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We Build Alaska

The Sunday (Monday) Minefield – May 27, 2024

I hope everyone is enjoying the holiday weekend! Don’t forget about all of those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. This week’s Sunday Minefield is the Monday Minefield as I spent yesterday driving from Haines to Anchorage. I was there with some friends for Beerfest, which was awesome! Last week was fairly uneventful in Alaska politics due to the end of session. Legislators and staff were busy packing up and heading home from Juneau. Governor Mike Dunleavy’s (R – Alaska) Alaska Sustainable Energy Conference was held at the Dena’ina Center in Anchorage. And the June 1 filing deadline to run for the Legislature is just five days away.

A friendly message and reminder to all our readers. The Landmine is made possible by myself and a team of awesome Alaskans. I just got back 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!

Finally Back from Juneau

The trip back from Haines marked my official end of session. I moved out of my Juneau apartment on May 18 and flew to Anchorage to bring all my clothes back. But I still had some equipment in my Juneau office and I needed to drive a car I bought in Juneau to Anchorage. I flew back to Juneau on Wednesday and crashed at my buddy Forrest Wolfe’s place. I spent Thursday packing up my Juneau office.

We were booked on the 7 am Friday morning ferry to Haines, so I tried to get some sleep. But I only ended up getting about four hours because we had wake up at 5 am so I could check-in and get my car in line. The ferry ride to Haines took about four hours but playing cribbage made it fly by. The ferry was packed and there were several familiar faces from the Capitol on board.

This was my second year in a row attending the Haines Beerfest. Last year I drove a buddy’s car from Anchorage to Haines, and took the ferry to Juneau after. I’m glad I was not relying on the ferry back to Juneau on Sunday because it was cancelled (see this week’s Loose Unit for more on that).

Last year I thought it wise to camp at a park in Haines where hundreds of attendees camp each year. In addition to the cold weather and rain, the boozing, drug usage, and music made that experience not great. So this year I thought better and booked a hotel room at the Aspen Hotel with my buddy Forrest Wolfe. That was a much wiser decision! Big shout out to the Aspen Hotel for being such a great place to stay. It was clean, the staff were awesome, and it didn’t cost an arm and a leg. If you plan on attending Beerfest next year, make sure to book a place in January.

We attended the Brewer’s Dinner on Friday night. Tickets for that sell out fast. This was my first time attending and it was definitely worth it. They served a five course meal and there was plenty of different beers to sample.

I also happened to meet Lee Ellis, a Republican running to replace Representative Laddie Shaw (R – Anchorage) – who is not seeking re-election. Ellis is the president of Midnight Sun Brewing and was in Haines for the Beerfest. He actually met his wife there in 2012. He ended up giving her a ride to Anchorage and they hit it off. They got married in 2016.

Two friends from Anchorage flew to Juneau on Friday night and took the Saturday morning ferry to Juneau. We all went to Beerfest on Saturday and had a great time. While it was not hot and sunny, it was not pouring rain like last year, so it felt like a win.

We all woke up and headed out of Haines around 11 am. With the exception of a delay at the Canadian border (lots of Canadians attend Beerfest so there was a long line) the drive back was uneventful. It was sunny most of the way and we saw four bears in Canada! We got back to Anchorage just before 1 am after a nearly 14 hour drive back. I look forward to not going back to Juneau until January. That is unless there is a special session… Which I think we are all hoping does not happen.

Filing Deadline Approaching

The June 1 filing deadline to run for one of 40 House or 10 Senate seats is fast approaching. A lot of incumbents remain unchallenged. All ten incumbent senators have filed for re-election, though there has been some speculation Senator Click Bishop (R – Fairbanks) may not end up running if he decides he wants to run for governor in 2026. Three incumbent representatives won’t be returning:

  1. Representative Jennie Armstrong (D – Anchorage) is not seeking re-election. Democrat Carolyn Hall is the only person who has filed for that seat so far.
  2. As referenced above, Representative Laddie Shaw is not seeking re-election.
  3. Representative Ben Carpenter (R – Nikiski) is challenging Senator Jesse Bjorkman (R- Nikiski). I predict Carpenter wins that race.

I have heard rumblings that a few incumbent representatives who have filed for office are planning a last minute bait-and-switch. Recall that in 2022 then-Senator Tom Begich told no one of his plan to essentially give now-Senator Löki Tobin (D – Anchorage) his seat. Tobin had worked for Begich, so the scheme was not hard to pull off. Tobin filed right before the filing deadline and then Begich withdrew. It sounds like a few House members are planning to do something similar. I have never agreed with this, regardless of who  is doing it. It treats the seat like it belongs to the person and not the people living in the district. It gives the ordained ones an unfair advantage over others who may otherwise run.

Stay tuned for a Landmine article after June 1 that breaks down all the races and looks at how both bodies may end up organizing next year.

