23 November 2006

At what cost? Part II

When I asked a few days ago, what the cost of the cross-party majority in the senate was, I mostly focused on what it meant for Democratic-leaning folks to trade having Bert Stedman as Finance co-chair and Lyda Green as senate president for a few committee chairmanships.

But the more I think about it, the more I think it's the Republicans who are getting the raw end of this deal. Now that Joe Thomas has joined the majority, it's basically the Democrats, plus a few Republicans, who are running the senate, not, as I had originally seen it, Republicans and a few Democrats. It's Lyda Green who's selling her soul to get the job she's always wanted and Democrats freely taking it because of the power it brings with it.

Surely the Republican party doesn't like this. Surely the left-in-the-cold Republican senators are going to say, "Wait a sec - why don't we caucus together, elect Lyda president ourselves, and keep the committee chairmanships." If Green is going to be president regardless, why not have her be elected by a Republican majority? Surely Gary Wilken can see that it's better to have Green as president and himself as Finance co-chair than it is for Green to be president and himself not to be Finance co-chair.

The sticking point here is the strength of the deal between Green and the Democrats. If made such an offer, could Green just walk away from the majority she's already constructed and return to the Republican fold?

22 November 2006

The Rule of 21 and 11

During the campaign, I seem to recall soon-to-be former Representative Jim Holm saying that the only numbers that mattered in Juneau were 21 and 11 - the number of votes needed to pass legislation in the House and the Senate, respectively. He used the line as a reason Fairbanksans should vote Republican, to keep Fairbanks well-represented in the capitol. Soon-to-be former Senator Ralph Seekins made a similar argument.

Isn't it rich then that Gary Wilken and Gene Therriault now find themselves in the minority in Juneau and completely at a loss as to what to do with themselves? They've realized that senators can count to 11 and not even need to rely on Fairbanks at all (welcome to the world of bush Alaskans, folks). You can tell from the articles in the News-Miner that they're just sort of stunned at what happened, at how quickly the rug was pulled out from underneath them.

There's strong parallels in this situation to a Greek tragedy, I think (not to stretch any analogy too far or anything). The hubris of candidates (thinking only Republicans can represent the party well), followed by the first fall (the election results), followed by the final fall (getting shut out of the senatorial majority). Will there be any saving grace here for Fairbanks?

18 November 2006

At what cost?

I am surprised as anyone that Lyda Green has apparently landed in the Senate President's seat. If anything, I would have thought it would be Gene Therriault who would reach out to the Democrats and form a coalition.

On the one hand, it's easy to see how this is a good deal for everyone involved. Lyda Green gets the chair she has always coveted and Democrats get a legitimate say over the legislation that flows through the committees. It's great that a rural lawmaker is co-chairing the Senate Finance committee, particularly if the price of oil stays low(er) and senators start thinking they need to cut spending. The anti-rural duo of Con Bunde and Gary Wilken are out of the majority, praise the Lord, and able to do less damage.

But what's the cost for this deal?

  • Lyda Green is Senate President. As the ADN editorial board pointed out the other day, she has been acting out of some curious beliefs about the Alaska constitution.
  • Bert Stedman is co-chair of the Senate Finance committee. With all due respect, I'm not sure this is the best choice. This is the guy who toed the party line on that horrendous property tax exemption for the Anchorage church that Ben Stevens wanted and forced it through. I've never sensed much gravitas or "with-it-ness" in Stedman, unlike Gary Wilken, in whom I sense marginally more.
One might say that if it puts straight-thinking Democrats in charge of the committees, that can justify almost any cost. It make sense that a former prosecutor - Hollis French - should chair the Judiciary Committee, not a car salesman - Ralph Seekins.

But what happens when the Democrats try to take a look at the Tier IV system for PERS and TRS? It's well-known they want to revise it and/or abolish it. But Stedman and Green are already on record as supporting the current system. With the huge rate increase, municipalities and school districts are not going to let this issue slip to the background next session so at some point this new majority is going to have to address the gaping divide between the two sides.

At least it'll make for an interesting system. I don't know that it lasts though.

