Alaska Primary Night at Election Central

27 08 2008

Well, it’s no Democratic National Convention, but it was quite a show tonight. I listened to Hillary Clinton’s pretty darned good speech, and then took off for the Egan Center and Election Central. While circling for a parking spot the only person outside was a Nader guy. Gotta give ’em credit for trying. They’re kind of like the Ron Paul people, only their candidate is smart enough not to endorse Don Young.

Half an hour and a glass of Chardonnay later, the fun began. Whoops and shrieking in the hallway were heard and Les Gara made the first ‘grand entrance’ of the evening.

Then, the big guns (and the big signs) arrived. Ethan Berkowitz came in with an impressive entourage, looking pumped up and ready for the interviews.

By this time the numbers were really starting to come in up on the big board. It was obvious that all the ballot initiatives would go down. For a minute I just felt like going home and putting a pillow over my head. Then I remembered the bartender told me there was Tequila. But I just sat and watched for a while, making really sure the numbers said what I thought they said. Clean Elections was the worst…oh, excuse me….I mean “Public Funding of Elections”…which is precisely why it went down. The wording was enough to do it. And for this we can thank Sean Parnell.

And speaking of Sean Parnell… at this point in the evening, there was a mere 4 vote split between Lt. Governor Parnell and Congressman Young. I’m starting to think that the mini operation chaos might have had some effect. As a matter of fact, I ran in to three non-partisans who voted for Young in the primary so he’d go down in the general election.

It had also become obvious that Diane Benson wasn’t going to be able to win her match-up with Ethan Berkowitz. But, as usual, the woman who first took on Don Young with a credible and spirited campaign, handled herself well and was surrounded by a group of die-hard supporters.

The Gabrielle LeDoux and Linda Menard groups had filtered in earlier, with little fanfare. LeDoux was instantly marginalized by the 45-45 Young/Parnell horse race.

Menard won her district handily. Erick Cordero, her Democratic opponent in the general election was there too. He’ll have a tough road.

Then the man of the evening arrived. Mark Begich swooped in, followed by a huge sea of supporters with signs. He wasn’t on a white horse, but he might as well have been. The camera crews were crawling all over themselves to get an unobstructed view. The energy was through the roof, and the Begich crew were all smiles, fist pumps and energy. No sooner had he entered than he was whisked away from one news crew to the next for interviews. The flock of supporters followed dutifully, chanting “Beg-ich Beg-ich Beg-ich!” and “Go Mark Go! Go Mark Go!”

Then the Ted Stevens crew arrived.

Ted was in and to the news crew before anyone hardly knew he was in the room. He had a steely gaze and walked like he was about to miss a bus. He had a large crowd, but not as large as the Begich bunch. As Ted began his first interview with Channel 2, the rowdy excited chants of Beg-ich Beg-ich practically drowned out the interview. His sign holder stood behind him holding up a campaign sign and clenching her jaw. She stared off in the direction of the chanting crowd just 20 feet away and looked like she wanted to break something.

After a few minutes of this, it dawned on the Stevens crowd that all this enemy chanting was not a good thing. Someone weakly started a “Go Ted Go!” and a few others joined in. Sign holder kept giving the thumbs up, directing the Stevens crowd to pick up the volume (see below), hoping they’d drown out the Begich crowd that was so loud that Stevens was obviously raising his voice to be heard. It was almost painful to watch. And, of course, he was less than pleased when questions about the indictment came up.

The Begich folks relentlessly tailed the current senator with signs, and some even chuckled at the double meaning of the growing chants of “Go Ted Go!” from the Stevens camp.

The nail-biter at the end of it all was the Young/Parnell race. Undecided last night, it’s still up for grabs this morning. Currently Young has regained his lead, and come up from a 700 vote deficit, to a narrow 140 vote lead with 9 precincts left to come. Neither candidate was at the Egan Center. Don Young is in Fort Yukon, and Sean Parnell was down the street at his campaign headquarters, but never made an appearance. More thoughts and photos to come…

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Alaska House Race Poll Numbers

10 08 2008

The latest poll numbers from Ivan Moore Research from 7/18-7/22/08

Don Young (46)

Sean Parnell (38 )

Gabrielle LeDoux (6)

I have a friend who refers to this race as:  The Crook, the Nitwit, and the Other One.

On the Democratic side, Ethan Berkowitz leads Diane Benson at this point 54-25.

