Palin vs. Murkowski….Another Epic Battle?

2 12 2008

athenaToday an article in Huffington Post has picked up on what could be, in Alaska, an epic battle come next year. In a tale worthy of Greek Mythology, Sarah Palin could be preparing to take on Senator Lisa Murkowski for her seat which becomes available in 2010.

Our story begins In 2002, when Frank Murkowski decided he’d had enough time in the Senate, and came home to Alaska to run for Governor. Murkowski, who had held the senate seat since 1981, won the gubernatorial bid. But who was to take his now vacant place in the senate? In his first wildly unpopular decision as governor, Murkowski appointed his daughter Lisa to the seat. It also became increasingly obvious over time that Frank was not cutting the mustard. Gas pipeline debacles and battles with the Legislature caused his popularity to plummet like a lead balloon. Adding insult to arrogance, he purchased a private jet to fly himself around the state and elsewhere. There was a radio contest to name the jet, and the winning entry was “The Bald Ego”.

Here’s where you picture Frank in a toga, being fed grapes, and fanned by his staff. Every once in a while, he’d make some bombastic proclamation that made the villagers angry, but other than that he had a pretty good life up on Mt. Olympus. Now and then, he’d wave over to the next mountain top where his daughter Lisa was actually not doing such a bad job being a senator according to the villagers. She wasn’t quite so conservative, appeared to be more ethical, worked harder, and actually seemed to care. Go figure.

Then came a young upstart from one of those outlying provinces from whence heroes always come. She was young, ferocious, and beautiful, and she had her eye on that throne. It was promising to be an epic battle. Troops on both sides rallied. Murkowski’s minions dropped their wine jugs and their platters of figs, and grabbed up weapons. They looked at the rag-tag team of outlanders, and decided that maybe this wouldn’t be so bad. All they had to do was keep the power they already had. They had the advantage. How hard could it be? But then the primary battle came, and in David vs. Goliath fashion, with one well-placed stone flung by her sling, Murkowski was struck smack between the eyes by the young woman from the village, and went down like a bag of dirt with a 19% approval rating.

After the stunned silence, the rejoicing began. We did it! One of US beat the grape-eating guy who was making everyone miserable! Sa-rah! Sa-rah! Sa-rah! And the Bald Ego went up for sale in the public marketplace, and Sarah reassigned the grape-peeler to another job, and the villagers loved her. They loved the idea of her. It was perfect. We needed a hero and we got one. Of course, over the months, many of the villagers began to see things they didn’t like. The new Queen started to pull people in from the obscure outlying province and put them in positions of power that they weren’t qualified for. People from the village started disappearing, banished to the hinterlands. She got rid of her humble toga, and started dressing more and more like a grape eater. She started visiting other kingdoms far away where people cheered for her, and attending parties far and wide, while her own kingdom suffered. Some of the villagers who were paying attention started to get a little nervous, and then a little disgruntled, and then downright mad.

But others remembered that humble young girl who flattened Murkowski, and refused to give up their dream. Heroes don’t come easy, and heroic tales must stay as they are written, otherwise it would just be too depressing. Alaskans have lost other heroes lately to greed and corruption and hubris, and this one would be just plain heartbreaking.

And now our Queen is looking around. She’s scanning the horizon, looking at other mountain tops, and new thrones, and new lands to conquer. She remembers Lisa, daughter of Frank the vanquished. Lisa rules the mountaintop over there, closer to all those parties, and cheering crowds. That throne might be nice…

But Lisa feels the gaze of the restless Queen, the one who flattened her father with a stone. She has been holding a white-hot hatred for the Queen who is now known as “Murkowski slayer.” It’s uncomfortable to live one mountain away from someone with that nickname when your own name is Murkowski. She’s been stifling her desire for vengeance, but this frontal assault on her own mountain would be just too much.

Murkowski says a run against her would be fraught with risk. If Palin lost, her stock would drop just ahead of a potential 2012 presidential run. And if she won, she’d be a backbencher in a chamber that is dominated by seniority — and would have to begin her presidential campaign as soon as she took office.

“If she wants to be president, I don’t think the way to the presidency is a short stop in the United States Senate,” Murkowski said.

Asked Monday to respond to Murkowski’s comments, Palin’s communications coordinator, Kate Morgan, said only, “The governor has never stated her intention or desire to run for that office.”