17 November 2006


So I was reading about the governor's press conference yesterday in which he touted the new fiscal interest findings on the gas pipeline and seemed perplexed as to why lawmakers won't just pass the thing and was shocked to read he'd made some changes:

Some of Murkowski's proposed changes:

• Taxes: Freeze oil taxes for 15 years instead of 30 years; freeze gas taxes for 25 years instead of 45 years.

• Work commitments: Incorporate a project timetable into the contract.

• Alaska hire: Require a project labor agreement that includes provisions promoting Alaska hire and establishing hiring halls in rural and urban Alaska; require an agreement with Canada on a cross-border labor agreement.

• State oversight: Give the state Legislature the right to deny contract changes affecting taxes, royalties and the pipeline route.

These are pretty substantial alterations to the contract - particularly the length of the tax freeze and the timetable - and address a lot of issues that have been raised during this debate.

My question is - do the energy companies agree? And can the governor just change the terms of the contract in response to public comment to make it seem more appealing to the public and the legislature? When did all this additional negotiation between the two sides take place that produced these changes?

Of course, unilateralism would be nothing new for this governor. It's just the energy companies and not, say, elders, city governments, or the legislature that's on the short end of the stick now.

'Litigious North America"

In an interesting twist on the ongoing debate in Nome over the Rock Creek mine that's being built just north of town, three Nome citizens have filed suit against the Army Corps of Engineers to get them to do an environmental impact study. (Listen to APRN's Alaska News Nightly tonight for more, if you're interested.)

What I found interesting was a comment NovaGold president Rick van Nieuwenhuyse made in a conference call this morning. He sought to the minimize the suit, saying it was just three people and is what you often see from "citizen groups" in "litigious North America."

It's interesting because one of the main arguments Nova is making as it fends off a hostile takeover bid from Barrick Gold Corporation is that its prospects are worth so much more because they're in a "geopolitically stable" part of the world. I take it that means we're a place that has a clear and distinct regulatory process, property ownership, and citizens who won't rebel (violently) against mine plans.

Of course, as Nova is now finding out, the problem with "geopolitically stable" parts of the world is that we also have the rule of law. And now that stability is rearing its head.

16 November 2006

the Dying of the Light

As I watch Governor Murkowski hold press conference after press conference, release the fiscal interest findings on the gas pipeline deal, call the legislature into special session, travel to Asia, and generally do everything he possibly can to remind us of what he failed to do during his term in office, I am reminded of Dylan Thomas' words:

Do not go gentle into that good night
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light
One of my favorite lines from another stanza is "Though wise men at their end know dark is right." The governor just clearly can't see that he needs to embrace his lame-duckedness. "Raving" it is. The news flow is stronger for it.

I'm online!

Check it out - I'm a teacher!

(Thank goodness that class is over - so much work!)

15 November 2006

Off the mark

Senators Bert Stedman and Lyda Green miss the mark when talking about the unfunded liability in PERS and TRS:

Simply put, public employers (the state, city governments and school districts) are $8.6 billion behind in setting aside money that they’ll need to pay for the pension and medical benefits of their employees.
What this fails to recognize is that the reason public employers are behind is that the state has been telling them for the past several years to pay less than the actuaries have recommended. For instance, in Nome, the school district was supposed to pay 23 percent last year but the state system told them to pay about 20.

Then, there's another problem:
By raising employer contribution rates, the board is putting the funding problem squarely where it belongs — with employers.
This is true - the employers are responsible (at least in my value system) for ensuring the retirements of their employers. But just who are the employers? Public employees work for the public, you and me and we elect lawmakers to represent us and make big decisions. So Stedman's and Green's clever little attempt to evade responsibility for all this either ends up falling back on us or on them (or both). It does not free them of any responsibility for the problem.

But the most specious part comes at the end:

Without question, the most significant thing the Legislature has done to slow the growth of our unfunded liability and to reduce the volatility of future costs is to establish a 401(k)-style, defined-contribution plan for new public employees. We simply can’t continue the generous retirement benefits embedded in our current PERS and TRS tiers, nor can we put new employees into an already underfunded plan.

