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The Sunday Minefield – December 3, 2017

Despite the end of the 4th legislative special session, it’s been a busy week in Alaska politics. The most exciting news by far was from D.C. The tax bill, passed by the U.S. Senate early Saturday morning, included a provision to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) for drilling. The bill will likely get tweaked by a House conference committee, but, to date, this is the closest we have ever been to opening ANWR for drilling.

Alaska Republican Party

The Alaska Republican Party (ARP) held a meeting of their State Central Committee on Saturday December 2 in Anchorage. Among other frivolity and excitement, the Committee issued a unanimous statement of approval for Rebecca Logan’s Anchorage mayoral candidacy and confirmed Jon Faulkner as the new vice-chair. He replaces Rick Whitbeck who recently resigned to start a political consulting firm.

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URSA Optical

The ARP State Central Committee also voted to restrict primary ballot access for incumbents. This is surely targeted at Representatives Gabrielle LeDoux (R – Anchorage), Louise Stutes (R – Kodiak), and Paul Seaton (R – Homer). Many in the party are upset that they joined with the Democrats to form a majority in the house. This will definitely be an issue that comes up at the state convention in Anchorage this March. I wonder if Joe Miller will show up at the convention with his posse again?

Alaska Democratic Party

The Alaska Democratic Party has been holding a series of reconciliation meetings across the state. Many Bernie Sanders supporters were very unhappy with how things were handled by the party during his presidential campaign. The meetings are an opportunity for them to air their grievances, although some Bernie supporters are not holding back and seem to prefer the scorched earth policy.

At an ADP meeting in Anchorage on Thursday one of the speakers, Olivia Garrett, stated that while working for the party she was forced to share an office with a man who had sexually assaulted her in the past. She said, “Abuse is not just quietly tolerated in this party, it’s almost actively encouraged.” She went on to say that Representative Dean Westlake (D – Kotzebue) is a known sexual harasser and was forced onto everyone by party leadership in Anchorage who refused to listen to people in the interior who had concerns with him. Looks like the purge is beginning.

Campaign Updates

Former state representative and current Republican candidate for lieutenant governor Lynn Gattis held a fundraiser event in Anchorage at Little Italy on Monday. Most of the attendees were political insiders, and included: Senator Mike Dunleavey (R – Wasilla), Rick Whitbeck, Myranda Walso, Joe Riggs, Brad Keithey, Ross Bieling, ARP Chairman Tuckerman Babcock and perennial candidate David Nees. Gattis gave a good speech that didn’t drag on like many others (hint to candidates – no one wants to hear you go on and on at these things, keep it to 5 minutes – tops). At the end she said, “Don’t forget – LG for LG!” I love it.

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AES

Anchorage mayoral candidate Rebecca Logan held an event in Anchorage on Tuesday at the home of Renee and Mike Reeve. The event was called “Ladies for Logan” and boy did the ladies show up! It was a packed event with plenty of food and booze. Some of those in attendance were Dave and Darci Stieren, Sarah Erkmann Ward, Elle Ede, Ralph Samuels and Portia Babcock, Stacey Stone Semmler, Kris and Dawn Warren, Suzanne Cunningham, Judy Eledge, Deantha Crockett, Kara Moriarty, Kate Blair, and Julie Fate Sullivan. There were a lot of resource industry folks in attendance. Landfield approves this as a #highenergy event! Rebecca, I know I am supposed to stay neutral but I am willing to make an exception to host a “Ladies for Logan” event.

Not in attendance at Logan’s event was writer and staffer to Anchorage Assemblyman Chris Constant, John Aronno. Can’t say I’m surprised. If she wins – #awkward

Former Democratic state senate candidate and current Republican candidate for state house, Forrest McDonald, held his campaign kickoff event this Wednesday at a well-known conservative’s house. I have nothing to report as I was “strongly encouraged” not to attend for reasons not completely known to me. WHAT, not everybody loves Landfield and supports the Landmine? Sad! I should add the McDonald is my neighbor and running in my district. He did say if the event was as at Asia Garden I could have come, so I guess I’ve got that going for me.

New Jobs

Sarah Erkmann Ward is leaving her role at the Alaska Oil and Gas Association to become the CEO of the newly formed public affairs and advocacy agency, Blueprint Alaska. Blueprint is owned by longtime PR firm Thompson & Company, which is owned by Jennifer Thompson. Congrats to both parties. Jennifer and Sarah will be a very high energy team!

Longtime Chugach Electric board member and chair, Janet Reiser, has accepted the position of Executive Director of the Alaska Energy Authority. Her board term is up in May 2018, but she’ll probably resign later this month. Congrats to Janet. She assured the Alaska Landmine that she will be keeping things high energy at the Energy Authority.

KTUU political reporter Austin Baird accepted the position of Press Secretary for Alaska Governor Bill Walker. He starts on December 18th. Baird replaces Katie Marquette, who went to work at Alaska Health and Social Services as Communications Director. Baird has been with KTUU for nearly 5 years and earned the reputation as one of Alaska’s best political reporters. I’m sure many of the legislators are excited he will no longer be covering them as a reporter. Congrats to Austin.

KTUU cameraman Aaron Weaver left KTUU to run against Representative Gabrielle LeDoux (R – Anchorage) in the Republican primary. Weaver joins Baird and a slew of others who have quit KTUU in the last year. Reporter Mallory Walser left last year to work as the Alaska House Minority Press Secretary. Recently, reporters Dan Carpenter and Blake Essig have also departed, and reporter Caslon Hatch is on her way out. What’s going on at KTUU?

Update: Blake Essig is still with KTUU on a part time basis. He recently moved to Fairbanks.

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Union Yes

Sam Cason has filed to run against Senator Mia Costello (R – Anchorage). Cason says he plans to run as an Independent in the open Democratic primary. Cason served one term on the Chugach Electric board and then worked for ten years as an assistant attorney general as a public advocate for regulatory affairs. He was inspired to run because he feels there has been a lack of leadership on our fiscal crisis. Cason’s son, Drew Cason, works as the Deputy Press Secretary for the Alaska House Majority. Between all the Republicans running against Representative Jason Grenn (I – Anchorage) and this senate race, Sand Lake residents will have a busy political year.

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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