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We Build Alaska

The Sunday Minefield – April 8, 2018

I hope everyone enjoyed my April Fool’s video last week in which I announced my candidacy for lieutenant governor. Even though it was a joke, many of you have reached out and actually encouraged me to run! It would definitely bring some high energy to what is currently a very low energy race.

The lack of a column last week was because I was in Fairbanks for work (yes, I have a real job). If you are not from Fairbanks, here’s a tip, when at the Big-I, don’t refer to Fairbanks as Squarebanks. Trust me on this. I met up with fellow blogger Matt Buxton from the Midnight Sun. #highlevelmeeting

It has been a rather bizarre week in Juneau. Shocking, I know. As we approach the end of the “90-day” voter mandated session, it seems all but inevitable they will go over again. They are allowed to extend to 120 days without going into special session. Even though it doesn’t look like they’re remotely close to an agreement on the budget, don’t expect an extended session this summer. They are nearly all up for re-election and legislators can’t fundraise or campaign while they are in session. The one thing that gets them to finish their work on time – the need to campaign. Sad!

The Legislature

The house passed an operating budget this week – barely. Representative Gabrielle LeDoux (R – Anchorage) was the only member of the House Majority to vote against it (the House Majority is a non-binding caucus, which means members are not compelled to vote for the budget). Word is she is upset with the amount of the Permanent Fund Dividend dictated in the budget. The house voted to fund a $2,700 dividend but soon after, in one of the strangest votes ever, rescinded that and lowered the amount to $1,600.

The senate was definitely not going to vote to fund a $2,700 dividend, but they also did not want to vote to reduce it. After all, Senate President Pete Kelly (R – Fairbanks) is up for re-election this year. His opponent is Representative Scott Kawasaki (D – Fairbanks). Some kind of deal must have been struck between the house and senate. The house could have passed the budget with the dividend set at $2,700 and made the senate reduce it, which would have made the senate very unpopular with the public. Instead, the house voted to reduce it for some reason. Probably because the State can’t afford it. Whatever the deal was, it must have been pretty sweet for the house. The caucuses in both bodies are extremely fractured over the dividend issue. As bad as it is, at least they still seem to be talking to each other.

Representative Geran Tarr (D – Anchorage) finally heard House Bill (HB) 331 in the House Resources Committee on Saturday (4/7/2018). It only took 2 months! HB 331 is Governor Bill Walker’s bill to pay the nearly $1 billion in owed tax credits, which he vetoed in 2015, to several independent oil companies by issuing revenue bonds. The companies would take a reduced payment, between 9 and 9.5 cents on the dollar, with the remainder of what they are owed covering the interest. The oil companies, the administration, and nearly everyone in the legislature seems to agree with the bill, except Tarr, but even she used to agree. Last November she told the Resource Development Council, “I stand in agreement. We need to honor those commitments.” Are you confused, Geran?

During a House Labor and Commerce Committee hearing on plastic bags, a member of the public gave what might be the most entertaining testimony of this session. Extremely high energy! This is the same person who last year said Representative Jason Grenn (I – Anchorage) “looks like an angry lizard.” Check it out below. Representative Sam Kito (D – Juneau) actually had to cut her off. This is wild.

The senate passed SB 154 this week. I had to double check and make sure this wasn’t a satirical piece from The Onion. This is real. “I’ve heard from Alaskans who say they wouldn’t mind giving up a portion of their income or PFD to the State of Alaska,” said Sen. David Wilson (R-Wasilla), the bill’s sponsor. “This bill creates a mechanism for Alaskans to donate their PFDs directly to the state general fund.” Representative David Eastman (R – Wasilla) sponsored the companion bill in the house. The Valley David’s are back in action!

Any guesses on how much money this brings into the state? The over/under should be set at $100.

The annual legislative skits took place in Juneau last Saturday night. The general theme of the evening is that legislative staffers make fun of the legislators. I attended for the first time. Much like Fight Club, the first rule of skits is you don’t talk about skits. The second rule of skits is you don’t talk about skits. That being said, if you haven’t ever attended, I highly recommend checking it out one year. It was extremely funny and entertaining. Later that night I had an incredibly bizarre altercation with a staffer on the dance floor. Article on that to follow.

Other Happenings

A state public employee union sent out an email informing its members of a firearm safety course they signed everyone up for. The link in the email goes straight to a National Rifle Association (NRA) web page. Some of the union members weren’t too thrilled about it. My guess is this is one thing, maybe the only thing, a public employee union has done that conservatives are DEFINITELY ok with using union dues for.

Former Alaska political operative Ben Sparks had a pretty rough week. If you haven’t heard about it yet, check out this Landmine article from earlier this week: “Apparently Sparks Ignited in Alaska Too

Spotted last weekend in Anchorage watching the faith-based movie “I Can Only Imagine” was Dave Stieren with his wife Darci and Bill Walker with his wife Donna. Was it a double date? #doubledate

Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Hawkins has decided to get creative. He is offering a “Win a Lunch with Scott Hawkins!” (love that exclamation mark, Scott).

I can only imagine how many Alaskans are vying for this. Maybe this is my big chance!

It sounds like Senator Anna MacKinnon (R – Eagle River) will not be running for re-election. Multiple sources have said that Representative Lora Reinbold (R – Eagle River) will run for her seat. I’m sure the Senate Majority is thrilled about that… Word is many Republicans are looking for a challenger if Reinbold does indeed run for the seat. Gotta love Eagle River.

Representative Lance Pruitt (R – Anchorage) picked up an opponent. Liz Snyder filed to run for his seat this week. She is a Democrat and a UAA professor. Snyder has never run for office before but many Democrats are excited to have her in the race. A democratic operative described her as smart, personable, and willing to put in the work for a campaign.

