Paul Jenkins: Tuesday's election was an exercise in anger and greed

commentApril 6, 2013 

As perhaps one of the strangest elections in the city's history, one fueled by unabashed anger and shameless greed, fades in the rearview mirror, there remains a carload of prickly unanswered questions -- and maybe an unfortunate answer or two.

The city's public employees unions -- furious at Mayor Dan Sullivan and the Assembly majority for rewriting Anchorage's labor ordinance and stripping them of power -- poured cash and effort into this past election as payback.

When the dust settled, they had come within a whisper of changing the Assembly from a relatively conservative body that generally supports Sullivan into one that could have repealed the ordinance and made his political life akin to the ninth circle of hell.

Despite an obvious question -- "Could Sullivan have handled the labor ordinance any worse?" -- there are a host of others.

How many Assembly races, for instance, have a United States senator - especially a liberal Democrat facing re-election in a red state and pretending to be a gun-lovin', penny-pinchin' Republican -- pitching support and making robocalls for a kid candidate who I suspect politically is somewhere left of Ché Guevara?

The election featured a disappointing loss, Assemblywoman Cheryl Frasca, and a happy addition, Amy Demboski, but the body, politically anyway, remains about the same. The unexpectedly pivotal Assembly race, it turns out, pitted Assembly Chairman Ernie Hall -- blissfully running unopposed in West Anchorage -- against upstart Nick Moe, who jumped in to challenge him with a write-in candidacy only a week or two before the election.

Labor targeted Hall for co-sponsoring Sullivan's labor rewrite. Unions swarmed to help Moe, who dropped a welcome gift in their laps -- a nifty way to mine the widespread anger at Sullivan and the Assembly -- and possibly unseat Hall. Even Sen. Mark Begich joined the stampede.

The Left fell in love with Moe. A Daily News columnist gushed, "It's refreshing to watch a person run for office who isn't ossified or beholden. . . ." Good grief. Not beholden? All that union help is without strings?

The working meme is that Moe was so distraught by the Assembly's cutoff of labor ordinance testimony that he decided to stand up for the First Amendment. Unmentioned in the fairy tale is that nearly 300 people had testified in four, five-hour public hearings when the incessant yakking mercifully was shut down and that the endless testimony -- a transparent ruse to delay an ordinance vote -- was monotonously repetitive.

Moe, now 26 -- Begich's age when he was elected to the Assembly -- once organized for Occupy Anchorage and now works for the Alaska Center for the Environment. He ran for mayor in 2006 against, of all people, Begich -- winning 2.48 percent of that vote. Begich hired him.

You have to ask: Why would Begich gamble political capital to help Moe in a long-shot Assembly race with an iffy outcome? After all, if Begich is anything, he is calculating, and this will be ammunition in next year's Senate race.

If Moe bombs -- and he likely will because early and absentee voters did not even know he was running -- how does that help Begich? People might question his juice, and how does he talk about Alaska's economic future and then explain supporting Moe, who works for an organization unfriendly to development and could not care less about Alaska's economy or jobs. Was it sop for the unions? For greenies? Was it just dumb? For a guy trying to walk like a Republican, Begich's supporting Moe says, "Hey, look, I'm a liberal Democrat."

The unions are not giving up and are pushing for a referendum to repeal the ordinance. As for Moe, he simply says he will work with anybody -- except me, apparently. Getting a straight answer out of him was nearly impossible. "I'm not going to talk to someone who wants to tear down what we did," he said, deflecting my questions about his politics.

Perhaps the real question is not about Moe, Begich or Sullivan; perhaps it is about us and why we vote the way we do. Can we be hustled because of anger? Are we willing to vote for somebody we know so little about simply to make a point? Then, there are questions about union clout and political stupidity and money and where this city is heading.

This is certain: unabashed anger and shameless greed will lead us to ruin.

If this election shows anything, it shows we are on our way.

Paul Jenkins is editor of the

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