True, she has not stated her intention or desire to run for that office. But there’s an awful lot of activity on Mt. Olympus these days. The blacksmiths are busy, the horses are being counted, and the royal court has a strange glint in their eyes. And one thing we do know is that Queen Sarah’s restless nature is no longer content on her own mountain. Her destiny lies elsewhere. She likes the thrill of the battle, and the villagers know that Queen Lisa’s mountain is the most advantageous to conquer.

So what will the villagers do when 2010 comes? Whose side will they choose? The discontented villagers who’ve been paying attention to Queen Sarah and seeing the same arrogance and hubris that took down her predecessor will rally behind Lisa who has been doing better than her father. Others, who love their heroes, will remember how Lisa got to be Queen of her mountain, and they will remember her father the grape-eater with the jet, and the epic saga of the battle won for the people by that unlikely girl with the sling.

And others of us are still waiting for a brand new, and as yet unknown hero to arrive, and slay them both.





Alaska’s Senate Race – The Morning After

19 11 2008

Alaska has a Blue Senator. Mark Begich has won the election.

So where do we stand, and what does this mean?

Mark Begich – It means that Mayor Senator Begich gets to pack his bags and head to Washington DC, with his wife and son, to start giving progressive Alaskans and centrists, and people who don’t want a convicted felon representing them in our nation’s capitol, a voice. If he’s wise, and smart, he will take the Ted Stevens debacle as a cautionary tale. If he plays his cards right, he could be there for a long long time, but the Republican party will have him in their sights, and be watching for every little slip-up.

If the Democrats in the Senate are wise and smart, they’ll be really nice to Senator Begich and give him a couple nice feathers in his cap to wear home to Alaska. They know the kind of bombastic, blow hards Alaska is capable of sending to the capitol, and they probably don’t want it to happen again. And they sure don’t want Sarah Palin gunning for an open senate seat in 6 years. Mark Begich will be like salve on a wound for many who have had to endure Ted Stevens for decades.

Who will fill Mayor Begich’s seat after he leaves? Anchorage Assembly Chair Matt Claman. Matt just took over the chairmanship of the Assembly when a surprise progressive majority took over the paralyzingly conservative Anchorage Assembly that had previously been populated by junior versions of the aforementioned bombastic, blow hards. When the Assembly shifted to the left, Claman was chosen. I know Matt Claman and he’s a good guy. He lacks the extroversion and charisma of Begich, but his principles are sound, and he’s a concensus builder, and a rational thinker. He’ll probably do a pretty good job. He’ll be there until April, when the mayoral elections happen. He may decide to run for the position officially at that time. There are several others who have thrown their hat in the ring too. And this may cause some interesting wrangling, since one of those candidates is Assembly Vice Chair Sheila Selkregg. Today’s Anchorage Daily News has an interesting article on these behind the scenes goings on.

Sarah Palin – Well, God sent a message to Sarah. She said if God opened a door, even a crack, she’d “plow through it”. But tonight, when Begich won a clear victory, and the four decade era of Ted Stevens ended, the door firmly shut tight. She will undoubtedly be looking for another door. The three that may open up next are:

  • The Don Young Door – Congressman Don Young will be up for re-election in 2010, but may be out before then. He’s already spend a whopping 1.2 million dollars on legal fees in anticipation of his own coming indictment. Alaskans have been waiting for that shoe to drop for a while now….and it’s coming. It’s just a question of when. Look for headlines coming soon to a paper near you, now that Alaska politics has wormed its way into the national consciousness. But even if Young survives this, his 19th term in Congress, I don’t think Sarah Palin is gunning for his job. I just don’t think Congress is her style.
  • The Lisa Murkowski Door – Now we’re talking. Sarah unseated Lisa’s father Frank Murkowski when she became governor in 2006. This would be the second Murkowski trophy head on her wall. Murkowski hasn’t done a bad job in most Republican’s minds, but she hasn’t knocked their socks off either. It’s not a sure thing by any means that she’d be able to hold her seat against Palin. And the Senate, as we have just witnessed, can be an effective stepping stone to the Presidency, which is what Palin is gunning for in the long run. That’s the door she thinks God will open for her – the big fat door to the Oval Office. She’s “wired for the mission” and would be ready to run in 2012, or 2016.
  • The Direct Door to the Presidency – If Palin can hold on to office for another term, she may be banking on her national celebrity, and name recognition, and her Christian conservative buddies in high places to take her from the governorship to Pennsylvania Avenue…or so she hopes. She’s up for re-election in 2010. And who knows…she may feel fully qualified by that point to throw her hat in the ring anyway.