The Democrats have had a good month recruiting candidates. Besides Snyder, Ed Alexander and Shawn Butler also recently filed. Alexander, a Democrat, filed to run against David Talerico (R – Healy). Butler, a retired lieutenant colonel intelligence officer, who teaches at UAA, filed to run for the seat Representative Mike Chenault (R – Nikiski) is vacating to run for governor (unless he decides to drop out of governor race and run for house again). Butler is an Independent who is rumored to be running in the Democratic primary (a recent Alaska Supreme Court decision allows Independents to run in the Democratic primary).

Word is there has been some drama at the Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission (CFEC). A longtime commissioner, around 35 years, was recently replaced by Governor Walker. He was given a generous amount of time to clear out his office, which he was not able to do. He was not ready to leave. He must have had a spare key because, according to several sources, he just kept showing up, confusing the staff. Talk about going rogue. No word on if he has moved on yet.

Overheard in Juneau was a suggestion that the legendary lobbyist Ashley Reed should run for governor. I have the perfect campaign slogan for him if he were to run.

Ashley Reed for Governor – Cut Out The Middle Man!

Nora Morse, former Deputy Communications Director for the Anchorage Police Department, has taken the job as Communications Director with the Anchorage Police Departments Employee Association. All the best to her in her new role.

Kendra Doshier took over as Deputy Communications Director for the Anchorage Police Department. Best of luck to her too. Kendra, I would like to make a video of me getting tazed by a cop and attacked by the dog while I wear the foam the suit. I will sign whatever.

Anchorage Election

The Anchorage municipal election concluded on Tuesday (4/3/2018). It was the first ever vote-by-mail election in Anchorage. All the haters and doubters were silenced by the incredible turnout, the highest ever in an Anchorage municipal election. Almost 80,000 votes so far! (votes are still being tabulated). The previous highest was 71,099.

Mayor Ethan Berkowitz easily won re-election by much more than the 45% needed to avoid a runoff. Which saves a lot of money as the city doesn’t have to send out runoff election ballots.

Prop 1, the bathroom bill, was defeated 52-47. Sorry, Jim Minnery. I would say maybe next time but your track record ain’t that good. Maybe try something else.

All the bonds passed.

Prop 10, which authorizes the sale of Municipal Light and Power to Chugach Electric passed by a 2 to 1 margin. Sorry haters! Some were concerned that the proposition was “shady” because the charter was amended to allow it to pass with 50% of the vote instead of 60%. Well, as we predicted (and memorialized in an on-air bet with Mike Porcaro), it got well over 60%.

I would like to thank Casey Reynolds and Joelle Hall for joining me as panelists during the Alaska Landmine’s election night coverage live on Facebook, Landmine Live. We had a great time providing commentary on the election and interviewing multiple guests including Dan Sullivan, Mark Begich, Dustin Darden, and many others. Also a big thanks to the Landmine support team and donors who made the broadcast possible. Stay tuned for many more. Take that mainstream media! #HighEnergy

This Week’s Loose Unit

This week’s Loose Unit was a no brainer. Senator John Cohgill (R – North Pole) is the clear winner. At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday (4/4/2018) Coghill lost it. During a vote on an amendment from Senator Bill Wielechowski (D – Anchorage) dealing with pretrial assessment and mandatory release, Coghill got rolled when Senator Mia Costello (R – Anchorage) and Senator Mike Shower (R – Wasilla) voted with Wielechowski. Coghill immediately declared, “We’re adjourned!” Then slammed down the gavel and stormed out of the room. Damn that’s a Loose Unit! But it gets so much better. First, check out the whole thing here below. Note Costello’s reaction when Shower votes yes. OMG

Coghill Losing it at Judiciary Committee

Multiple sources say Coghill went straight home. On the way out he was heard telling people he was going to shut down the committee. So loose. If that was the end, it would be more than enough to earn this week’s Loose Unit award. But wait. A few days later, 3 members of his committee submitted a letter to Senate President Pete Kelly, using rule 48 of the uniformed rules, a rule that has not been used since 1990. Rule 48 allows a majority of members of a committee to submit a letter to the presiding officer requesting a hearing on a bill. After the letter is delivered to the presiding officer, it is then delivered to the committee chair, and a hearing is required within 3 days. This letter demanded hearings on 3 bills.

The bills are SJR 1, Wielechowski’s bill enshrining the PFD in the state constitution; SB 127, Costello’s bill repealing most of SB 91; and HB 214, a bill naming the dating violence part of the Alaska Safe Children’s Act as Bree’s Law. At the hearing, which took place on Saturday (4/7/2018), Coghill refused to hear public testimony on SJR 1. This pissed off Wielechowski who basically said screw it and motioned to move SJR 1 out of the committee. Coghill immediately objected and then adjourned the committee! Classic Loose Unit move. He adjourned the committee before the other two bills were even heard. A lawyer and friend of the Landmine informed us that if the other two bills are not heard by Tuesday, then all three will likely be moved out of the committee. Damn. Check out the entire committee hearing here:

Judiciary Committee meeting 4/7/2018

And one final development. Not long after the committee adjourned, Assemblywoman Amy Demboski took to Facebook Live, giving a good summary of what happened. It is something else. She put Coghill on blast and praised Wielechowski for doing the people’s work. We are definitely living in the Twilight Zone, folks. She concluded by calling for Coghill to be removed as chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Check out her Facebook Live here

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

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Edie Grunwald
6 years ago

The best information is the “Loose Unit.” Not so odd. Pretty easy concept: The voters want to be heard!
Signed, High Energy Lt Governor Candidate Edie Grunwald

Todd Smoldon
6 years ago

And next week’s loose unit will be Senator Pete Kelley for referring a bill that has no fiscal note to finance…