But to imply, as some have, that cutting off new employees from the existing tiers makes the problem worse is simply not true. Employee contributions have zero impact on the liability, regardless of the plan they participate in. Employers will always bear the full responsibility for paying off the $8.6 billion liability, and the state has some responsibility to help.

How can they possibly argue that "employee contributions have zero impact on liability"? That is cool, hard cash flowing into a system that needs it to pay retired folks. Cutting off that source of income reduces the amount of money PERS and TRS has to make their payouts and puts the system in worse shape. When you've got a mammoth deficit, it doesn't make sense to cut off a source of revenue.

Yes, "employers will always bear the full responsibility for paying off" the liability but those employers are the people ourself. When they say "the state has some responsibility to help," it's an evasion of their responsibility.

And Lyda Green thinks she should be president of the senate?

14 November 2006

Getting very near the end

For the most part, I'd say that press releases from Governor Murkowski's office have been fairly mundane and serious affairs. So I was shocked (and pleased) to read the latest, an update on the special session that can't quite get started.

Snow Job in Juneau: No Special Session Start Today Legislators Find Way to Juneau Fraught With Peril… or a Blizzard (Juneau) — Governor Frank H. Murkowski released the following statement today upon learning that the fourth special session of the 24th Alaska Legislature was delayed at least a day due to inclement weather in Southeast Alaska, pushing back the timetable for lawmakers to take up the issue of providing same-sex partner benefits to state employees:

“I have contacted Allen Marine Services to charter a vessel to carry the roughly 20 legislators holding in Sitka, but they tell me the seas are too high. Next, we went to the Alaska Marine Highway Service to inquire about ferry service from Sitka. The 42-year old ferry M/V Taku is Scheduled to depart Sitka at 10:00 a.m. Tuesday morning, which would put it into Juneau around 11:00 p.m. Tuesday night. But that would only leave me with the alternative of considering a joint legislative address at 11:01 p.m., which even I admit is bordering on cruel and unusual punishment....

We are exploring all options this afternoon of getting lawmakers to Juneau – even considering calling the U.S. Coast Guard about employing a Cutter to provide more timely transportation....

“We are to some degree caught between the Supreme Court and the Supreme Being.”
The real snow job has been the Murkowski administration.

I think I actually laughed out loud when I read this... and then preceded to use the "Supreme Court and Supreme Being" line all morning long in my newscasts.

The governor's press office - nothing to lose and looking for new jobs in any field.


I don't think the ADN knows what they're doing but they've inadvertently published a fascinating series of articles on the relationship between Alaska natives and resource development.

First, there was an interesting look at the Donlin Creek mine and Barrick's apparently stellar record of attracting and retaining Alaska natives (though the numbers in the piece are entirely from Barrick, it appears):

This year, Barrick doubled the Donlin workforce to 214 employees. The company also set a goal of doubling exploration drilling, to 275,000 feet.

Both goals were daunting, said Bill Bieber, operations manager for Barrick.

But Barrick preserved Placer's local-hire track record, Bieber announced Thursday to an audience of more than 100 gathered at the Alaska Miners Association's week-long convention in Anchorage.

Then, there was the lengthy look at offshore drilling and whaling and how the two co-exist or don't.

The loss of land previously available for subsistence hunting, with the impact of industrial noise on offshore hunting, form two issues causing unease about the oil industry among North Slope communities.

And an increasing volume of offshore exploration activity in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas off the northern coast is adding significantly to that unease.

There was also the report on Alaska native corporations and their dramatically increased revenues.

Alaska's Native corporations are casting a long shadow over Alaska's big business scene.

A spate of reports and statistics published this year show increasing dominance by Native corporations in the last few years.

None of this is particularly new, of course, but the delicate balance in Alaska native communities between development and traditional ways of life is largely under-reported.

As I read the situation, there's a strong strand of thought that Alaska natives should retain and return to the subsistence way of life that has characterized their culture for generations. Then there's the strand of thought that urges responsible resource development and the jobs and revenue that come with it. That after all, is the only "productive" way (in an economic sense) to use the land the native corporations have.

