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We Build Alaska

The Sunday Minefield – October 2, 2022

Sorry about the delay. It’s the Monday Minefield this week. t’s just over five weeks until the November 8 general election and it oddly doesn’t really feel like election season. Former Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce, a Republican candidate for governor, is beating the public at a game of hide-and-seek. A debate was held at UAA on the constitutional convention question and it went as expected. The legislative investigation into the firing of Permanent Fund CEO Angela Rodell revealed a big nothing burger. And several politicos are either on the move or making moves.

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Where’s Charlie?

Republican Charlie Pierce’s resignation as Kenai Peninsula Borough mayor became effective on October 1. You may recall he resigned to “focus on his campaign,” which was nothing short of complete bull shit. I reported that he really resigned due to a workplace harassment complaint made against him. Something that has since been corroborated by the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly.

Pierce has been invisible since he announced his resignation over a month ago. He was reportedly on some kind of fishing or hunting trip on the Yukon. He has yet to show up to a single debate or forum since the primary. Sources tell me that negotiations between Pierce, the Borough, and the female Borough employee who made the complaint will be taking place this week. Sources also confirm that the woman made at least two audio tapes of Pierce harassing her, and they are allegedly damning. It appears the woman is going to be getting a big payday compliments of the Kenai Borough Assembly. I am told it will likely be over $500,000!

So what does this mean for the gubernatorial election? Pierce and his running mate Edie Grunwald, who got fourth place in the primary with 6.58%, are not campaigning at all. In fact, neither one of them answer their phones or return calls. I can’t really say I blame them based on the circumstances. Representative Christopher Kurka (R – Wasilla) and his running mate Paul Hueper came in fifth in the primary with 3.86%. Add that to the Pierce/Gruenwald percentage and you get 10.44%. Governor Mike Dunleavy (R – Alaska) and his running mate Nancy Dahlstrom finished first in the primary with 40.43%. Add the 10.44% and you get over 50%.

Because Pierce/Grunwald are on the ballot but effectively not campaigning, Dunleavy/Dahlstrom are the de facto only Republican ticket. Keep in mind not everyone who voted for Kurka/Hueper will vote for Dunleavy/Dahlstrom, and Pierce/Grunwald will get some votes. But they will finish in fourth and their votes will be the first to be recycled.

Let’s say Dunleavy/Dahlstrom start at 44% and Pierce/Grunwald get 3%. The majority of Pierce/Grunwald votes will go to Dunleavy/Dahlstrom, so they might end up with 45 or 46%. The question is where Democrats Gara/Cook and Independents Walker/Drygas end up. They are both trying to capture the anti-Dunleavy vote, which they will split. If every Gara/Cook voter marked Walker/Drygas second, and vice versa, one of them would prevail. But that is not realistic. Barring something unforeseen, Dunleavy/Dahlstrom are in the driver’s seat. They should send Charlie Pierce some flowers. Or maybe some money to help pay his legal bills.

Other Happenings 

The Legislative Budget & Audit Committee met this week to hear a presentation on the $150,000 investigation they commissioned into the firing of Angela Rodell as CEO of the Permanent Fund Corporation in December. It revealed a big nothing burger. This Landmine article provides more detail.

Representative Ivy Spohnholz (D – Anchorage), who is not running for re-election, announced she will be the new state director for the Nature Conservancy. Congrats, Ivy!

Lobbyist Laurie Herman is joining Confluence Strategies, owned by lobbyists Kris Knauss and Royce Weller. According to a recent APOC filing, Herman will be paid $100,000 a year by Confluence. Herman’s clients include Providence Hospital and Cook Inlet Tribal Council.

The exodus continues. Legislative staffer Erick Cordero Giorgana announced he is leaving his job in the Legislature to become vice president of operations at the Alaska Policy Forum. Congrats, Erick! With so many staff and legislators not returning, Juneau is going to look very different next year.

Check out this bizarre web ad from Representative Ken McCarty (R – Eagle River). McCarty is running against Representative Kelly Merrick (R – Eagle River) for the Eagle River Senate seat.

Related to this, I spoke to Tom Anderson with Optima Public Relations. He said his firm is no longer working for McCarty’s campaign. Anderson explained he disconnected last week due to a difference of vision and strategy. He said his firm strays from negative messaging and McCarty’s recent comparison of Kelly Merrick and Senator Lisa Murkowski (R – Alaska) to Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D – Minnesota) was a deal breaker. Anderson said that messaging was handled by a different consultant that he was unaware McCarty was working with. Anderson’s firm is assisting several independent expenditures supporting Lisa Murkowski, so going after her didn’t fly.

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Kelly Tshibaka is skipping the Kodiak fishers debate tomorrow night. Instead, she is in Texas trying to raise money. Senator Lisa Murkowski did not miss the opportunity to attack Tshibaka for skipping the popular debate.

“It’s clear that Kelly would rather go to football games and fundraisers than answer to Alaskans,” Murkowski campaign spokesman Shea Siegert told the Washington Examiner. “The fishing industry is Alaska’s largest private employer, and Kelly’s willingness to dodge the Fish Debate, coupled with her well-documented history of violating Alaska fish and game law, speak volumes about how she feels about Alaska’s fishing industry and the Alaskans who support it. Not only is Kelly out of touch with Alaska — she’s not even here.”