And what about Ted Stevens, and his suddenly awkward and very visible namesake – The Ted Stevens International Airport. Before we break out the chisels and hammers, the Anchorage Assembly and the Public Facilities Advisory Commission, and who knows who else, will have to do some political soul searching, and have lots of meetings.

Stevens’ legal appeal process moves forward, and he’ll fight tooth and nail, like he always does. And amazingly, he is still eligible, despite his seven felony convictions, for his senate pension of $122,000 a year, courtesy of taxpayers. Although there is a recently-passed federal law that prohibits felons from collecting on these pensions, Stevens’ particular felonies were not on the list, and they were committed before the law went into effect. Maybe next time.





Vote on Ousting Ted Stevens Delayed. Happy Birthday. UPDATED!

18 11 2008

Ted Stevens turns 85 today, and the GOP has voted to postpone a vote today that would boot Stevens from the GOP conference, until after the results of the Alaska Senate race are known. I guess that’s about as good a birthday present as the embattled Senator can expect this year.

As it stands, Democratic challenger Mark Begich leads Stevens by 1022 votes, a slim lead, but one prognosticators believe may be enough to hold through the last major round of vote counting today. 24,000 votes will be tallied by this evening, and the only ones remaining after that will be votes received from overseas, which will continue to be accepted until Wednesday. Ballots must be postmarked by midnight on November 4th, and are allowed two weeks to arrive in Alaska.

One of the questions on everyone’s mind is what happens when the current administration leaves office? The number of individuals on the list of last-minute pardons to come can only be imagined at this point. Will Stevens be one of those on that list? Not according to Stevens himself who was asked if he would seek a pardon.

Stevens simply said “No” when asked about a Bush pardon, and bristled when a reporter asked if he expected to be expelled as a political liability to Republicans battling an image of corruption.

“That’s just your words,” he said. “As a matter of fact, when the indictment was announced, they said it was not a corruption case, it was not a bribery case. It was a simple matter of failing to disclose. Maybe some of the verbiage that you are using is not proper.”

Senate Republicans are meeting to determine their leadership and a variety of motions. Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) had intended to offer a motion expelling Stevens from the conference, but postponed it until Thursday just minutes after Tuesday morning’s meeting began.

“I don’t like to use the word ‘pleased,’ but I’m happy with that,” Stevens said of the delay.

Stevens said his race in Alaska won’t be final until Nov. 25, and that he remains confident of victory. He is currently trailing Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich (D) by more than 1,000 votes.

“I still think I’m going to win,” he said.

Stevens said he expects the Republican Party will ask for a recount in the race, given the narrow margin.

So, that’s the word from Ted Stevens who is one tough nut, and cantankerous to the end. No asking for a pardon (at least not officially), and a probable recount. The bad news is that this election will seemingly never end. The good news is that a hand recount will potentially expose some election “abnormalities” that are a result of the unreliable and easily manipulated Diebold machines responsible for the vote tally that was tampered with in 2004, and that continue to be used to this day.

And the ride goes on.

UPDATE – First new results in!

Mark Begich – 146,286

Ted Stevens – 143,912

That gives Begich a comfortable lead of 2,374

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UPDATE #2:  Finall tally for the day has Mark Begich up by 3724!  Will Stevens concede?  Will Begich declare victory?  Will we have a recount?  Stay tuned!

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Another Election Eve in Alaska. Recount Possibility?

17 11 2008

1600. That’s the magic number. If Mark Begich can increase his lead from 1022 to 1600, it will put him over the recount threshold. If the margin of victory is under .5%, the state will pay for a recount if requested by either candidate, or a group of 10 citizens. If the margin is over .5%, then the candidate would have to pay for a recount himself. An automatic recount is generated only in the unlikely (but nothing would surprise me at this point) event of a tie.

Will Stevens ask for a recount if he comes up short?  It’s anyone’s guess.  If anyone would do it, it’s Ted.  But he may decide to leave well enough alone, and spare himself from his almost certain expulsion from the US Senate.  But Stevens is not one to back down.  Ever.