The two strands of thought are not mutually exclusive but they start running into each other when resources are found in good hunting lands or when some people look forward to the paycheque that comes from a resource development job rather than the opportunity to go hunting.

As a non-native, I'll never be able to fully and truly appreciate the deep connection Alaska natives have to their land and their way of life... but I can at least appreciate the terms of the debate, a debate that is frequently overlooked by those of us in the (predominantly non-native) media.

13 November 2006

Changing the terms

I hope people in Nome make hay out of this story:

The owners of the Fort Knox gold mine want to cut costs and extend the mine's life up to five years by using cyanide heap leaching.
(This is not new news as I had heard about this from some state regulators a few months back but a prominent story in the ADN has a way of focusing the public's attention.)

It should attract attention from people in Nome because Fort Knox and Nome's much smaller Rock Creek mine are similar operations. Fort Knox has been using - I believe - the cyanide vat leaching proposed at Rock Creek for the life of the mine. In fact, Rock Creek's owners have pointed to Fort Knox as a successful example of the kind of mining they want to bring to the Seward Peninsula.

The question is, will Rock Creek follow Fort Knox's example and reach a point where they just "have to" to go to heap leaching to keep the mine viable? Once a mine is in place I imagine it's a lot easier to change the permits to allow heap leaching than it is to get the permits for it in the first place. And I imagine that if mine owners know there is more gold in the ground that they can't get at with vat leaching, they're not likely to turn their backs and leave the gold in the ground, particularly when they know they can get at it with a slightly altered process.

I don't know enough about mining to make a determination as to whether or not heap leaching is all that dangerous but I do know that this strikes me as a bait-and-switch. That's what's of concern.

So what will the anti-cyanide forces in Nome do now?

10 November 2006

Alright children, you've had your fun

The Fairbanks City Council is playing daddy. The voters had their fun in October, passing initiatives that slashed property taxes and put off consideration of a sales tax, but now someone actually needs to fill that gaping hole in the budget.

It seems like the City Council has made a good faith effort to do so but no one really seems to like all the new taxes they're proposing to fill the whole. What a surprise! So now the City Council is asking the voters to reconsider the whole slashing property taxes idea.

Sigh... see what happens when we let voters run wild?

09 November 2006

The maverick becomes the establishment

To state the obvious, Sarah Palin's problem now is governing. As an outsider, she's consistently and consciously rejected the brain trust of the Republican party that any other inexperienced governor-elect would have available. The challenge for her now is that she has to maintain her independence and maverick status and yet assemble a team of experienced people who will help her achieve her goals.

She took a solid step towards that with the appointment of Craig Tibbles as the head of her transition team. The guy just screams "establishment": worked for Frank Murkowski, the embodiment of the Republican establishment for the last two and a half decades and worked for John Binkley, the heir apparent to Murkowski (apparent to everyone except Murkowksi himself). His job is to convince his establishment pals to unite behind Palin and take jobs in the administration and to show Palin the ropes of governing.

Now the maverick needs to either a) make nice with the establishment or b) become the establishment. But with Randy Ruedrich apparently not going anywhere and Palin not changing her opinion of him, this could be quite the interesting story to follow.

08 November 2006

Minority Leader

When it comes to Alaskan politics, I find the legislature far more interesting than the governor (though that may be because the governor was so weak this last year).

I was intrigued, thus, by the strong (and surprising) results posted by the Democratic party last night - three seat pick-ups in the House, one in the Senate, and not even close races in the races that were seen to be closely-contested, particularly in Anchorage.

(Of course, I can't be satisfied: I would trade all of last night's results - including Ralph Seekins' defeat - if Con Bunde had lost... just like I am willing to trade all the nationwide results for George Allen's defeat. I am sure that Con Bunde is a great person and a smart lawmaker but he just keeps proposing ideas that are so dangerous to the Bush that I'd rather he be in a place where he can do less damage, i.e. not the legislature.)

In the spirit of (completely amateur) legislature-watching, I am curious to see who emerges as the new leaders of the respective chambers.