So, assuming we have a Young vs. Berkowitz race:

Young (R) – 37

Berkowitz (D) – 52

Wow. Change is in the air.

Even though there were no results for a Benson vs. Young matchup, and even though we may never get to see it on the ballot again, I’d just love to know.  I think Diane would mop the floor with him, and I’d like all her supporters, and Don Young himself to see it in black & white.





Obama’s Speech for Begich

30 07 2008

I’ve been to several Obama events now, and inevitably the question arises – “When is Obama coming to Alaska?”  And everyone behind a microphone has the same answer, “The campaign knows how we feel.  They know everyone really wants him to come to Alaska.  We keep telling them.”  This is followed by hopeful smiles, shuffling of feet and occasionally a shrug.

Well, tell them  again and keep telling them.  (KNOCK KNOCK – HELLO Obama Headquarters in Alaska…ARE YOU THERE?)   The time is right.  The Stevens indictment is the next best thing to a hand-delivered engraved invitation.  While it’s fresh in everyone’s mind, an Obama visit would all but guarantee Begich the seat – and throw in Berkowitz or Benson for good measure.  And weren’t we promised a visit when those two undeclared Alaska superdelegates went for Obama?  And I believe that Alaska is the only state Obama has not visited.  The “49 State Strategy”?  Hmmmm….it’s missing something.  I know…ALASKA. 

Once again Chris Weigan reads my mind.  He wrote another excellent post about Obama coming north ASAP.

Barack Obama’s Introduction Speech For Mark Begich

Thank you, Alaskans, for the warm welcome. And thank you for your support in the Alaskan caucus this year, as well. I am honored to get a chance to speak to you today in support of Mayor Mark Begich for the United States Senate.

The man Mayor Begich is running against just got indicted in federal court for corruption charges while he is sitting as your state’s senator. Alaska has seen more than its fair share of corruption these past few years from its Republican officeholders, so this news may not have been as shocking to you folks as it was to the rest of America. Alaskans already knew that the Republican Party up here has been in the pockets of Big Oil for a long, long time. Only now are we realizing, with all the indictments and court cases, just how far that corruption has spread.

Which is why I am willing to bet that you won’t see John McCain visiting Alaska before the election in order to support Ted Stevens. Think about that — the Republican nominee for president can’t afford to be seen with your senior senator right now.

It’s not because they disagree on the issues. I don’t agree with Mayor Begich on every issue, and yet I fully support his bid for Senate. One of the biggest issues we disagree on is where, and how much, to drill for oil. I know that, up here, drilling for oil equals jobs. But I will be honest with you about my stance, even if I know you may disagree with me — or not vote for me — as a result. And I expect that as senator, Mark Begich will fight for what he believes is best for Alaska, and for Alaskans. I would expect no less — that is the job of any senator.

Read the rest HERE.





Alaska Candidates on the Couch

21 07 2008

Just got back from the Alaska Women’s Political Caucus Debate for House candidates, aka the “Couch Conference”. In attendance – Diane Benson, Ethan Berkowitz and Don Young. Glaringly absent – Gabrielle LeDoux and Sean Parnell.

I arrived a little late, but walked in just in time to hear Don Young’s position on the Iraq War. Fumbling for a pen, I managed to scribble down “Fully supported ‘invasion of Saddam’ or we would be having a nuclear war with Iran and genocide the likes of which we have never seen.” Yeah, we know. And the smoking gun would have been a mushroom cloud. FYI Don, we actually invaded Iraq, not Saddam.

Most of the questions and answers went as you’d expect, and many were softballs. KTUU’s Megan Baldino was underwhelming as moderator and looked bewildered and unsure of the protocol and the questions most of the time.

And I confess, I kept hoping for one of those Don Young head-exploding moments that would end up on YouTube, but no such luck. There was lots of sighing, and puffing out of cheeks, eyerolling and muttering. A couple times you could hear him say ‘nonsense’ under his breath, and he did this really odd leg lift thing, over and over, while looking completely engrossed in his shoe. And he definitely turned every shade of purple while the Democrats talked about ethics, but that was about it. When it came time for Don to talk about ethics, here’s part of what he had to say:

“I will set on this bench…this couch…and hold my character. [Mudflats – OMG close your eyes!] Yes, there’s been a lot of writing in the paper. 18 months of writing….18 months….. But my ethics and my wife’s ethics…my family’s ethics should never be in question. You may think they should be, but they should not be.”

