Last night the Senate Republicans held a joint fundraiser at the Matanuska Brewing Company in Anchorage. It was a packed event that included lobbyists, oil company executives, Republican House members, Republican candidates, Governor Mike Dunleavy (R – Alaska), his Chief of Staff Ben Stevens, and many more. Senators Mia Costello (R – Anchorage), Gary Stevens (R – Kodiak), and Click Bishop (R – Fairbanks) were not in attendance but were listed. Roger Holland and Robb Myers recently beat Senators Cathy Giessel (R – Anchorage) and John Coghill (R – North Pole) in the Republican primary.
— The Alaska Landmine (@alaskalandmine) September 15, 2020
There was no social distancing or contact tracing and few people wore masks. It was like going back in time! Granted, it’s hard to have a drink or eat food with a mask on. Senator Peter Micciche (R – Soldotna) was the de facto leader of the group. He started off the event and introduced everyone. During his remarks he acknowledged the divisions among the group but made it clear that Republicans needed to come together to be in the majority. Former Representative Ralph Samuels also spoke. He said that the people in the room were the ones who needed to be making the decisions in Juneau. He told a story of how he used to drive back from Juneau after session with other legislators. He joked that by the end of the drive the person he disliked the most had rotated several times, then stated, “Get over it!” Governor Dunleavy also spoke. He said that families always have disagreements but in the end they are a family. To the average observer it seemed very copacetic.
Well attended event tonight for the Alaska Senate Republicans at the Matanuska Brewing Company in Anchorage. @GovDunleavy made an appearance. The message was essentially “we are stronger together.” #akleg #akelect pic.twitter.com/6kZoWEIjA6
— The Alaska Landmine (@alaskalandmine) September 17, 2020
But what is happening behind the scenes is much more complex. There are 20 senators. Eleven is the magic number to form a majority. If Robb Myers and Senator Josh Revak (R – Anchorage) win (both are in competitive races) Republicans will have 13. But it’s not that simple. Senators Natasha von Imhof (R – Anchorage), Bert Stedman (R – Sitka), Click Bishop, and Gary Stevens are essentially a block. Throw Senator Lyman Hoffman (D – Bethel) in there and that’s five. Hoffman has been in the legislature since the 80s. He has been through more organizations that many of the other senators combined. This makes him a real force in the Senate. The Democrats would have six remaining, leaving nine other Republicans. The nine Republicans are not nearly as unified as the other four. So the block of four wields immense power. They can essentially determine the majority. Which means they will want major concessions. For example, von Imhof and Stedman remaining co-chairs of the Senate Finance Committee and Stevens being Senate president. If the other nine Republicans refuse to give concessions, there is no majority. Keep in mind those nine Republicans include Senators Mike Shower (R – Wasilla), Lora Reinbold (R – Eagle River) and Shelley Hughes (R – Palmer). It would be a tall order for them to be in a majority with the block of four in charge. It all boils down to major philosophical disagreements on the PFD.
The block of four could also organize with the seven Democrats (which includes Hoffman) if they give them the concessions they want. But that creates another problem. While this is very likely Stevens’ last term, and Stedman and Bishop are probably not too worried about reelection, von Imhof is. She has ambitions for higher office. If she organized with Democrats that would basically be a career ender. The nine Republicans really want a majority, but they also want to be in charge. Keep in mind redistricting is underway and the districts will all change in 2022.
Senator Micciche is angling to be Senate president, but so is Senator Shower. Costello and Hughes seem to be competing for rules chair. Revak is looking at majority leader. Senator David Wilson (R – Wasilla) seems to be looking at co-chair of the Senate Finance Committee. But there are only so many leadership positions (president, majority leader, rules chair, finance co-chairs) to go around. It all boils down to who blinks first. And if Revak were to lose to Andy Holleman or Myers to Marna Sanford, all bets are off. If one of those seats flip, Democrats will then have eight. It is possible that Stedman, Bishop, and Stevens could join them, which would make eleven. When a group gets to eleven, they will likely pick up a few from the other side. Regardless of what happens, look for things to get very loose after the general election is certified.