Let me be the first to say that Alaskans are eagerly looking forward to this election being over.  We were all prepared to wrap it up on November 4th, and are now faced with the election that wouldn’t die.  But, there is a bright side to a potential recount.  Recounts are done by hand count.  It would be interesting to see how a good old-fashioned hand count fared in comparison to the suspect results that come from our particular brand of nefarious vote counting software.  It might be the only vote of integrity Alaskans will have seen for several cycles.

And, if it flips the other way and Stevens regains his advantage, maybe Mark Begich will demand a recount.

The counting finishes tomorrow with approximately 24,000 ballots coming from Anchorage, Southeast Alaska, and the Kenai Penninsula remaining.  When all is said and done it looks like Alaska’s percentage of voter turnout will be about 65%, which is less than the 66% voter turnout just four years ago, despite Palin and Obama on the ticket, and despite the addition of more than 20,000 new registered voters this year.  There are many loose ends to be tied up before this is all over, and once the votes are counted.

And just in time for a little comic relief from the Stevens-Begich duel to the death, check out Juror #11’s Blog! That’s right.  Blogging jurors.  This is a hilarious recounting of the Ted Stevens trial from the perspective of Juror #11.  Too bad she wasn’t allowed to blog during the trial! This is the juror who, although initially pegged as an alternate, got to step in when the infamous Juror #4 fled the scene after making up the story about her father dying, so she could go attend a horse race.

Here’s Juror #11’s summary of the trial’s opening statements: (‘Salmmy’ is Ted Stevens….we don’t know why yet, but have been promised an explanation in the future)

The prosectution: I am Rosie, and Salmmy is guilty of fraud! False Statements! Lying! Receiving Gifts! Furniture! Generator! Free Work done on his house! Statue! Puppy! Stained Glass Window! Mustang! – Wait?! Did she just say Mustang? What was that about a Mustang? Whose Mustang? Are you giving out Free Mustangs? Damn, now I really have to listen to find out more about that mustang! (yes, I love mustangs and am sure at one point I doodled ‘Mustang of love’ a dozen times in my notebook like a love sick teenager. I really hope they shredded those notebooks). Sadly, after the mustang bit my head was a little cloudy, but I think she said that they would prove their evidence in the next couple of weeks.

The defense: I am a whimisical old man! I don’t like microphones or standing in one spot! (I swear his nickname was going to be Orville Redenbocker if he had continued in this vein. I wanted to give him a straw hat, bow tie and a red stripped vest). Luckily he got to the point: Salmmy is innocent! He is old and confused! He hardley even goes to Alaska! His wife handled all the bills! His bestest friend didn’t tell him what was happening! Seriously? Oh, and Bill Allen is the Evil. He tricked Salmmy!

There are also before and after pictures of Ted’s chalet, and other amusing tidbits about the Alaskan trial of the century.  I’ll be putting a link in the sidebar for this one.

And then tomorrow, back to the serious stuff.





Does Stevens Want Begich to Win?

16 11 2008

No matter what happens, we are witnessing the end of Ted Stevens.  Either he loses the election to Mark Begich, or he wins the election and faces expulsion by his peers.  Neither scenario is one he would have chosen, or that Alaskans would ever have believed before his Girdwood home was raided by the FBI in 2006.

I hope that Mark Begich wins this seat for a variety of reasons.  But, I think in the deepest recesses of his soul, Ted Stevens hopes he wins too.  Stevens is a tough nut, but I suspect that the humiliation of being voted out by his Senate colleagues would be a lot tougher on him than losing an election. 

The first official action of the Senate, a meeting in which senators will vote via secret ballot whether to oust Stevens from the Republican conference is scheduled to take place Tuesday morning, before the vote totals are even completed in his home state of Alaska.

Ejection from the Republican conference means losing his committee assignments and his vote on party matters.

Following his felony convictions in federal court before the election, Stevens was forced to step down as the top Republican on the Senate Commerce Committee and on an Appropriations subcommittee. He now appears in danger of losing his seat to Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich

The conference meeting is currently scheduled for Tuesday, the day after Congress returns from its elections recess. While the vote is on the agenda for 9:30 a.m., it’s not clear whether it will take place. Many Republican senators say they would rather wait for the final election results so they don’t have to cast an uncomfortable vote on whether Stevens should stay in their conference.