Oh reeeeeaalllly. And exactly WHY should they not be in question? Maybe we should ask the FBI.

Ethan Berkowitz did well, but answered a few questions in vague terms, including, “What can you do in congress for the state of Alaska?” He responded by talking about moving forward, looking forward, looking to the future, needing a congressman for the NEXT 36 years, not the past 36 years. But I wanted, and thought he was capable of giving a more substantive answer. Other than that, he was polished, energetic, and engaged. He specifically mentioned his support for Clean Elections (eyeroll from Don Young), which I was happy about.

Diane Benson was at the top of her game. She was witty, poised, and unintimidated. My favorite Benson moment followed Don Young’s proclamation that he is-was-and-always-will-be pro-life. She answered that she is pro-life too, which is why she doesn’t support the death penalty, and doesn’t think we should “go to war at the drop of a hat”, but that matters of a woman’s body are private, and between her and her doctor. Zzzing! Her only cringe-inducing moment was when in response to a question about how best to promote women’s issues and fair pay, she said, “Stop electing men.” This was met by a heckle from the back of the room that came from a young uber-Republican guy in a suit, sporting a giant LaDoux bumper sticker on his lapel, who called out in his best frat-boy voice, “Yeah…Vote for Gabrielle!” Benson’s comment may have been true, to a degree, but Berkowitz scored by saying that people should vote for a candidate because of their values, not their gender.

The most moronic question of the night? If you could make up a catchy one-line slogan to bring tourists to Alaska, what would it be? All three candidates looked at Megan Baldino and each other like, “Are you kidding?” Don Young even said, “Who makes up these questions?” No one had a good answer, and no one in the audience was surprised they didn’t.

Second-most irrelevant question, but one that surprisingly perked up the audience nonetheless – “What car(s) do you drive, and do you fly commercially or by private jet?” Just because I know you’re curious:

Ethan Berkowitz – 1993 Yukon. Toyota Prius. Commercial airlines, front of the plane, aisle seat. He quoted Bill Egan who said, “You get more votes in coach.”

Don Young – 2003 Cadillac. Saturn. Evaded the airline question.

Diane Benson – “Nothing beats 50mpg on my Harley” (the crowd approved). Honda Element. Dodge Dakota work truck. Also didn’t answer the airline question, but probably not for the same reason as Don Young.

There was another interesting Don Young moment during the break. While being serenaded with great piano music (the event was held in the Steinway Piano shop) he danced down the aisle holding an invisible partner with a giant goofy smile almost long enough for me to get it on tape….that would have been my YouTube moment! Oh well. He did seem to be in quite a chipper mood….perhaps he’s watching Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell, his biggest Republican threat, who hitched his wagon to Sarah Palin’s rising star. That star is starting to fizzle, big time, and it’s only good news for Don Young in the primary. More on that later.

But basically, Young’s strategy was to remind us all that he’s been in congress for a long long long time, and that he can drop lots of names. His other strategy was to be a puffed-up, condescending bully. It’s worked for him in the past, so he keeps doing it. He never missed an opportunity to mention that the other two Republicans weren’t there, which was ironic since, in May, Young blew off a promised teleconference at the Hispanic Affairs Council forum (attended by all four other candidates) with a flimsy excuse. The condescension continued with weird comments to Ethan Berkowitz, either under his breath about Diane Benson, or out loud with things like, “Well, Ethan, that was a very nice campaign speech” after every question he answered. (Note to Ethan – Try using a strategically placed throw pillow as a buffer zone to keep Don out of your ‘bubble’ if you have to sit next to him again)

After the first round of questions, each candidate was given a paper bag with questions on little slips of paper in it, that they drew out of the bag and asked their opponents. Ethan Berkowitz’s last piece of paper slipped under the flap at the bottom of the bag and he couldn’t find it. So Don Young booms out, “And Ethan wants to be a congressman….He can’t even find what’s in the bottom of the bag! HAHAHAHAHAHA!” This was met by crickets and uncomfortable shuffling from most of the room, uproarious laughter from the frat boy corner, and cascades of giggles from the Steinway piano lady, who spent the rest of the evening fawning over him like a lovesick schoolgirl.

The evening wrapped up with a 2 minute closing statement from each candidate. Don Young reminded us that even though some people think he’s done badly, he hasn’t done badly. He revealed the horrifying fact that he wants to die in office – “God’s going to replace me some day. I only hope it’s not the voters.” Voters…lightning bolt….either way, he needs to be gone.