My hope (and that is all it is) is that Mary Kapsner - Alaska native, rural-oriented, well-spoken - emerges as Ethan Berkowitz's replacement as minority leader in the House. I'm aware it may well not happen - I wouldn't be surprised if Beth Kertulla got the job - but it'd sure be great if she did.
In the Senate, I think Gene Therriault will return as president.

And (here's another hope), I'm sure Johnny Ellis is a great person but I'd really like to Hollis French as Senate minority leader. I find him to be the most compelling Democratic senator.

UPDATE: The House Democrats move quickly... and pick a qualified and competent candidate but not the one I wanted.

The fallacy of Tony Knowles

I hope the election results put a definitive end to the Democratic Party's belief in Tony Knowles. Everyone - from Ethan Berkowitz on down - seemed to kow-tow to him as the only person capable of winning a statewide race for the Democrats.

But let's review his history:

  • Lost in 1990;
  • Ever-so-narrowly won a three-way race in 1994;
  • Won in 1998 when he was running against a nutjob;
  • Lost in 2004;
  • Lost convincingly in 2006.
The guy is 2 for 5 in statewide races and 1998 really shouldn't count. He's not a great Democratic party Svengali who has any special insight into the nature of Alaskans or any great crossover appeal.

Alaska is a Republican state and Democrats will always struggle, particularly when they continue to be led by members of their urban intelligentsia, like Berkowitz or Johnny Ellis. I think a lot of Democratic hopes are going to be pinned to Mark Begich in 2010 and I bet he'll run. But I don't give him much of a shot.

UPDATE: I just want to clarify this post, based on some e-mails I've received. My point is not that Berkowitz, Begich, et al. are bad people or have bad ideas. I've never met Begich but I have spoken with Berkowitz several times and came away impressed every time. I'll miss him in the legislature. "Urban intelligentsia" is not a term of derision; indeed, before I moved to Nome (not so urban), I could easily have counted myself among its members.

My point is that I don't think the Democratic Party's route to success lies in nominating candidates from Anchorage. And just because I don't think Mark Begich has much of a shot in 2010 doesn't mean a) I won't vote for or support him or b) I think he's a bad guy. He just might not be the strongest candidate the Democratic party could nominate.


I don't think I voted for a single winner today. That being said, the Alaskan results aren't the end of the world. I look forward to seeing what a Palin administration does for Alaska.

Three promises she made during the campaign I hope Alaskans hold her to:

  • "No more politics as usual"
  • "Positive change"
  • "Bringing all Alaskans together"
Sarah got smoked in Bush Alaska. I hope she doesn't blow us off for her term in office.

07 November 2006


I absolutely love voting and loved casting my ballot this morning. I loved it even more when my friend wrote to me from Guyana, where she recently served as an OAS election observer:

Outfitted with snazzy caps, shirts, and bags, we fanned out with the rest of democracy’s SWAT team into different districts, armed with clipboards and paired up with a partner....

We spent over twenty hours trudging around to a couple dozen polling stations each, battling through heat and torrential downpours, asking questions, asking directions, and filling out our paperwork by the side of the dusty roads. It was a long day, but an incredible one, too.

As an American, I’ve always had certain images of democracy—election year conventions, the League of Women Voters, campaign ads, what have you. But democracy is quite a different picture for me now. Democracy is one hundred and twenty three paper ballots tipped out onto a table with a red-checked cover, in a shabby schoolroom in a poor country, waiting to be counted and added to the grand tally that will decide the next government. Democracy is people with occupations I last saw in a Dickens’ novel or a history of slavery (charwoman, cane cutter) lining up at a quarter to six in the dark, waiting for the sun to come up and the poll to open.

I was humbled. How can we account for not voting? How do you explain to somebody who has stood in line for an hour in the beating sun that in our country, the turnout numbers go down if it drizzles?

I saw two men with filiarsis-swollen legs on Election Day, one of whom I saw cast his ballot. He limped in, his foot and lower leg engorged and infected, and made his mark. And thus became, at least for the moment, not a diseased leper, but an enfranchised elector. Please, cast your vote on Tuesday.

Go vote - not only is it a responsibility and an obligation but it's fun and rewarding!

