t negotiate with terrorists.” This reminds me of the Les Grossman (Tom Cruise) scene in Tropic Thunder when he goes off on the terrorists holding Tugg Speedman (Ben Stiller) hostage. Imagine House Speaker Bryce Edgmon (D – Dillingham) is Cruise here:

 

I would like to thank Nick Coltman for helping me edit my column every week. He has been a great mentor and a big part of the success of the Landmine. I am lucky to have met him.

If you have a nomination for This Week’s Loose Unit, or if you have any political news, stories or gossip (or any old pics of politicians or public officials) please email me at jeff@alaskalandmine.com.

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