OPINION: Dems’ blue wave hits red brick wall in Alaska
Most situations in life can be summed up by a quote from Seinfeld or Yogi Berra, and Election Night 2018 was no exception.
One from Berra captures it nicely: “It’s getting late early.”
After holding high aspirations of defeating Mike Dunleavy following incumbent Gov. Bill Walker’s decision to drop out and throw his support behind Mark Begich, and teased by polling and fundraising into thinking political neophyte Alyse Galvin had a chance of knocking off 23-term incumbent and Dean of the U.S. House Don Young, Democrat hopes were dashed almost immediately.
The first set of results gave the Republican Dunleavy a lead of about 6,500; Young led by more than 4,000 and Begich-endorsed Ballot Measure 1, aka Stand for Salmon, trailed by 19,000.
Berra also once said, “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.”
Well, it was over.
After the first round of returns it was only a matter of how large the final margins would be, and whether Republicans could retake the majority in the state House after a two-year hiatus in the minority while a Democrat-led coalition aided by RINOs Paul Seaton, Louise Stutes and Gabrielle LeDoux pushed for higher taxes on oil and new taxes on income.
At the end of the night it appears the GOP will indeed claim House majority status in Juneau after all its incumbents won, Seaton was defeated soundly by Sarah Vance and coalition member Jason Grenn, an Anchorage independent, was unseated by Sara Rasmussen thanks in part to the presence of perennial candidate Dustin Darden pulling nearly 800 votes on the District 22 ballot.
The night was essentially a clean sweep other than the still uncertain outcome in Senate District A in Fairbanks where Senate President Pete Kelly, the Republican incumbent, leads by just 11 votes over his Democrat challenger Rep. Scott Kawasaki, whose vacated seat seems headed to Republican control in a major flip for the party with a win by Barton LeBon.
While national Democrats celebrated taking over the U.S. House of Representatives and President Donald Trump happily endorsed Republican punching bag Nancy Pelosi for Speaker of the House, the blue party took a shellacking in Alaska.
Begich, apparently so stunned by how badly he was beaten by Dunleavy, took no calls on Election Night and as of 10 a.m. on Nov. 7 still hadn’t issued a statement on his Facebook, Twitter or official campaign pages, the latter of which still touts his lead in the Alaska Survey Research poll by Ivan Moore as his most recent post.
The former Anchorage mayor and single-term U.S. senator who was defeated by current Sen. Dan Sullivan in 2014 is largely regarded as a pretty smooth politician, but there can be no doubt he miscalculated terribly by jumping on the Stand for Salmon bandwagon while it was still a three-way race for governor.
In a political move so transparent it would attract bird strikes, Begich’s attempt to draw votes from Walker, who opposed the measure, backfired spectacularly.
With a margin of nearly 21,000 votes and 98 percent of precincts in, the outcome for governor may have been a foregone conclusion regardless, but it became inevitable when the once reliably pro-resource development Begich turned off so many potential supporters with his position on Stand for Salmon.
Nor did it help that Begich was in favor of taxing all of Alaskans in order to extract some revenue from a couple thousand out-of-state North Slope workers.
One thing slightly less short-lived than Begich’s campaign was the House bipartisan coalition that must be the briefest in Alaska history.
We’re a long way from the gleeful press conference Nov. 9, 2016, when the majority caucus was announced.
Since then, the “Wack Pack” of Reps. Dean Westlake, Zach Fansler and Justin Parrish are all out after a series of transgressions ranging from sexual harassment to assault against women in Juneau; and the basically unflappable Rep. Sam Kito quit the caucus late in this past session after growing sick of LeDoux’s high-handed rule over the Rules Committee.
While there may be a place for Stutes in the to-be-formed GOP House majority, LeDoux should find herself in the wilderness after finally burning a bridge or two too many.
Alaskans chose a clear path on Election Day, and for the candidates from Dunleavy to Vance the easy part is over.
Delivering, as the Democrats found out, is a much tougher task.
Andrew Jensen can be reached at [email protected].