Crunching the Numbers in Alaska.

6 11 2008

OK…

I’m not generally a conspiracy theorist. I say “generally”, because sometimes conspiracies happen. And sometimes it would be foolish to ignore them. The only thing worse than being labeled a conspiracy theorist, is being labeled a gullible idiot when it all comes to light. So I invite you to hop on board the Conspiracy Theory Express with me for a moment, because it’s pulling out of the station here in Alaska, ready to take you on a five minute tour.

As the final numbers roll in from state and national elections, I and others have noticed some results that are interesting at best, and highly suspect at worst. Either way, they deserve some scrutiny.

Let’s look at the national numbers first. Keep in mind that Alaska’s very own Governor, and the new GOP golden girl, Sarah Palin, was on the ticket. And Barack Obama has excited progressive Alaskans like no candidate before. He had five field offices, great ground organization, and inspired the biggest candidate rally in Alaska history. Voter turnout here was expected to be through the roof and breaking all records.

In 2004, 66% of registered voters turned out to vote in the presidential election between George Bush and John Kerry.

In 2008, including the votes still outstanding, only 54% of registered voters turned out.

And the strangest part of all? Voter turnout in the primaries, before Palin was even on the ticket, was up 12% from 2004. We also had more than 20,000 new registered voters.

Curious.

As these strange numbers rolled in at Election Central, I was there watching. Here’s how it fell out over time.

With 36% of the precincts reporting:
61.76% for McCain
35.64% for Obama

With 81.3% reporting
61.54% for McCain
35.69% for Obama

With 96.1% reporting
61.29% for McCain
35.96% for Obama

Alaska, like many states, has blue areas and red areas. The Mat-Su Valley, home of Sarah Palin is very very red. Anchorage? Blue. The Kenai Peninsula? Red. Juneau? Blue. You get the idea. When I, and my fellow progressive celebrants watched the first numbers come in, we thought, “That must be the Valley”, because the latest polls actually had the presidential race neck and neck with Obama only 2.7 points behind. We kept waiting for the progressive areas of the state to kick in, but they never did. No fluctuations one way or the other more than .3%. And George Bush won the 2004 election her by a margin of…..61-35.

Strange.

Then, we’ve got the two Congressional races.

Ted Stevens vs. Mark Begich. The convicted felon is currently ahead by about 3300 votes, with about 60,000 absentee and early votes left to count. It’s a squeaker, and Begich may pull this one off. By why is it a squeaker when the last poll had Begich 22 points ahead? He’d been running at a dead heat in the polling before Ted’s conviction, but after the seven felony convictions came in, Begich’s lead widened considerably. Pretty stunning turnaround for Stevens.

Remarkable.

How about Ethan Berkowitz vs. Don Young for the Congressional seat?

Berkowitz consistently led Young in every single poll since May by 5-14 points. Contrary to this comfortable and consistent lead, Don Young managed to pull off a stunning upset by trouncing Berkowitz by more than 7 points.

Amazing.

And since history is always our best teacher, let’s look back at the 2004 elections in Alaska. The majority of precincts had voter turnout of over 100%. In some cases, voter turnout was over 200%. Either Alaskans are enthusiastic about their vote to the point of breaking the law and voting twice, or there’s something very very wrong.

(From Shannyn Moore) There are 40 districts in Alaska. The Anchorage area districts run from District 17 to District 32. Scroll down to the bottom of the page and pick any district from 17-32. Pay particular attention to the 3rd column labeled % turnout. Hit the back arrow and select another district. There are more precincts with voter turnout over 100% than under 100%. In other words, many more people voted in Anchorage area precincts than there were registered voters. Clearly, this is not possible. In 2006, the Democrats filed a lawsuit against the Alaska Division of Elections to release public records needed to verify the 2004 election results. The Democrats ALSO sought to have the Alaska Division of Elections release the raw election data for the 2006 election.

It’s been more than 24 hours since the polls closed in Alaska, and the red flags are already waving.

OK, the Conspiracy Theory Express bus 5-minute tour is over, and you may now hop off. This was just a test drive. Keep your eyes on how the final numbers turn out. Democracy requires vigilance, and hopefully our state candidates will not be afraid to stand their ground. The Obama campaign had a team of lawyers at the ready in case election fraud was detected. It’s a wise precaution, and an obligation to the electorate whose fundamental rights hang in the balance. If I were Ethan Berkowitz or Mark Begich or Barack Obama, I’d make sure I took the process to the end, and took advantage of the media spotlight which still shines on our state, before it vanishes, and we are left to sort out our election questions in the dark. Sunshine is the best disinfectant.

UPDATE – Here’s some new coverage on this topic from The Washington Post and from 538.com.

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Alaska Senate and House Races Bring Surprises.

5 11 2008

It’s been an amazing day in American politics. President Elect Obama has heard the voice of America, and it is demanding change. The future seems full of promise and possibility for the first time in a long time.

