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We Build Alaska

The Sunday Minefield – June 16, 2024

The weather in Southcentral has been amazing this week! The August primary is just over two months away, and lots of political fundraisers are being held. Former Republican Representative Bill Thomas announced he’s withdrawing from his House race, leaving another incumbent unopposed. And Anchorage Mayor-elect Suzanne LaFrance, who takes office on July 1, announced some key appointments and her transition team this week.

A friendly message and reminder to all our readers. The Landmine is made possible by myself and a team of awesome Alaskans. I recently returned from Juneau for my sixth session in a row reporting on the Legislature. We will again be providing in-depth coverage for both the primary and general elections. If you enjoy the content we provide, please consider making a one time or recurring monthly donation. You can click here to donate. We have a donation system that makes it super easy. We would really appreciate it. And thanks to everyone who has been supportive.

Primary Season Underway

The August 20 primary is just over two months away. With the new open primary, the primary is not as exciting as it used to be because the top four from each race advance to the general. Only three of the 50 legislative races have more than four people. In the old system, the primary was the decider for many legislative races. That is no longer the case, but the primary does give us a good idea of the level of support of candidates in each race.

The U.S. House race has 12 candidates, but we all know that three of the four advancing will be Representative Mary Peltola (D – Alaska), Lieutenant Governor Nancy Dahlstrom (R – Alaska), and Republican Nick Begich. Begich has stated publicly that if he finishes behind Dahlstrom in the primary, he will drop out of the race. Dahlstrom has not agreed to that. If Begich does finish behind Dahlstrom, the fifth place finisher in the primary would move up to the general.

Former Republican Representative Bill Thomas, who filed to challenge Representative Andi Story (D – Juneau) told the Juneau Empire he was withdrawing from the race. He has not withdrawn yet, but there is a lot of time left before the withdrawal deadline. This will leave Story unopposed, taking the total to nine incumbents who are running unopposed.

There are several fundraisers scheduled for this week:

Americans for Prosperity Action Alaska event where they announced their first round of legislative candidate endorsements. All are Republicans:

  • House candidate Jeremy Bynum, who is running for the Ketchikan seat.
  • House candidate and former Representative David Nelson, who is challenging Representative Cliff Groh (D – Anchorage).
  • Leslie Hajdukovich, who is challenging Senator Scott Kawasaki (D – Fairbanks).
  • Representative Stanley Wright (R – Anchorage), who is being challenged by Democrat Ted Eischeid.
  • Jared Goecker, one of several Republicans challenging Senator Kelly Merrick (R – Eagle River).

The group says they will be announcing more endorsements for legislative candidates.

LaFrance Announces Team Members

Anchorage Mayor-elect Suzanne LaFrance announced two key appointments as well as her transition team this week. Katie Scovic, who served as her campaign manager, was named chief of staff. She previously worked as a senior manager at Agnew Beck. She is the husband of John-Henry Heckendorn, the managing partner at Ship Creek Group.

Becky Windt Pearson was named municipal manager. She previously served as the municipal attorney under former Mayor Ethan Berkowitz. She currently serves as SVP and general counsel for GCI. Both women are smart and experienced. They should do a great job.

LaFrance also announced her transition team this week. It’s primarily people on the left with a few moderate Republicans sprinkled in.


Gov. Dunleavy signs new contract with Craig Richards

The following is an excerpt from this week’s edition of the Alaska Political Report. You can click here for more information about the Political Report. A subscription is $1,299/year per organization. Discounted pricing is available for non-profits and government entities. Our coverage of the budget starts with the governor’s proposed budget, and we track everything in detail through the entire process. If you have any questions or would like to subscribe, please email

The Office of Governor Mike Dunleavy recently signed a new contract with Anchorage attorney Craig Richards. Richards also serves on the six-member board of trustees for the Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation. The contract, not to exceed $50,000, lists the scope as:

  • Work with the Office of the Governor to create a Statehood Defense federal transition on preparation of a new term in office or for a presidential administration change.
  • Work on general issues important to the State of Alaska related to economic development / enhancement opportunities.

The contract is for a fixed fee of $10,000 per month, with a minimum of 15 hours per week.

Other Happenings 

Senator Cathy Giessel (R – Anchorage), once a pro-development legislator, has sure gone the other way. Her new favorite activity seems to be attacking Hilcorp, one of the few companies doing things and making big investments in this state. Guess she missed this press release from the Department of Natural Resources.

Record earnings and a record dividend translates into record compensation for Arctic Slope Regional Corporation’s top two executives. Funny that the former CFO, Charlie Kozak, made more than the new CFO Brent Renfrew. Kozak was unceremoniously pushed out last year. He must have got one hell of a package! Butch Lincoln is making a cool $1 million a month. I can’t even fathom that. 

