The Sunday Minefield – October 22, 2017

Welcome to the inaugural installment of The Sunday Minefield, The Alaska Landmine’s weekly rundown column. I look forward to delivering the political news and gossip that no one else is talking about. Nothing or no one is off limits.

Tomorrow (Monday, Oct. 23) is the first day of the Alaska State Legislature’s special session number – who the hell even knows anymore – of the year. Governor Walker called them back again to deal with a payroll tax and crime. My guess is this one won’t last too long. At least they will all be safer in Juneau. Speaking of crime, you can’t throw a rock without hitting a legislator holding a town hall meeting about the crime problem. Representative Grenn (I – Anchorage) and Representative Claman (D- Anchorage) held one on Thursday. Mayor Berkowitz was scheduled to speak but, according to Rep Claman, he could not make it because of a conflict with a KTVA event on the opioid crisis. Problem is that did not start until after the Grenn and Claman event. Berkowitz did have time to stop by the Senate Democrats’ fundraiser though. It looked a lot more fun anyways. I hope he did not stay out past midnight.

The Anchorage Republican Women’s Club also held event last week to discuss SB 91 and the crime problem. Senator Coghill (R-North Pole) was scheduled to be there to defend SB 91 but cancelled at the last minute, leaving no one to defend the bill. Shocking… Several Republican senators were supposed to attend but, and I’m sure this was a coincidence, they scheduled their fundraiser at the same time (Oops!). Word is it was mostly just them and a bunch of their lobbyist buddies. Senator Wilson was the only one who attended, although a few others did show up at the end.

You may remember Senator Wilson from “the slap heard ‘round Alaska” when, allegedly taking umbrage with an ADN story, he gave reporter Nat Herz a love-tap in the hallway of the capitol last session. It seems as though he was just getting started. Apparently towards the end of session he was trying to listen in on a closed meeting of the Alaska House Majority when a female staffer asked him to stop. He refused, pulled out his phone and said he would just hold it by the door and record it. She informed him that the rules prohibited that and again asked him to stop. Allegedly, he then put the phone between her legs and asked if that was better – she was wearing a skirt. Several people witnessed the incident and the situation made them all very uncomfortable. Maybe there’s a reason why he was so interested in the SB91 presentation? #MeToo. But wait – it gets better. There is security footage of the entire thing. However, and get this, the only way security tape from the Capitol can be released to the public is if the Legislative Council votes to release it. Seems they can, in fact, do whatever they want down there. Leg Council needs to do the right thing and release this footage.

The governor’s race is going to be very entertaining over the next year. Recently, the Alaska Chamber of Commerce hosted a candidate forum on a Sitka sightseeing boat. According to someone on board, Anchorage businessman and Republican candidate, Scott Hawkins was going on and on and would not stop talking. Someone eventually yelled out, “A whale!” which allowed everyone to escape. He kept talking.

While browsing Facebook on Friday I noticed a sponsored ad from former state senator and Republican candidate for governor, Charlie Huggins. The old military man from the Valley seems to be on his social media game. Good on him. Maybe the Russians are helping out.

The Alaska Federation of Natives (AFN) yearly meeting is going on this week in Anchorage. This Instagram pic taken by Casey Grove was sent to me, talk about the perfect hat.

Senator Lisa Murkowski (R – Alaska) addressed the AFN Convention on Saturday. She spent a long time talking about climate change… then was followed by a speaker from the American Petroleum Institute. Awkward.

Looks like Mayor Ethan Berkowitz and Rebecca Logan are still the main contenders for the Anchorage mayoral race in April. Word is Dan Sullivan (Mayor Dan, not Ohio Dan) was considering a run, but some polling showed he doesn’t stand a chance. In fact, a recent poll by Grove Research showed Ethan beating Dan 55% to 38%. It seems the majority of Anchorage residents blame Dan Sullivan, and not Ethan Berkowitz, for the city’s crime and financial problems. SAP anyone? Get this, that same poll showed the ACLU has better favorability than Dan Sullivan. Damn.

So far none of the major Democratic players have filed to run for governor. If the Alaska Supreme Court ruling allows Bill Walker and Byron Mallott to run as Independents in the Democratic primary, it could get interesting. Maybe this explains why Governor Walker has been hiring Democratic operatives like Leslie Ridle and John Henry Heckendorn. He also hired Scott Kendall, a major Republican operative as his chief of staff. Advantage of being governor, being able to hire up all the talent of your potential opponents.

We don’t hear a lot from LG Byron Mallott but get this, a few weeks ago the Alaska Democrats held their first annual gala. When Mark Begich presented Senator Berta Gardner (D – Anchorage) with an award, old Byron apparently shot up and made sure to get right in the middle of the picture. Maybe he got inspiration from the video of President Trump pushing the Prime Minister of Montenegro aside to be front and center in the picture. Who knew Byron was that aggressive. Campaign season is definitely under way.

Word is employee morale at the Anchorage Economic Development Corporation is low, really low. They have had a nearly 100% staff turnover in the last few years. I guess it is not great working there during a recession. Maybe Bill Popp should have taken the airport manager job Governor Walker offered him. Speaking of AEDC, looks like they just hired writer and journalist Kirsten Swann as communications coordinator. Talk about being over qualified. All the best to her with the new job.

If you have any political news, stories or gossip please email Jeff at

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John Suter
6 years ago

I have some E mails from the legislature I could send you on different subjects.send I could send them to you.