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Friday, January 28, 2022

Good Guys on Fire; Bad Guys Face Plant


The press called the special election attempting to recall Anchorage Assembly member Meg Zaletel a “proxy battle” and it was – between those who support and respect good governance in the face of adversity, and the anti-science bullying mob that took over the Assembly chambers earlier this month. 

An emergency mask mandate put forward by Zaletel enraged the anti-mask, anti-vax crowd. They tried, with the assistance of Eagle River Assembly member Jamie Allard to draw out testimony day after day, but ultimately failed. They tried Nazi arts and crafts in the Assembly chambers, diminishing the Holocaust by likening mask wearing to the extermination of Jews.

[photo from @HrrrlScouts on Twitter]

They tried knocking on doors in midtown, they tried sending really bad and misleading mailers. They even brought back the creepy election spy-mobile so they could sit inside with binoculars trying to find “fraud” where ballots were dropped off. They tried to build up excitement by calling the race “razor-close.” It all failed.

👀 👀 👀

Anchorage volunteers saw exactly what was happening. They phone banked, they knocked doors, they educated midtown residents, and they refused to be silenced by the bullies.

And now the results are in – Zaletel emerged victorious in a landslide – a heartening result for those who were starting to feel that the loud and hostile voices were taking over Anchorage. The Anchorage we love is still there.


But don’t get complacent. Anchorage Municipal elections are happening in April, and the anti-Zaletel mob is now throwing their support behind her opponent Kathy Henslee. Other Assembly races will be up as well, and there will be a concerted effort to replace current members with regressive conservative candidates. 


It’s easy to forget that there’s a fourth special session happening in Juneau. Gov. Dunleavy, in a fruitless attempt to dole out a supersized PFD and starve vital state services in the process is having no success. But we knew there would be no supersized PFD when he campaigned on it three years ago. Remember that $6700 he promised? Well, it was enough to get him elected but then the hard part started.

About the only useful thing that’s happened is that the newly-minted House Ways & Means committee under the leadership of Rep. Ivy Spohnholz (D-Anchorage) did the work and told us what we suspected – we either get basic services, or we get the giant pfd. Since Republicans have made it abundantly clear that they aren’t willing to fairly tax oil companies, here we are. 

Other than that, the fourth and final (Dunleavy said he won’t call a fifth) special session has only served to drive a wedge further between the regular Republicans and the far-right Republicans leaving us to wonder when, if ever, a bipartisan coalition between regular Republicans and Democrats in the Senate will undo the gridlock and allow government to function again.

The session will end on Tuesday. Republican Finance Chair Bert Stedman had this to say​ about the governor’s ham-fisted maneuvering to Alaska’s News Source.

Dunleavy, like most lawmakers, has not been in the Capitol for most of the fourth special session. He wasn’t in Juneau for the majority of the third one, either. Longtime legislative staff say that’s unusual, particularly if the governor is seriously interested in seeing meaningful reform.

That leaves a clear explanation for Stedman why this special session was called in the first place.

“It’s politics, it’s election-year campaigning,” he said.


[“Just.Dave.” and Gov. Dunleavy when they tried this before, in 2019]

A round of applause for veteran journalist Dermot Cole who is on fire this week and continues to look unflinchingly at the Dunleavy train wreck, including the latest attempt to campaign on the state’s dime. This time it’s a gubernatorial podcast called “First Hand” which features talking points, spin, and now outright falsehoods from the mouth of the governor himself, spurred on by a former radio talk show host who was hired for six figures by the administration after sufficiently fawning over candidate Dunleavy.

The podcast features Stieren “interviewing” Dunleavy who then proceeds to insult legislators, complain, and blame everyone else for his own leadership failures. The weird faux interview is reminiscent of the time Dunleavy was “interviewed” by a random curious kid who it was discovered later was the son of Kelly and Nikki Tshibaka, who both worked in Dunleavy’s administration.

Here’s a taste of the podcast from Dermot Cole on his pull-no-punches Twitter: 🔥

And then during work hours on the state’s dime, a response…

Perhaps someone should inform the “Communications and Community Outreach Director” that Dermot Cole has been communicating and outreaching to the community in Alaska for more than 40 years as a distinguished reporter, award-winning columnist, and renowned Alaska author. 

Protip to “Just. Dave.”: Telling everyone you don’t know who Dermot Cole is, is NOT a brag.


Representative David Eastman (R-Wasilla), the most divisive figure in the House, has done it again. He’s got a long list of jaw-dropping votes, and statements to his credit including his latest link to a Hitler speech on a Holocaust denial website (which he says was accidental yet never took down), and he’s been traveling all over the country – from the Capitol in DC on January 6, to the bogus Maricopa County Arizona election audit, to the My Pillow guy convention which he said would prove that Trump is still President. 

SPOILER: He’s not.

Now it’s revealed that during a recent hack and release of data from The Oathkeepers, Rep. Eastman made an appearance. He’s not only a lifetime member of the organization at the center of some of the worst events on January 6, he has doubled down saying he’s proud of the affiliation even after the insurrection. This has rankled fellow West Point graduate Ivan Hodes, an Anchorage resident who has started an online petition to ask the House to remove him from his seat for violating the Alaska Constitution which states in Article XII, Section 4:

“No person who advocates, or who aids or belongs to any party or organization or association which advocates, the overthrow by force or violence of the government of the United States or of the State shall be qualified to hold any public office of trust or profit under this constitution.”

