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Welpath

The Sunday Minefield – November 5, 2017

As the AK State Legislature’s 4th special session of the year drags on, crime continues to dominate the agenda in the House. The crime reform legislation, Senate Bill (SB) 54, passed through the House Finance Committee Thursday on a 9-2 vote. Representative David Guttenberg (D – Fairbanks) must be getting a bit frustrated. He was caught on a hot mic dropping the f-bomb while discussing the bill with Representative Jason Grenn (I – Anchorage). Hey, it happens.

The Senate is headed back to Juneau next week to do – who even knows what anymore. The Finance Committee has been meeting in Anchorage this week. I stopped by the new Legislative Information Office (LIO), now located in the Wells Fargo building at the corner of Minnesota & Benson after much sturm und drang over its 4th Avenue location, to watch one of the meetings. It looks like something between the inside of the building in Office Space and a 1980s government building. They went from the Taj Mahal to the Taj Madump. One legislator told me they opt to meet constituents anywhere but that place. Sad!

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Union Yes

The two Southeast Alaska senators remained in Juneau and seem bored. In an extremely low energy senate floor session on Thursday, Senator Bert Stedman (R – Sitka) and Senator Dennis Egan (D – Juneau) spent 3 minutes basically chatting with each other. They were vastly outnumbered by support staff. If Southeast ever planned on seizing control of the Senate, they blew their chance. Check it out here.

Why is Senator Kevin Meyer (R – Anchorage), also a candidate for lieutenant governor, being petty and messing with his colleague Senator Mike Dunleavey (R – Wasilla)? He booted Senator Dunleavey from his office and gave it to Senator Berta Gardner (D – Anchorage). As chair of the Senate Rules Committee, he is in charge of office assignments. Senator Dunleavy did break the caucus rules by voting against the budget but he lost his seat on the Finance Committee for that. Does candidate Meyer expect to get support from the Valley by treating one of the most conservative members in the senate this way? I’m sure his primary opponent, former Representative and Valley local Lynn Gattis is loving it. Strange behavior indeed.

Representative Charisse Millett (R – Anchorage) sent Legislative Affairs Director Pam Varni a bizarre email asking about the policy on legislators sleeping in their offices (who cares). Looks like she is trying to go after her counterparts in the House Majority. After a long email exchange, it seems they can in fact sleep in their office during a legislative session, and for the 10 days immediately preceding and following it. Representative Millett should know this though. She used to be a staffer for former representative and VECO legend Vic Kohring. He is the guy who had a shower built in the Capitol because he was living in his office. What a beauty.

The Alaska Landmine was anonymously sent some bingo games someone created about different legislators. This week we feature the one about Representative David Eastman (R – Wasilla). Bingo!

Not to pick on Representative Eastman, but I suggest he take a look at his Wikipedia page. Someone sent this to me and even I missed it at first. #fail

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URSA Optical

Several sources have confirmed that there have been several Alaska negotiators in China for the last several months trying to make this gas pipeline dream a reality. The state of Alaska is dumping big money trying to make this happen while the market seems to think otherwise. Now, Governor Bill Walker is catching a ride to China on Air Force One with President Trump. Is a major deal about to be announced or is this just another pipe dream?

Governor’s Race

The action on the Republican side continues. This is how things look to be shaking up so far. Declared are former Senator Charlie Huggins, Representative Mike Chenault and Scott Hawkins. Former Lieutenant Governor Loren Leman says he is strongly considering getting into the race. The maybes include John Binkley, former Senator Ben Stevens, Dan Sullivan (Mayor Dan) and the wild card, the wealthiest guy in Alaska, Bob Gillam. Others are also being encouraged to get into the race. There is no clear favorite at this point.

Meanwhile Mark Begich must be sitting back with a big grin on his face watching the Republicans go after one another. He can watch them eviscerate one another and wait until the very last minute to file if he decides to run. They may as well serve it up on a platter.

If Begich does file to run for governor the question is which Democrats will run for lieutenant governor? While there are many options the most obvious is Senator Bill Wielechowski (D – Anchorage). He is not up for re-election next year and his lawsuit challenging Gov. Walker’s PFD reduction has made him a household name in Alaska. That would be a powerful ticket.

Other Happenings 

In a strange press release by Attorney General Jahna Lindemuth, she says the state plans to challenge a superior court ruling last month that would allow non-affiliated candidates to run in the Alaska Democratic Party’s primary. It will be decided by the Alaska Supreme Court. Lindemuth was appointed by Gov. Walker, who many assume would run in the Democratic primary with Lieutenant Governor Byron Mallott. But who the hell even knows anymore. Imagine how awkward that work dynamic is about to get.

Former Anchorage Daily News, and then Alaska Dispatch News (ADN), journalist and editor Rich Mauer has accepted a position with KTVA as manager of news content. Mauer was recently laid off from the ADN after the Binkley family bought it out of bankruptcy. Mauer is one of the most talented and informed journalists in Alaska. Howard Weaver summed it up best, “I’ve never known a more surefooted reporter or one I trusted more to get the most complicated stories exactly right.” I wish him all the best in his new role. Watch out KTUU! Hey, we all love a little healthy competition.

Legislative staffer and David Eastman doppelganger Nate Graham (click here to read more) has been accepted to the Moscow International Youth Model Arctic Council in December. 50/50 he gets picked up as an unregistered foreign agent. Joking aside, all the best to Nate. It is a great opportunity and Moscow is a great place with lots to see.

The Associated Builders and Contractors held their annual awards dinner on Friday. An attendee reported the event was oddly low key and no candidate for governor attended. The buzz was someone needs to step up. Come on candidates, we need some high energy!

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AK Resource

If you have any political news, stories or gossip please email Jeff at jeff@alaskalandmine.com

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