06 November 2006

(What) Is he thinking?

I am absolutely shocked that Don Young agreed to an 11th-hour "debate" with Diane Benson that was apparently broadcast live on Channel 2.

After taking the wise - though perhaps not democratic-friendly - tack of ignoring her for much of the fall and then only meeting her when she was lumped in with some of the other wingnuts running for the seat, I can't figure out why he chose to meet her the night before, when there is no opportunity for damage control should something go wrong.

Unfortunately, I did not see it and am disappointed by KTUU's dismal summary of the event but it smacks of arrogance mixed with uncertainty, confidence mixed with worry, and bravado mixed with confusion.

Is Don Young worried he might get voted out? After getting over 70-percent in the last few elections, is he really worried about losing or looking bad?

How low will his percentage go? Can Diane actually pull it out? THAT would overshadow the governor's race outcome real quickly.

Does anyone else find it odd...

that the ADN declines to endorse a candidate in the race for U.S. House but then criticizes Don Young for a wide variety of lapses?

And just where does Rep. Young get most of his campaign and political action committee money? From out of state. Nothing illegal about it, and certainly Alaska could benefit from a high-profile elected official popular with Outside decision makers. But it seems that much of Rep. Young's Outside contributions come from recipients of his congressional favor.

Particularly when Don Young has already called you the "Anchorage Daily Screw" what does the ADN have to lose by endorsing Diane Benson? If they don't like Don Young, why not just tell us why (which they did) and then endorse Benson, even though they're convinced she'll lose. Perhaps they have some of the same reservations about her that I do.

I wonder how many Democrats there are out there who are kicking themselves for not running against Young. If the under-funded non-politician from Southeast can pull within 8 points of Young this cycle, imagine what a well-funded, credible politician like Hollis French could have done? Maybe not win, but certainly increase his or her name recognition and set him- or herself up for Young's retirement. Cycles like this one don't come along that often but that wasn't clear when the election cycle began.

Making the gas reserves tax pass

I had a thought while reading about California's Proposition 87 the other day: supporters of Alaska's ballot measure 2 could have ensured overwhelming bush support had they linked the tax revenue to alternative energy research and capitalization. There seems to be so much passion in this region for lowering the price of energy that I think the linkage would have swept away any questions about the natural gas reserves tax.

(Of course, linking revenue and expenditures like that might not be constitutional.)

On another note, the ADN editorial page makes an interesting note about the anti-2 campaign:

Former Enstar exec Tony Izzo, in a TV spot attacking the natural gas reserves tax initiative, claims Measure 2 will raise utility bills in Alaska.
Odd, then, that Enstar is raising its rates in advance of the election.

(A note on the ADN editorial: I appreciate them pointing out where politicians and campaign have veered off the rails in these last weeks but you can tell they feel the need to be even-handed and criticize both sides of an issue, say the measure 2 debate or the gubernatorial race. But that makes for a false equivocation. The RGA's late mailings and Sarah's non-answers are not equivalent to Tony Knowles' apparent anti-female campaign strategies. But the editorial makes them seem so.)

03 November 2006


The Press' sympathetic profile of Andrew Halcro is quite good and got me thinking about the most amazing part of his campaign:

Halcro has also managed to earn respect across the Alaska political spectrum for his courage and his quixotic campaign. Almost everyone but Palin insiders concedes he's been a fresh voice in the gubernatorial debates and a welcome insurgent. Almost everyone, from Republican pollster Dave Dittman, to the Anchorage Daily News, which has endorsed Knowles, to the Voice of The Times, which seemed to swallow hard and then endorse Knowles, to Knowles's own running mate, Ethan Berkowitz, who has served with Halcro in the state House, says Halcro is well informed and should be heard. Of course, almost everyone says that and then, in the next breath, says he has almost no chance of being the state's next governor.
I interviewed Andrew Halcro is late March or early April. I spent a lot of time with him then, asking him a number of questions, not because I thought he had a chance at winning or was even viable but because it was a slow day and he was friendly enough to keep talking. When he left, I thought I'd never hear from him again.