But back on the Last Frontier, we know it just wouldn’t be Alaska if things went smoothly, or predictably. Any day now, I expect new Alaskan license plates to be released saying “Alaska” on the top, and “You Can’t Make This Stuff Up” across the bottom.

Despite polling numbers that indicated comfortable leads for Senate candidate Mark Begich, and House candidate Ethan Berkowitz, both races are too close to call until the final absentee and early votes are counted. Yes, it seems that we now have a “Stevens Effect”, people who say they wouldn’t vote for a convicted felon to pollsters, but when they get behind the curtain, they just can’t seem to resist the temptation.

Mark Begich (D) vs. Ted Stevens (R-I)

At last count with 99% of precincts reporting Begich trailed Stevens by only 4000 votes, 46.5% to 48%. But don’t write off Begich just yet. There are tens of thousands of votes yet to be counted – almost 50,000 in all. Absentee ballots have yet to be tallied, and more are arriving daily. In addition, any early votes that happened between last Thursday and Election Eve, are still to be counted. What does all this mean? We won’t know the outcome of this race for two weeks.

If Stevens is elected, he will face expulsion by the Senate, Alaskans will have the dubious honor of being the only state to ever elect a convicted felon, and Stevens will face expulsion. It will require a 2/3 vote to remove him. Sarah Palin, who asked Stevens to step down so Alaskans could have a “real” choice would NOT be able to appoint anyone to fill the seat. I heard pundits last night speculating that Palin would appoint herself to the seat. That will not happen. The Alaska Supreme Court has already decided this issue and removed the right of a governor to appoint anyone to a senate seat. Period. That said, there is nothing to prevent Palin from entering herself as a candidate in the special election to fill that seat.

So, what happened?

There are as many theories and opinions as people. Here are a few.

  • Stevens is more like family than a mere politician. If he says he’s innocent, then he’s innocent. He was railroaded. He continues to have the support of Alaska’s other Senator Lisa Murkowski, and Congressman Don Young. The feds were just out to get him.
  • Some Alaskans, despite being presented with the facts, will never ever vote Democratic. Ever.
  • Stevens gained votes from the inflated Republican turnout that came out to vote for Palin.
  • If Stevens gets in and gets expelled by the senate, there’s another opportunity to get a different Republican in that seat and not create a potential Democratic dynasty. This was openly promoted by right wing talk radio before the election.
  • Some Alaska voters have voted for Stevens every election of their lives. They’re happy with what he’s done, so why stop now?
  • Alaskans are terrified of giving up seniority in the Senate. We’re ignored a lot, and we worry that if Ted isn’t there with his experience, his connections, and his doggedness, we’ll be up a creek.
  • Nobody “outside” (aka the Federal Government, the FBI and the IRS) is going to tell me who to vote for. (sticking out chin, crossing arms and feeling like and Alaskan “maverick”)

Ethan Berkowitz (D) vs. Don Young (R-I)

This race is not as tight as the Senate race. In a stunning outcome that flies in the face of all recent polls, Don Young looks like he will pull it off. The bombastic, bloviating incumbent has a comfortable lead over the favored newcomer, and is up by more than 17,000 votes. The same 50,000 ballots have yet to be counted for these candidates, but that’s a pretty big margin to make up for Berkowitz. So, as excruciating as it is, and despite the fact that Berkowitz has not conceded, we may be sending Don Young back for his 19th term as Alaska’s one and only member of the House of Representatives. I would like to extend my humble apologies to the United States Congress. Forgive us, for we know not what we do.

So what happened?

Look back up at the “So what happened?” section above and insert the name Don Young, every time you see the name Ted Stevens, and add the following:

  • Just because he’s spent $1.2 million in legal fees, doesn’t mean he’s done anything wrong. He hasn’t even been indicted yet!

Asked if he was surprised at the way the numbers were running, Young said, “Not me. … The pollsters were wrong and they’ve always been wrong. … They don’t understand Alaska.”

The Anchorage Daily News has some good coverage of the Stevens-Begich race and the Young-Berkowitz race.

There are many chapters yet to be written.

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I Voted!

4 11 2008

vote11

I feel better.  I thought about voting early, but my usual polling place is generally pretty quiet, and I do love the festive feeling of voting on the day, so I waited.  Then I kept thinking….what if my name isn’t on the voter rolls?  I checked to make sure it was….but what if something happened AFTER I checked?  What if I get hit by a bus before election day?  What if my car runs into the ditch and I don’t make it in time?

So it was with great relief today that I walked into my polling place to finally vote.  I couldn’t stop smiling.  The poll worker who checked me in was a woman of color, and I had such a stupid smile on my face that I made her smile back in spite of herself.  There were 12 polling stations set up, and no line.  I dodged behind the curtain and just looked at the ballot for a minute.