He plans to hand-deliver the petition to House Speaker Louise Stutes showing broad condemnation from Alaskans across the state, fellow veterans, and in Eastman’s home district.


Speaking of the January 6 insurrection, Sarah Palin’s former personal attorney (her Rudy Giuliani, if you will) Thomas Van Flein is now the Chief of Staff for Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Arizona). Gosar and Van Flein are implicated in planning and coordinating some of the events on January 6, and Van Flein is said to have been working with the White House on providing “blanket immunity” for any illegal acts they might commit on the day. For more on that click HERE.


It’s hard to keep track of the revolving door and hinky shenanigans in Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson’s administration these days.

News came of several more members of the administration who have jumped ship, been fired, or filed lawsuits this week.

Dr. John Morris, the city’s anesthesiologist-turned-homeless coordinator has resigned after a brief four-month stint. The Daily News reports:

“Other Bronson administration officials working on homelessness issues have resigned or been fired recently. Last week Shawn Hays, the city’s mass care branch chief, was fired. Bob Doehl, a city official who’d previously overseen the Sullivan Arena shelter, resigned.

“Hays was fired Oct. 20, the same day the Daily News published the account of a man whose daughter found him incoherent and severely ill at the shelter in early October.”

Also, former Bronson campaign super-volunteer Stephanie Williams who became the Director of Boards and Commissions has stepped down.

Check out those social media posts at The Blue Alaskan blog HERE.

Then there’s Clifford Armstrong III, Anchorage’s Chief Equity officer whom Bronson appears to have illegally fired.

Clifford Armstrong III

From Alaska’s News Source:“Before he was fired, Armstrong said, he had given a draft of his equity report to a handful of people in the Bronson administration. He said he found disparities in hiring and promotions and low levels of people with disabilities, veterans, people of color and women being hired.”

City code states the “chief equity officer may be dismissed by the mayor only for cause shown, and only with the concurrence of a majority of the assembly.”

No cause was shown, and the Assembly did not concur. So now the Assembly has given the mayor a deadline to explain the firing, which they do not view as legal. They are considering legal action.

And finally, there’s the case of the firing of whistleblower Christina Hendrickson, Bronson’s former Real Estate Director, and the attempted installation of Jim Winegarner to that role. Hendrickson filed a whistle-blower complaint to the Assembly detailing all kinds of code violations with how Winegarner was hired, what he was doing, and how he was getting paid. You can read all the details on that HERE. After blowing said whistle, Hendrickson was summarily fired and Winegarner was put in her place. 

Last night the Assembly voted against his confirmation, and Hendrickson is suing Bronson for her illegal firing.“…when you dismiss someone like myself or Clifford Armstrong who bring employment matters into question, and try to get clarity on them,” Hendrickson said, “if that’s what’s out in the public and that’s what’s known, and yet you shut everyone else up because you fired those two, what are you not hearing about?”

We can only imagine what next week will bring.


And in the middle of all the political turmoil, in the run up to 2022, and with a new system of ranked choice voting on the table, we also have to contend with redistricting. Basically what this means is that they Etch-a-Sketch all the political boundaries and start again, trying to draw districts that are as compact as possible, contiguous, reflect populations with similar socio-economic ties, and contain 18,300 people. Tetris on steroids.

If the final map is found to run afoul of the Constitution (like it did 10 years ago) there will be lawsuits and redrawn districts. If it doesn’t, then we’ll have a new map on November 10.

You can find out all the details and view the maps under consideration at the Alaska Redistricting website HERE

There will be a statewide call-in to testify on October 30, 10am-4pm. Details HERE

You can submit your written testimony HERE (which you should do even if you go to a meeting in person, or call in. Written testimony is guaranteed to be part of the record).


Halloween is not the only scary thing in our future. This seems like an opportune moment to give you a heads up about the far-right’s master plan for recreating the state in an image most of us will find truly terrifying. I speak of the Constitutional Convention. Every 10 years, the question is on the ballot – a simple yes or no – shall we have a constitutional convention?

But what it means for our lives is anything but simple. A constitutional convention means the worst of Pandora’s box, and a giant can of worms. Everything will be on the table – our rights to privacy, our near-incorruptible judicial system, marriage equality, abortion, all of it. 


Alaska’s constitution is a paragon which is used as a template for democratic institutions around the world. And we do have mechanisms in place that allow us to amend it if we want to. But they require a high threshold, which is as it should be. A strong and stable constitution serves us well, and if the fringe elements of political power in the state can get their fingers in that pie, well…

So, keep alert, and listen carefully to what the governor says, and what far-right Republicans say – how nothing is working the way they want, and we need to “fix” the constitution to make it “better.” Because it’s coming, it’s existential, and it will require us to fight hard to protect what we have.

Let’s wrap up with a gigantic congratulations to the newly-minted Fairbanks Assembly who were sworn in this week – former Rep. David Guttenberg, Savannah Fletcher, and Kristan Kelly. Hard work, community engagement, and donors and volunteers like YOU make the difference and win seats. Fairbanks Rep. Grier Hopkins (D) was there.

This article was reposted with permission from the Alaska Democratic Party.



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