ALASKA PRIMARY ELECTION A BLOODLETTING AMONG REPUBLICANS: The primary election was a bloodletting among Republican leaders, and while Republicans may command House and Senate organizations next year there may not be organizations that prove very functional in key decision-making. There’s still a general election in front of us but the Senate appears to have a likely split of seven Democrats and nine “regular” Republicans, with four Republicans as a part of the present Senate coalition (Stedman, Stevens, von Imhof, and Bishop). The question is what these four choose to do, and if they are brought into the new Republican organization, and on what basis.
The core nine Republicans: The Senate Republican majority at this time (pre-general election) would seem to include: Senators Mia Costello, Anchorage; Josh Revak, Anchorage; Lora Reinbold, Eagle River; Mike Shower, Mat-Su; David Wilson, Mat-Su; Shelley Hughes, Mat-Su; Peter Miccichi, of Kenai; incoming Sen. Robert Meyers of Fairbanks (replacing Sen. Coghill) and incoming Sen. Roger Holland, of Anchorage (replacing Sen. Giessel). What the Senate leadership will really look like is unclear. However, it will likely be linked closely to Gov. Mike Dunleavy and his druthers.
The House could be closely split: In the 40-member House there appears to be a solid core of 17 Democrats and a solid core of 16 Republicans, but with seven members in the middle who were part of the present House coalition or are in races in contest in November. The best that Democrats can do is 20 members, which would leave the House split 20-20.
There are three highly competitive races in the general election: Between Rep. Mel Gillis, R-Anchorage (appointed), in District 25 in mid-town Anchorage, and Democratic challenger Calvin Schrage; a race in Anchorage District 15, where Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux lost to Republican challenger David Nelson. He will face Democrat Frank Lynn in the General Election. This is a toss-up race in a district where turnout is usually very low.
There is also a highly competitive race in East Anchorage District 27 between Republican House Minority Leader Lance Pruitt and Democratic challenger Liz Snyder. In 2018 only 200 votes separated these two. In the primary Pruitt polled 1,919 and Snyder 1,904. There is also a seat left open in District 6, Interior Alaska. There are also several other seats left open in Anchorage due to the defeat of House Coalition Rules Chair Chuck Kopp, a Republican, and that of House Coalition Finance Chair Jennifer Johnston, also a Republican. However, these are likely to be filled by Republicans.
Dunleavy will have his way, maybe!
While we have a general election in front of us, it is likely Gov. Dunleavy will have his way in most cases on legislation. Still, those House and Senate Republicans that survived the bloodletting will have a say, if they wish. Senate survivors have four-year terms in front of them, and House survivors will be up for election in two years as will Gov. Dunleavy.
Organizations tip toward Mat-Su
No doubt House and Senate leaderships will tip toward Mat-Su House and Senate members. Of the nine non-coalition Republican senators four come from the Mat-Su. Practical politics suggests that present House and Senate coalition members will be drawn into the regular Republican majorities, but the question is on what basis.
The rhetoric of the super dividend
In the coming election debates we may hear a lot of rhetoric about the Permanent Fund dividend, the so-called “PFD,” as well as the governor’s super dividend (making up past shortages under the formula). However, this may not fit well with the percentage of market draw (5%) from the unallocated Earnings Reserve of the Permanent Fund. Our appetite for a “pay me now,” dividend and the ability of the Permanent Fund to support both the dividend and public services may be at risk in the decisions of the next two years.
We also face uncertain oil prices, presently lingering in the low-$45/bbl. range in June and July. No one seems to be talking about oil prices, the crash to $16.54/bbl. in April and the fact oil prices really haven’t rebounded. Prices were $65/bbl. a year ago. Our budget issues are complex, not easily discussed in the election dialogue. On the other hand, the dividend is simple: “I want my money”.