But we shouldn't overlook the magnitude of his accomplishment. He's essentially self-run a campaign that has not only been respectable and non-embarrassing but he has several true Alaskans in Nome at any rate poised to vote for the pretty boy smart kid, which is not an easy accomplishment at all. He's injected several ideas into the debate. He has not, as far as I can tell, compromised his positions or his integrity. And he's raised his profile and made a lot of people think highly of him.

His "Think" slogan was right on. He is unrepentantly smart and has no shame about it. While he hasn't always handled that right, he has raised the level of the conversation and not even once been tempted by the folksy, common-man approach favoured by his competitors.

He may not win but I'd say Andrew Halcro has had a good 2006.


I haven't given much thought to who I'll vote for in the U.S. House of Representatives race, though I've started to think more seriously about it now that Diane Benson is apparently closing in on Don Young. Her latest press release this afternoon has her down 7 points.

I'm not enamoured of Don Young. Sure, his seniority helps Alaska get money but I'm not sure if that's a good enough reason to vote for him. When I interviewed him in March, I was put off by his denial of climate change. His recent comments on Iraq are bizarre, to say the least. He just seems to say what's on his mind and expects Alaskans to re-elect him. That's what I call arrogance. Benson's line, "Alaskans are too old for Young" is powerful.

But I'm not convinced Diane Benson is the right person for the job. When I interviewed her in September, I didn't her a consistent message about why I should vote her - I heard snippets of anti-Young sentiment, opposition to the Iraq war (though little on what should be done), and some talk about the importance of treating veterans right. There was nothing that appealed to me and said "vote for me!"

None of the other candidates appeal to me so I see three options:

  • Write in somebody I think would do a good job as a protest vote.
  • Vote for seniority and stability (even if the candidate ends up in the minority), though I find virtually everything else about the candidate odious.
  • Vote for change and not worry that the change promised by the candidate is either not clear or not relevant.
Though I don't often think this, I think change for change's sake in this case might just be a good enough reason to vote for Diane Benson.

02 November 2006

Talking about issues

We had a great conversation on our call-in show on KNOM this morning about next Tuesday's election - a lot of eloquent voices supporting their favoured candidates and a lot of important issues raised. The support broke mostly for Knowles, not surprisingly, but there were also some compelling statements in favour of Palin and Halcro.

One issue that was raised by a few callers was the lack of issues-based discussion in the waning days of the campaign. A couple of callers said they were sick of seeing the "No on 2" ads, paid for by the oil companies.

I'd like to see more issues-based conversation, too. It's pathetic that the two leading contenders for governor spend an hour together on air and this is the ADN's lead:

With the campaign for governor hurtling toward Election Day on Tuesday, the three leading candidates traded countless accusations and insults in a pair of Anchorage debates Wednesday.
Then, outside of Alaska, there's John Kerry's "botched joke" about education and ending up in Iraq. Just once in my life, rather than seeing Republicans and Democrats criticize Kerry, I'd like someone to stand up and say, "You know, let's look at the demographics for a moment. Our soldiers generally are less educated, less wealthy, and of disproportionately minority backgrounds. That is matter of fact. No one doubts their bravery or their skill but maybe we could broaden the conversation for a moment."

Of course, that would be rational.

01 November 2006

What's he thinking?

I was shaking my head by the time I got to the end of KTUU's profile of Andrew Halcro:

At times during the campaign, Halcro has acknowledged that he's building a base for a second statewide run for office. But this week he's not ruling himself out, saying the last few weeks of candidate forums are showing Alaskans the differences among the candidates.

When pressed to choose among his opponents, Halcro said as much as it pains him, if he weren't running himself, he would support Knowles over Palin. He says Palin brings notes to the candidate forums, but there's nothing substantive in them.

Honestly, why would any candidate admit his current campaign is a stepping-stone for greater ambition? And when did he say he is looking at a second run for statewide office? I've never heard that.

And why even say you support Knowles? I would have declined to answer either question, saying, "I'm running for governor and that's my focus and I'm going to win this race." When you get a question you don't like, deny its premise.

Of course, his "endorsement" of Knowles could give some credence to my earlier theory.