If either Democratic candidate gets the seat, Ethan Berkowitz will get his wish to “elevate the quality and tone of politics in this state.”





Palin’s Power Trip – Off With Their Heads!

17 07 2008

Is this it? I’ve been wondering what it will be that sinks the so-far unsinkable ship of Sarah Palin. So far, despite little chinks here and there in her teflon armor, Sarah the Magnificent has emerged fairly unscathed. Until now, perhaps.

There’s been all sorts of buzz and inuendo and rumor about the real reason Sarah Palin fired Commissioner of Public Safety, Walt Monegan. The administration’s official reason was that they wanted to “go in a new direction”. Alaska Public Safety in a new direction? Like….letting the criminals go free? Abandoning rural Alaska to fend for itself? Martial Law? Anyone who’s been paying attention has been pretty impressed with Walt Monagan’s integrity, work ethic and genuine commitment to the Troopers and the people of Alaska. New direction? We didn’t get it.

Palin buddy and brand-new Commissioner of Public Safety Chuck Kopp, (who replaces Monegan, the ‘chucked cop’) made a statement mumbling something about “looking forward to moving forward” and not commenting on prior leadership…which is code for “There’s a story here, and I’m not going to tell you what it is.” That usually means the story is worth knowing. Bloggers and other interested parties began pricking up their ears, and waiting for the inevitable leak.

Well, the leak turned out to be a tsunami in the form of a blog post from Andrew Halcro titled “Why Walt Monegan Got Fired: Palin’s Abuse of Power.” I strongly urge everyone to read it. Here’s the gist of what he claims.

Palin wanted Monagan to cut the budget for the State Troopers. Already underfunded and stretched to the breaking point, he said no. (gasp)

But the second, and far creepier reason, the one that surely will be setting the blogosphere on fire and accelerating her fall from the ivory tower if it is substantiated, is this. Let me preface this by saying that no…I’m not making this up. Stay with me. Sarah Palin’s younger sister Molly used to be married to Mike Wooten. Mike Wooten has been an Alaska State Trooper for the last 8 years. Molly and Mike went through a messy divorce. The Palins were not pleased. Halcro relates a truly bizarre series of events that can only be described as ‘stalking behavior’ committed by the Palin family against Trooper Wooten. Notes on windshields, threatening phone calls, Todd Palin (Sarah’s husband and Alaksa’s ‘First Dude’) taking pictures and sending them to Wooten’s supervisor. There were a total of 25 complaints filed against Wooten. Each time, an Administrative Investigator would review the complaint, find it unfounded or not substantiated, and dismiss it. The other side of the story is that Wooten is no angel…extramarital affair, dry tasering his step-son (he says at his step-son’s request),…..it goes on and on. Another Alaskan political bad movie.

Fast forward to 2008. Now, Sarah Palin is the Governor.

“Twice in the last few months complaints were filed by the governor’s office accusing Wooten of improperly using his patrol car. Both times he was visiting his kids at school and both times he had permission from his sargent. The last complaint came in May after Todd Palin saw Wooten pulling out of the school parking lot and six days later the complaint landed on Wooten’s supervisor’s desk.

During the legislative session this past spring, Palin reportedly told Commissioner Monegan to fire Wooten because he was giving Troopers a bad name. However Monegan said he would do no such thing.

A short time afterwards, it was discovered that confidential material in Wooten’s Administrative Investigation file had been released to his ex-wife and her attorney. This drew outrage from the Public Safety Union as well as the Commissioner. AI files are strictly confidential and can only be released with the written signature of the Trooper, but yet no one could explain how the detailed confidential information was released.

Reportedly, both Commissioner Monegan and Colonel Audie Halloway warned that if they found out the file was leaked by the governor’s office, they would pursue charges.

Unfortunately, Commissioner Walt Monegan has been fired and word on the street is Colonel Audie Halloway’s days are numbered as the new commissioner brings in those who won’t object when the governor uses the Troopers as her own private security force.”

You may now pick your chin up off the desk.

Where will this all go from here? Local mainstream media is picking up the story, as is the Associated Press. Will this little nugget be featured in the upcoming Wall Street Journal article on Palin? How about People Magazine? Is the image of the squeaky-clean, hockey mom who hands out cash forever sullied? Have her VP chances just gone up in a puff of smoke? Will she be thrown under the Straight Talk Express Bus?? One can only wait and speculate. In addition to Halcro, Celtic Diva is hot on the trail with a report from the latest press conference, as is Anchorage talk radio, including KUDO 1080am which should have plenty to say tomorrow.