Other Happenings

A few people sent me the Alaska Watchman article claiming a National Park Service (NPS) employee had told some people to remove the American Flag from their truck in the park. I saw hundreds of people sharing the story and attacking the NPS superintendent. I found the whole thing far fetched and ignored it, figuring it was fabricated. I mean how in the hell would the NPS tell someone to remove an American Flag? It made no sense. Low and behold the NPS put out this statement yesterday. Sadly, even Senator Dan Sullivan (R – Alaska) was duped by this. Social media can be a really toxic sometimes.

This Week’s Loose Unit 

The Alaska Watchman were definitely in the running for this week’s designee. I mean that flag story was fucking loose. But they got beat out due to a development late in the week. This week’s Loose Unit is the Alaska Marine Highway System (AMHS), specifically the vessel LeConte. During the Haines Beerfest, the AMHS quietly put out a notice saying the LeConte would be out of service until May 29. This is the ferry that was supposed to take a ton of people and cars back to Juneau on Sunday afternoon.

It doesn’t get much looser than hundreds of people getting trapped in Haines during one of the busiest summer weekends. For the people who did not have to take a car back, many ended up buying a plane ticket back at the cost of $200-$250. Those with cars dealing with a nightmare. One person told me they were able to get on a day cruise to get back, which cost $165 per ticket. But her car is stuck in Haines until at least June 7. Her car was put on a waitlist and they can’t even guarantee when her will get back to her. Maximum loose. Another ferry is leaving Haines tonight but I hear it’s pretty full. Imagine the people who bought a ferry ticket months ago and ended up getting stranded in Haines. It’s really too bad the AMHS has become such an unreliable joke. Shame on all of those who have contributed to this.

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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Mark Kelsey
18 days ago

Raise your hand if you’re shocked that the Watchman and its viciously irresponsible publisher Jake Libbey put out inflammatory bullshit.

Just an Alaskan observing the chaos
18 days ago

What a nightmare for the people relying on ferry service & they have no recourse.

Raise your hand if you think the State of Alaska is absolutely failing Alaskan’s by not having a back up plan for the chaos in Haines!

Raise your hand if you think the legislators should be planning to replace the worn out ferries rather than spending time giving state employees another day off with pay!

North to Alaska
18 days ago

Jeff, you may have wanted to check with The Watchman first before slandering their reporting/reputation.

Mark Kelsey
17 days ago

The Watchman is a hateful propaganda rag devoted to a divisive agenda that appeals to a radical fringe minority of Alaskans. Truth has never been its highest priority. Extremist publisher Jake Libbey, who claims to be faith- and family-focused, is a total hypocrite who even supported a wife-beater in the 2023 Mat-Su election.

North to Alaska
17 days ago
Reply to  Mark Kelsey

Ah, you just think it’s hateful because you like molesting children…groomer.
By the way, don’t move to Florida…they now execute child molesters.

Mark Kelsey
17 days ago

Great reply, anonymous coward! So you’re okay with wife-beaters like hypocritical Watchman publisher Jake Libbey is?

16 days ago

Thanks for the link. The Watchman says that an unnamed Granite crew member alleges that an unnamed Granite project manager alleges that an unnamed Federal Highway Administration employee alleges that a NPS employee alleges that American flags aren’t permitted on vehicles in Denali Park. I sure do wish that Whitekeys was still performing.

Bartow Daniel
18 days ago

I appreciate the citizen reporters that Alaska has. To me I the reporting is probably more genuine and accurate than a large commercial venture. What I don’t like is when our citizen reporters spend their time tearing down each other. I think Alaska is much stronger for having the landline, watchman and Must read because it does shine light on a seemingly autonomous and insulated government regardless of party affiliation.ehile I don’t always agree with some of your positions, you have done well to point out the constitutional inconsistencies of some of the legislators and asked them hard questions I… Read more »

Mark Kelsey
17 days ago
Reply to  Bartow Daniel

Must Read is not reporting. And it’s definitely not Alaskan. It is produced in Florida by a Florida resident who self-defines as a public relations outfit. That means whatever is produced is paid for by someone with an agenda. That’s the opposite of reporting.

North to Alaska
17 days ago
Reply to  Mark Kelsey

Suzanne Downing ran it and reported for Must Read. She is an Alaskan.
It has just been recently purchased by Alaska Gold Communications, led by businessman Jon Faulkner of Homer, Alaska.
But you go ahead and read ADN, the beautiful 💩 pile for agenda driven rags.🤣

Mark Kelsey
17 days ago

LOL. Sure thing, anonymous coward. So it’s okay to take marching orders from a Floridian as long as she’s an Alaskan? How many years has it been since Suzanne Downing collected a PFD?

But I surely appreciate that you don’t dispute that Must Read isn’t journalism.

Bartow Daniel
14 days ago
Reply to  Mark Kelsey

Where is your apology and retraction now that the watchman was proven right?or a “professional journalist “ does that exempt you from having to admit your wrong? I want to be able to take you seriously but your inflammatory nature prevents me from doing so. We need journalism that looks at issues from all perspective to get to the truth but I would hope that there would be some objective reporting rather thbipadtisan propaganda

Brian Johnson
18 days ago

If you know of legislators potentially doing the bait-and-switch tell us who they are. If they are not going to run people should know before the deadline.