This one should be lit. Sheriff David Clark is coming to Anchorage on Sunday for a get out the vote rally for Kelly Tshibaka and Sarah Palin. The event is sponsored by Patriot Freedom PAC. Caryn Borland, who donated $190,000 to Patriot Freedom PAC, and her husband Michael donated $1 million in October 2020 to the Republican National Committee to support Donald Trump. This was after an Trump cancelled an event with them because of their promotion of QAnon.

The results from the bar poll for applicants to the Alaska Supreme Court position were released this week. Interesting how Judge Paul Roetman, a conservative, scored so low. Judge Dani Crosby scored the highest. The Judicial Council will determine what names will go forward to the governor to choose from to replace Chief Justice Daniel Winfree, who must retire because he’s turning 70. Their meeting for that is scheduled for December 5-6. The new governor is sworn in on December 5. I’m sure the meeting date is a coincidence!

This Week’s Loose Unit 

With the November 8 general just around the corner, there is no shortage of Loose Units. But this week’s designee is a long time coming. This week’s Loose Unit is a tie between the Anchorage Assembly, Anchorage School Board, and Mayor Dave Bronson. If you have been paying any attention to Anchorage government you know how messed up the city is.

Let’s start with homelessness. Mayor Bronson and the Assembly have proven they cannot work together on this. It’s starting to get cold and snow will be on the ground soon. There is zero plan for shelter this winter. Bronson is actually reopening the Sullivan Arena as a shelter after he closed it this summer. The Assembly has their own ideas on what to do. But they can’t work together. This problem goes back decades, but it’s gotten worse. The entire situation is loose, and depressing.

How about body cameras. Anchorage voters approved funding for body cameras a year and a half ago, yet they have yet to be implemented. Like everything else, there is a lot of talk but no action. The Anchorage Police Department union wants to negotiate how body cameras would be worked into their contract. They probably don’t want them. But no one seems to want to push the issue, so here we are. Very loose.

And schools. The Anchorage School Board failed to foresee there would be a shortage of school bus drivers. The result is only some kids get to ride the bus based on a rotating schedule. The others have to get dropped off and picked up by their parents. Many have told me the wait times can be up to an hour. ASD not being able to get kids to school is hyper loose. The school board also hired a superintendent who was not qualified, and requires a mentor. And somehow they are facing a $68 million deficit with a decline in students and an influx of federal money. It doesn’t get much loose than that.

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 jeff@alaskalandmine.com.

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Some Guy
2 months ago

I love reading your blog. But, I think you should just go ahead make it the Monday Minefield. The alliteration gives it a nice ring. I haven’t kept stats, but I would venture to guess that more than 70% of the time it doesn’t get published until literally the eleventh hour on Sunday anyway. So what do you say? Monday Minefield? Can we as a group of readers petition this change? What does everyone else think? It’s not like you have anyone other than yourself pressing you to meet a deadline. Let’s face it, we could all use a little… Read more »

Akwhitty
2 months ago
Reply to  Some Guy

Yea

Martin
2 months ago
Reply to  Some Guy

It’s Jeff’s site, he’s entitled to name it. You don’t like it, start your own.

Some Guy
2 months ago
Reply to  Martin

It was just a suggestion.

slipstream
2 months ago

Wow. I seem to recall Kelly Tshibaka criticizing Lisa Murkowski for receiving campaign contributions from outside. Then Tshibaka did a fund raiser at Mar-a-Lardo. And now Tshibaka is doing a fundraiser in Texas, instead of being here talking to actual Alaskans a month before the election.

Can we get our $81,000 back?

Vitamin C
2 months ago
Reply to  slipstream

Ask Dunleavy why he agreed to pay Kelly Tschibaka around $36,000.00 more than her predecessors earned *and* $81,000.00 to move here. While we are at it, ask him why he arranged a job at the Department of Education for her husband. It is clear to me that these two have something (really big) on bad ol’ Mike?

Lynn Willis
2 months ago
Reply to  Vitamin C

Why did Dunleavy pay her more? Perhaps simply because he we told to pay her more. Perhaps the same reason Bronson was “incentivized” to hire her husband after her husband had to be moved from his brand-new state job created just for him. Don’t worry the Tshibaka family will be fine. They are “wired in”.

Shelia
2 months ago

Interesting discussion. One reason I love your landmines, plus the stalkers and the other articles. I may not always agree, but they are usually well written and sensible. I still think that Alaskans are liable to get saddled with either Gara or Walker. If your financial guru is right, Walker’s plan will tax the poor and middle class (or what is left of it) while leaving the “monied folks” alone! Figures – he is a well off lawyer himself whose law firm supports both he and Gara. Any collusion there?

Bro
2 months ago

“Somehow” facing a deficit? Bro. It’s a good thing you’re not an elected official.

And the homeless people need a place to sleep. Sorry that your effort to get that closed down didn’t stick, but those folks need a safe place to go and it’s the city’s responsibility to help them. It keeps you safer, too.

Akwhitty
2 months ago
Reply to  Bro

They are vagrants. Homeless is a term for people who lost their home, like the people in Florida who are now homeless due to the storm. Look at the vagrants camp by lowes in midtown on federal property. Trash and filth all around it.

Carpetbagger
2 months ago
Reply to  Akwhitty

Yeah, they should go…. somewhere