This Week’s Loose Unit 

This week was a no brainer week. This week’s Loose Unit is the Department of Justice and FBI. Specifically U.S. Attorney for Alaska Lane Tucker, Adam Alexander, senior litigation counsel for the U.S. Attorney in Alaska, and Leslie Esbrook, a lawyer with the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section. This Landmine article provides some more background on why they earned Loose Unit status.

Early Tuesday morning around 20 armed federal agents from several federal agencies raided the home of Anchorage resident Sergey Nefedov. His alleged crime is trying to export snow machines to Kamchatka in violation of U.S. sanctions. To the DOJ, this merited a 6 am raid by agents wearing tactical gear and carrying assault rifles. His 14-year-old son and girlfriend were handcuffed and detained. It’s s good thing all the Ruby Ridge people are out of the FBI now.

After Nefedov sat in jail for three days, DOJ lawyer Adam Alexander argued against bail during a Friday hearing. Even though Nefedov’s passports were seized (he is a dual Russian and American citizen), Alexzander contrived a scenario where the Russian government would furnish him with a replacement travel document so he could flee to Canada and then Russia. Classic Loose Unit behavior. Alexander is either reading old spy novels or is taking orders from his D.C. bosses. After all, this is clearly political. Russia, Russia, Russia! Just read the U.S. Attorney’s lengthy press release about it. They conveniently left out the raid.

Nefedov has lived in Alaska 20 years and has a family and a life here. It’s absurd he would flee to Russia, especially considering he would likely be sent to fight in Ukraine. Alexander even stated during the bail hearing that Nefedov was “furthering the interests of the Russian Federation.” Even Judge Matthew Scoble found that preposterous, saying that it seemed clear Nefedov was trying to further his own interests by making money.

The judge granted Nefedov bail, but the government appealed. The judge agreed to hold him until Monday afternoon so Judge Josh Kindred could hear the appeal, which is scheduled for Monday morning.

Contrast Nefedov to Garret Elder. Elder was charged in 2023 with defrauding more than 170 Alaskans out of around $26 million. Elder eventually pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Alaska cut a deal with him, recommending just seven years. After a lengthy sentencing hearing with many defrauded members of the public voicing strenuous complaints against the FBI’s and U.S. Attorney’s Office kid-glove treatment of Elder, Judge Kindred rejected that deal and in November sentenced Elder to ten years in prison.

Keep in mind this is the same FBI and DOJ that mistakenly stormed the Homer residence of Paul and Marilyn Hueper in 2021 thinking they had Nancy Pelosi’s laptop. And the same FBI and DOJ that ran a con job against the late Senator Ted Stevens, which was eventually overturned and dismissed due to “significant, widespread and, at times, intentional misconduct.” Classic fucking Loose Units.

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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1 month ago

You are really harming the reputation of the Landmine by defending Sergey Nefedov. The federal attorneys who you seem intent on smearing are charged with upholding federal law, which includes sanctions on Russia. You have provided no evidence of impropriety on their part of any kind. As someone who really enjoys Landmine from time to time, I’ll say that this guy being your friend is seriously, and I mean seriously, clouding your judgement. Please stick to local issues where you have insight and expertise.

1 month ago
Reply to  J.B.L.

Could not agree more with this post. Disappointed to see Jeff keep pushing this story when this guy has clearly been investigated and accused of illegal activity. Yes there may be a difference in how the raids transpired but we don’t know what the FBI knows. Were there guns in the homes? Were either gun owners? Are there prior arrests? It’s presumptive to just say that your friend Jeff was treated unfairly.

Media Critic
1 month ago
Reply to  J.B.L.

Chris J.B.L. and Chris are right, as other readers will note, also. Whatever credibility Jeff enjoys, he seriously undercuts by twice now ranting about the Nefedov arrest. This is why Jeff still does not qualify as an actual journalist.

1 month ago
Reply to  J.B.L.

Always incredible how rabid the left gets on law and order issues when they don’t like the defendant

Low Energy Jeb Bush
1 month ago
Reply to  J.B.L.

If this is a friend as you say, he shouldn’t be reporting on this at all. Certainly not without some heavy disclaimers.

1 month ago

Both Jews are smart and experienced. They should do a great job.

JL ya probably didn’t mean to imply that its rare for woman to be smart, experienced and capable of doing their assigned job tasks…but I have never seen you use the language for two men. For men you’d refer to their names not their gender.

Both Bob and George are smart and experienced. They should do a great job.

Just saying

1 month ago
Reply to  floridawoman


for a woman

Dan Svatass
1 month ago

Landfield is Far-Afield in this criticism of today’s US Justice Department.

Reaching back to the G.W. Bush Justice Department of 2008? How, 16 years later, is that relevant to anything going on here, three Presidencies later?

The only “no brainer” here is the amount of brain activity Jeff put into this late-June Minefield.