Yes, we wouldn’t want to make them feel “uncomfortable” by voting on a secret ballot to eject a convicted felon from the Republican conference.  For those Republican Senators who may be waffling on this decision, I have seven words for you.  Guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty, aaannnnnd……guilty.

Whatever comes to pass, it won’t be long before Ted Stevens is packing up his undeclared massage chair, his fish sculpture, his stained glass window, and the rest. His Incredible Hulk collectibles, and the rest of his office will be finding its way to cardboard boxes, and leaving the Senate building after more than 40 years.

It’s a new chapter for Alaska, regardless of the outcome.





So How Did the Alaskan Independence Party Do?

14 11 2008

OK, the official numbers are not in yet in Alaska, but we can feel fairly confident that no candidate from the Alaskan Independence Party is going to win a seat this year.  But how did they fare?  They certainly got a lot more press than usual this year…especially from outside of Alaska.

The AIP Presidential candidate vote total went from .67% in 2004 to .52% in 2008.  No real change.

But, the AIP Senatorial candidate went from 1.22% in 2004 to 4.14% in 2008.  Almost a threefold increase!  Did the AIP become all the rage because of the trendy secessionist tendencies of Todd Palin, Alaska’s First Dude and “former” AIPer?  Did AIP Senate candidate Bob Bird, just ride the Palin’s coattails?

Or maybe the increase is due to those Republicans that couldn’t bring themselves to vote for a convicted felon, but also couldn’t bring themselves to vote for a Democrat?

Or maybe it’s because Ron Paul (who fared better than John McCain in the primary up here) endorsed Bob Bird, the AIP’s Senate candidate.  Those Ron Paul fans are pretty loyal, and so this is a definite possibility. 

It’s interesting to note that the increase in AIP votes from 2004 to 2008 would more than make up the difference between the now trailing Ted Stevens, and his Democratic rival for the senate seat, Mark Begich. I suppose in a metaphorical way, you could say that Ron Paul may have given Ted Stevens the “Bird”.

The only other AIP candidate on the ticket this year was Dan DeNardo running in House District 31.  You may remember him from a little bedtime story on Mudflats last month.  Just a quick reminder if you don’t want to go back and read the whole thing…

Here’s his bio:

“I study the creation and impact of the Luciferian Marxist-Lenninist Dialectical Sovietism that is the most encompassing secular historical force controlling every incorporated political party; the world’s exchange systems based on perpetual indentured slavery through interest bearing irredeemable security obligations, i.e. federal reserve notes; Law Merchant advisory panels masquerading as “juries”; bar associations composed strictly of card-carrying Kommunist Komrade Kriminals acting in Alaska under the Alaska Supreme Soviet in conjunction with Soviet counterparts in NKVD through the Khabarovsk-Alaska Collectivization Project; and state sponsored Kriminal Globalism’s “perpetual War for perpetual peace.”

And this guy got 3%…..so all my theorizing about Bob Bird’s 4% may have just been blown out the window. Maybe it’s just Alaska.





Begich Now Up By 1061!

14 11 2008
US SENATOR    
    Total
Number of Precincts   438  
Precincts Reporting   438 100.0 %
Times Counted   293995/495731 59.3 %
Total Votes   290122  

Begich, Mark DEM 137527 47.40%
Bird, Bob AI 11933 4.11%
Gianoutsos, Ted NA 1218 0.42%
Haase, Fredrick D. LIB 2215 0.76%
Stevens, Ted REP 136466 47.04%
Write-in Votes   763 0.26%
US REPRESENTATIVE    
    Total
Number of Precincts   438  
Precincts Reporting   438 100.0 %
Times Counted   293995/495731 59.3 %
Total Votes   289496  

Berkowitz, Ethan A. DEM 129795 44.83%
Wright, Don R. AI 12858 4.44%
Young, Don E. REP 146083 50.46%
Write-in Votes   760 0.26%

Here’s the latest batch of numbers. Begich is widening the lead, but is still within the .5% needed to request a recount.

Unfortunately, things are not looking good for Ethan Berkowitz…

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UPDATE: New numbers in.  Begich now up by 1022…

Also Fairbanks House district 7 shows (D) Karl Kassel pulling within ONE vote of (R) Mike Kelly.

UPDATE:  Looks like those are the final numbers for the day.