I filled in Mark Begich, then Ethan Berkowitz, then my local race.  I saved Obama-Biden for last.  I took a deep breath and really thought about what it took to get to this day, not only all the incredible work that has gone into this particular election, but also to have a viable African-American candidate on the ballot as nominee for the President of the United States.

I hope to see a woman in that spot too, some day.  But I want to vote for a woman who has earned her place on the ticket through her own intelligence, principles, work ethic, determination and grit, not someone who got picked as a strategic calculation, and a poor one at that.  I looked at Palin’s name on the ballot.  After my deep breath, I filled in the Obama-Biden oval carefully…being sure not to leave one little white space.  Then I double checked to make sure I filled in the right oval, and didn’t make a horrible mistake because of my reverie.

Then off to the optical scan machine to watch my ballot get sucked into the little slot.  Number 555.  Pretty good turnout so far.  I’ll be back later to photograph the paper tapes they are required to post in the window.  In 2004, we had some precincts in Anchorage with a 220% voter turnout.  Not again.

We should be getting the first returns from the east coast within the hour!

vote2





Signs of the Times in Anchorage. Open Season on Idiocy.

1 11 2008

I had to run an unexpected errand in South Anchorage today. My travels took me to “the Hillside” to one of Anchorage’s more lucrative zip codes. This is the area with the big houses that overlook the Anchorage skyline and Cook Inlet, where you expect to find many traditional Republican voters, and oil industry executives. I decided I was going to keep a tally of yard signs and see what I ended up with. I was quite surprised. Here’s the breakdown, with Democrats on the left and Republicans on the right.

Obama 4 – McCain  0
Begich 18 – Stevens  0 (Senate race)
Berkowitz  8 – Young  0 (House race)
Kenny 17 – Hawker  15 (Local House race)

The latest numbers now show Mark Begich with a 20 point lead over convicted felon Ted Stevens in the Senate race. Ethan Berkowitz is 9 points up in the House race over Don Young. And from the looks of it, the local Democrat might even stand a chance in this Anchorage red zone. My faith is restored.

The bad news in the sign department is that an Obama-Biden sign that got stolen and replaced down the street from me, is gone again. But my own sign, is still sticking proudly in its snowbank.

And remember a while ago, when I found signs hung up over the highway that said, “Obama 4 Change 2 Islamic Law -N- USA”? Well, the perpetrator obviously has nothing but time on his hands, because they’ve started popping up all over town. In actuality this tortured soul with the spray paint, the stencils, and the disregard for the English language has provided a new sport for my spouse.

Today's Haul.

Today's haul.

Spouse has started a collection, and everytime a sign is seen, the brakes screech, the exacto knife comes out of the glove compartment, and the sign ends up in my trunk. I think that Spouse secretly likes this activity. In any case, we  added three new signs to the collection today, which brings the total up to 8.

This time there was a new development….the name of a website was written on one of the signs. Since it was written in small letters, it’s doubtful that our sign maker intended it to be seen by the passing traffic. It was meant…..for US, the sign taker-downers.

Something looked fishy about the website address…. http://www.obessionthemovie.com. Obession? I tried it. No movie. It was as I suspected. I tried obSessionthemovie.com. Paydirt! Obsession – Radical Islam’s War Against the West. The trailer has collapsing towers, crowds chanting “Death to America”, and Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and the rest of the Fox crowd saying that “every single American should see this movie.”

So keep an eye out Anchorage and Eagle River area residents! It’s open season on illegally displayed, badly written, factually incorrect political signs with spelling mistakes! And you don’t even need a hunting license!

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Senatorial and House Debate in Anchorage

9 10 2008

It’s been a busy news week in Alaska, and I’ve yet to have time to write about this week’s Senatorial and House debates!

As we know, Ted Stevens is…otherwise occupied this week, so his debate with Mark Begich had to be filmed and shown to the crowd assembled at the University of Alaska, on screen.  The moderator was John Tracy.

I arrived a bit late, and missed the very beginning of the Begich/Stevens debate.  As I walked in the door, Ted Stevens was speaking.  I came in, walked down the aisle, looked around, found a seat, took off my coat, got out my camera, found my notepad, then had to hunt for a pen, opened the notepad, uncapped the pen, and he was still speaking….the same sentence.  All I could write on the pad was “longest run-on sentence ever uttered.”  Taking notes was to prove almost impossible.  Ted Stevens has a similar affliction as Sarah Palin.  Charlie Gibson has finally given it a name.  It’s the “Blizzard of Words” phenomenon.

All I can say is this, which I’ve plucked out of Ted’s blizzard of words.  According to Stevens: our country has absolutely no hope for the future without drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.  We also need to drill offshore on the Continental Shelf.  And we need to find a way to decrease fuel costs.  We can create 20,000 jobs for every million barrels of oil we drill.  “You can’t get there (energy independence) without ANWR!” 