Governor Palin herself has just released a statement. “critics have taken this to rediculous extremes”, “false allegations”, “outrageous” and my favorite, “It is unfortunate, as we seek to address a growing energy crisis in this state, that this matter has been raised now.” Yes, perhaps it would have been more polite to wait until we have a gas line to talk about why Monegan was fired? Nice try. You can read the governor’s entire statement HERE.

And to Ethan Berkowitz and Diane Benson, I say, lean back, enjoy the popcorn and see how Lieutenant Governor Sean Parnell fares in his House race if Palin goes from Queen of Light, to millstone around the neck.

We live in interesing times.





Show Me the Money! Dems Clean Up.

16 07 2008

The second quarter fundraising is in, and the blue piggy bank is looking pretty fat. Let’s look at the House race first:

Don Young (R) – $106,616 (*Note – $103,521 was spent on legal fees by the Young campaign during the same time period.)

Sean Parnell (R) – $266,000

Gabrielle LeDoux (R) – $200,000 ($157,500 of it is her own money)

Diane Benson (D) – $52,606

Ethan Berkowitz (D) – $277,066 (Yowza!)

And now, the best for last….(drum roll please)…..Alaska’s Senate Race.

Ted Stevens (R) – $745,000

Mark Begich (D) – $1,034,600! (I give you Alaksa’s Million Dollar Man!)

This is good on so many levels. First, most of the contributions for Begich are $100 and under indicating strong grass roots support. Second, its not only more than the formidable Stevens money machine could raise, but it’s a LOT more. Third, being able to use the phrase “more than a million dollars” has to feel good to the Begich folks.

And just for fun, if you add together all the Republican fundraising this quarter (even including Gabrielle LeDoux’s gift to self) you end up with $1,202,616. The Democrats? $1,364,272. Nice. Considering the lobster-like redness of the state of Alaska, this is monumental.

What about Ray Metcalfe you are wondering? Couldn’t find any information on his fundraising, although it may exist somewhere. But I did notice that on his website he’d prefer Barack Obama for president, but would be willing to support Hillary Clinton if she gets the nomination. Does Ray know something we don’t know about a coup attempt at the upcoming convention, or did he just forget to update the website? Inquiring minds want to know!





A-Team vs. Wolfpack – You Make the Call…

13 07 2008

Remember as a kid when you used to guess which superhero could take the other one in a fight?  Spiderman vs. Aquaman,  Batman vs. The Lone Ranger, Underdog vs. Quick Draw McGraw….  The possibilities were varied, and dominated much schoolyard conversation between 2nd and 6th grade.  The latest Don Young rediculousness makes me wonder…who would win if the  A-Team took on the Wolfpack in a superlobbyist fight?  But then I realized that the nine lobbyists on the ‘A-Team’ were actually also IN the  29-lobbyist ‘Wolf Pack’.  So if you are on the A-Team, you are also in the Wolfpack, but Wolfpack membership doesn’t necessarily mean you’re on the A-Team.   So to have this hypothetical showdown,  the A-Team would have to defect FROM the Wolfpack, which could complicate things.  But still, it could be done.  After defection, the A-Team would still be outnumbered about 2 to 1, but they’re some heavy hitters with extra lobbyist superpowers…  I’m thinking it would be a close fight.

But of course, the greater issue here is that a 75-year old congressional representative, the one and only “Congressman for all Alaska” thinks it’s cool running around making up stupid names for his lobbyist buddies because….what….he’s frozen in time as a 12-year old?  What’s next, a handwritten sign on his office door that says “No Democrats Allowed”?  A secret Corrupt Bastards handshake?  A big Republican Treehouse in Washington?

Ooooo.  Maybe the Wolf Pack and the A-Team could reunite, and ambush John McCain’s “Truth Squad” on the “Straight Talk Express”!  They’d never see it coming.  A nickel says they could take ’em!  Are you in? (spits on palm)  Shake.

As we contemplate the new American “Bad Guy” (the lobbyist), in all its incarnations, enjoy this awesome offering from the satirical mastersite – The Onion.   You won’t know whether to laugh or cry, so do both.

And a note to Berkowitz, Benson, Begich and the rest of the Democratic lineup.  Please no ‘teams’, ‘packs’, or ‘squads’ – we’re all adults here.