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We Build Alaska

The Sunday Minefield – November 28, 2021

I know, it’s Monday. I spent last week in Florida visiting friends and family for Thanksgiving. I got back early Saturday morning and was beat. The weather there was incredible. It was a pretty quiet week for Alaska politics as everyone was enjoying Thanksgiving. But on Sunday, Joe Miller posted that he was making an announcement on the race for governor. In a video released this morning, Miller said he was endorsing Representative Christopher Kurka (R – Wasilla) for governor! Hours later, Kurka released a video announcing his campaign. Next year is going to be so loose.

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Fun in Florida

It’s been a while since I’ve been to Florida. I went to Miami to meet up with some friends who used to live in Alaska. I then headed up to Fort Lauderdale to spend Thanksgiving with my aunt, cousins, and other family. Much of the news media paints Florida as backwards because of how Governor Ron DeSantis (R – Florida) has chosen to approach COVID-19. My experience there was quite the contrary. Roads and public spaces were clean and I saw almost no visible homelessness. I visited my sister in Los Angeles in April. The homeless problem in California is appalling. I was in Seattle for a weekend in September. Same thing there. Florida was like night and day to many of the places I have visited on the West Coast.

The other observation I had was their response to COVID-19. Masks were by and large optional everywhere. Some people wore them but it was not mandated anywhere I was. I took my cousin’s kids to Chuck E. Cheese. I thought for sure masks would be required. But they weren’t, instead they were encouraged. Some people chose to wear them. It was nice that all the kids could play without having to wear masks. It’s evident to me why so many people are moving to Florida. It’s clean, the weather is great, and it feels normal being there.

Kurka for Governor

Yesterday, former U.S. Senate candidate Joe Miller said he would be making an announcement related to the governor’s race. This morning, he released a nearly ten minute video on YouTube that harshly criticized Governor Mike Dunleavy (R – Alaska). Rather than announce his own candidacy, he said he was endorsing Representative Kurka for governor. Later in the day, Kurka, who is a first term representative from Wasilla, released this video on Facebook. It’s worth a watch. He does not pull any punches attacking Dunleavy. Kurka’s entry into the race means Dunleavy will start getting attacked from the right. If Kurka can raise enough money to mount a serious campaign, he may be able to get to the general election (the top 4 vote getters in the single primary go to the general). Kurka could get 20% in the primary from the most conservative voters. That would be bad for Dunleavy because the odds are that most Kurka voters would not mark Dunleavy, or anyone, as their second choice. If Kurka fell off first (got the least amount of votes) and most of his voters did not choose a second option, then those ballots would be done as there would be no second choice allocation. There is already talk from people on Dunleavy’s team about finding a more moderate Republican to get into the race to try and dilute Kurka’s votes in the primary. The race for governor will be fun to watch next year.

Ivan Moore has an interesting thread about it. This was before Miller said he was endorsing Kurka. Meow.

Other Happenings

Akis Gialopsos is moving from his role as deputy chief of staff to legislative director for Governor Dunleavy. Gialopsos worked as a legislative staffer for years, so he will be in a good position for his new role. Miles Baker, who was the legislative director, will be heading up a new team that will focus on the infrastructure money coming to Alaska from the bill Congress passed and President Joe Biden signed. That will be a tricky job as Dunleavy has consistently attacked the Biden administratoin since taking office. He also hired and empowered Kelly Tshibaka, who is now challenging Senator Lisa Murkowski (R – Alaska). Tshibaka, endorsed by Donald Trump, constantly rags on Biden. Imagine that phone call to the White House: “Hi, I had some questions about the infrastructure bill. I am with Governor Mike Dunleavy’s office. Hello? Hello???” Good luck, Miles!

The legislative staff exodus continues. Daniel McDonald is leaving his job as press secretary for the Senate Majority. He has been a staffer for the last nine years, much of that as press secretary. I have known Daniel for over ten years. He’s smart and a great guy. He will be missed by many in the Capitol. I have a feeling he will be taking a break from work to focus on his family. He has a lot of cryptocurrency to count. And when I say a lot, I mean a LOT. Homeboy made some real good decisions seven years ago.

There’s a lot of chatter that former Senator Cathy Giessel will file to run for Senate this week. This would mean a rematch with Senator Roger Holland (R – Anchorage), who defeated her in the Republican primary last year. With the single primary and ranked-choice voting, Giessel stands a much better chance of getting her seat back compared to having to run in a Republican primary.

There has also been a lot of chatter about former Eagle River Representative Dan Saddler filing to run again. His home appears to be located (all his voter info is set to private so I used property tax records) in the new district that paired Representatives Kelly Merrick (R – Eagle River) and Ken McCarty (R – Eagle River). They have both said they are running for the open Senate seat. So if Saddler decides to run and things stay how they are, he would have a good shot of getting back in the Legislature. If he does run he will have to leave his position at the Department of Natural Resources.

Sources report only a handful of people applied for the executive director position for the Resource Development Council. The position opened up after Marleanna Hall resigned last month. I was not even aware they were accepting applications. But that’s not a surprise. I’m sure the resource cabal only wanted people in their circle to apply. Some of those who applied are Dave Stieren (probably getting tired of calling people soy boy on Facebook), Ryan McKee (former state director for Americans for Prosperity), and Jon Bittner (Alaska Small Business Development Center director).

This Week’s Loose Unit 

It was a pretty quiet week due to Thanksgiving. But no matter how quiet, there is always a Loose Unit. This week’s Loose Unit is the Alaska House Republicans. In an attempt at humor, the Alaska House Republicans made a Facebook post on Thanksgiving mocking President Joe Biden. Realizing it was not funny, it was quickly deleted. Very loose. I would love to know who is doing their social media. It will be funny to see them all fighting for infrastructure money for their districts next session.

But it gets even more loose. They made another Facebook post that was quickly deleted. This one was bizarre. It read, “Alaska House Republicans listen to Alaskans.” That’s it. Classic 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 year ago

And if there’s anybody who knows how to win an election, it’s Joe Milller.

Areal Bilk
1 year ago

Miami-Dade County has a 1% tax for restaurants that sell alcohol and gross more than $400K / year. 85% goes to preventing and ending homelessness; 15% towards domestic violence centers. It’s a wonderful progressive tax that everyone should get behind. (Note that this is on top of a 7% sales tax.) 
Meanwhile Anchorage squabbled endlessly over a 5% tax for alcohol alone. 
That said – Florida still ranks 15th for homelessness in the US. Their rate is half that of Alaska – but at 13% it’s not nonexistent.

Frank Rast
1 year ago
Reply to  Areal Bilk

The MOA alcohol tax specifically outlined where the revenue should go, it was the Bronson administration that tried to hijack the alcohol tax revenue for other purposes and the Assembly that restored where the revenue goes. Bronson consistently ignores what the majority of taxpayers voted for.

Areal Bilk
1 year ago
Reply to  Frank Rast

Yes I know. I was pointing out that Miami-Dade charges 1% for food and alcohol (on top of a sales tax) – whereas Anchorage barely passed a tax for alcohol only.

Richie Romero
1 year ago

I would like to nominate the pot industry as loose units
They owe you and I 1.8 million dollars and think they can find a way to not pay.
Now put that on your bowl and smoke it.

1 year ago
Reply to  Richie Romero

Harsh Bud Dude!