What is our biggest problem?  “Extreme environmentalists”  “Jimmy Carter”  and don’t forget “They opposed cutting timber too!” (uttered with horror).  His dreams for the future?  Keep kids in school. Give them hope. Drill everywhere, and “open the forests”.

When given the opportunity to ask a question of his opponent, Mark Begich, he wanted to know how he would convince those “New York California” politicians to drill drill drill!  Begich who is in favor of drilling (all Alaska politicians are), said he’d bring them up here to show them how it could be done in an environmentally conscious way. 

Begich, for his part, did very well.  He spoke in complete English sentences which could by understood by the audience.  He discussed his issues clearly and concisely.  He mentioned his website.  He did have on a little too much blush, but that wasn’t his fault.  He even held it together well when Ted Stevens told him he was “just as crazy as the devil.”

Begich got several rounds of applause during the debate.  Stevens did too, but they were more tentative…almost like the audience didn’t quite understand what he said, but they were trying to be kind.

Then we were on to 18 term Republican incumbend Don Young vs. Democratic challenger Ethan Berkowitz.

The questions started with the economy.  Don Young said he opposed the bail-out and had received 3800 phone calls about it.  3500 opposing, and 300 for.  He voted against.  The bail-out, he said, was a “slippery slope to socialism.”

Ethan Berkowitz said he would have been a “reluctant supporter” and stated concerns about the credit crunch affecting businesses.

Here’s the World According to Young:   All our financial woes started with Bill Clinton.  Alexander Hamilton put down the Whiskey Rebellion, and [Young] doesn’t know why he did…hahaha.  (???)  He wants to privatize social security to “let the young people invest.”  He shushed applause for Berkowitz.  He reprimanded the red warning light.  He doesn’t like Hillary Clinton.  Something else is Bill Clinton’s fault.  Most of the problems in the house are the fault of Nancy Paloosi (yes, that’s how he pronounces it).  The housing crisis was set off by energy issues because we’re not drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. “Nancy Paloosi has a huge hammer and doesn’t want to burn fossil fuels because she wants to (eye roll) save the planet.”

He thinks Sarah Palin is a great candidate and it doesn’t bother him that she hasn’t endorsed him.  He doesn’t need anybody’s endorsement.  He’s “not going to do cartwheels” to get anyone’s endorsement.

He “look[s] forward to sending his first batch of earmarks to John McCain, and I dare him to veto it.”  Young loves earmarks and thinks that any member of congress who isn’t out to get lots of earmarks isn’t doing his/her job.

His question to Ethan Berkowitz?  How would you face up to Nancy Paloosi [sic] regarding energy issues and drilling?   Berkowitz responded that energy issues shouldn’t be partisan and that he would be an Alaskan congressman and represent the issues of Alaska.  Don didn’t like that answer.  “That’s just words!  You would have voted with her!”  Then looking at the audience, “He will do what she says to do!”

Hoooo.  Don Young has some major hangups with “Paloosi”.

Berkowitz was good the rest of the time.  He spoke up about alternative energy, no child left behind, hope and optimism.  When asked if he supported Palin, he responded he was supporting “Barack Obama and Tina Fey” which left out some of the AARP crowd who was hosting the debate.  He did get sporadic applause, but there was a noticeable lack of any kind of applause for Don Young.

Whichever political leanings the audience had, nobody was unsure of where the candidates stood, and no one left wondering which way to vote.





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…





Operation Chaos, Alaskan Style.

26 08 2008

Remember Rush Limbaugh’s “Operation Chaos” where Republicans were instructed to switch over to the Democratic ballot in open primary states, and cast votes for Clinton? The idea was that Clinton would be easier to beat than Obama in the general election. Reports were mixed, but thousands of Republicans pulled the switcheroo just to stack the deck.

So, this morning, after voting, I asked my significant other, “So, who did you vote for?” I said this half-joking, knowing what the answer would be. Or so I thought. The answer came with a smile: “Don Young.”

I had to take the Democratic ballot, but my sneaky better half is a Non-partisan, chose the Republican ballot, and pulled the Progressive version of Operation Chaos. Recent polls show Ethan Berkowitz and Sean Parnell as a close match up. In the Don Young/Ethan Berkowitz match up, Young goes down like a bag of dirt.

I wonder how many others thought this through and did the same thing? A tip of the hat to you evil genius non-partisan Progressives out there. Go Don!!!

UPDATE:  It looks like those Operation Chaos folks may actually come into play in this race!  At Election Central the race has been neck & neck all night.  At one point only 4 votes separated the candidates.  It’s almost 2am Alaska time and right now Sean Parnell leads by less than 300 votes.  We’ll find out tomorrow.  I’ll post the results in the morning in addition to photos etc. from the evening’s festivities.





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!