Amanda Coyne: Cowbells, rain and drama won't keep politicians from Juneau

Amanda CoyneThe New York Times

It's an unstable world. Couples break up. Friendships die. Stars and governments form and then explode. A vital appendage, the Daily News' Ear, up and falls off on us. But know this: Politicians will always descend on Juneau in January, where rain and sleet greet them, and so does a lonely microphone, just awaiting the speeches of Rep. Les Gara.

And, of course, you can count on drama mounting as the rain continues to fall, as men beat their chests and women weep over education reform, natural gas taxes, cutting out the Department of Revenue's purview over cattle branding.

The latter is a bill by House Speaker Mike Chenault, who got a little write-up in the Washington Post, courtesy of Alaska Robotics, for welcoming the session with a cowbell, or as he put it, a "cow bill." He smiled for the camera. But we all know that Chenault wouldn't mind having a cattle prod or branding iron on hand, particularly as the session heats up.

It all makes you wonder why anybody, particularly the young, would want to get into politics. Maybe it's a desire for conflict and drama, much of which was on display when the Young and the Restless Republicans chose their new officers. To the surprise of some, the once-demure Harmony Shields, staffer to Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux, turned Superwoman and snatched the No. 2 spot from the hands of those who wanted to keep it from her.

Speaking of the young and the restless: Is young Republican Bernadette Wilson, the current talk show host and former party planner for Mayor Dan Sullivan, still seeing Rep. Chris Tuck, who's now the House minority leader?

That isn't a pair you'd put together at a party. But then again, neither in a million years would you put the new Democratic dream candidate, retired Col. Laurie Hummel, Ph.D., with current gun totin' Republican Chickaloon Rep. Eric Feige.

Perhaps you wouldn't put them together because they weren't meant to be together. They've been divorced for something like 18 years now.

Anyway, politicos were all humming about Hummel when she announced last week that she was running against LeDoux for the House seat in East Anchorage. She retired as a colonel in 2012. She's a former West Point professor. She's 53 years old. She wants to help the poor and downtrodden. Perfect.

Eagle-eye Kay Brown, the head of Alaska's Democratic Party, thought so too. When Brown called her, Hummel was like, "no way." Then they met for coffee.

The lesson? When Kay Brown calls, let it ring.

Here's another lesson for all those politicians who have to face unruly audiences: Be nice. It works every time. Case in point, or as Sen. Hollis French would say, par exemple: On Wednesday, Sen. Mark Begich spoke at the Mat-Su Senior Center. Some who drink Valley water were prepared for his visit. Former head of the Conservative Patriots group and prodigious letter writer Mike Coons, as well as a handful of other water drinkers, showed. And they were none too pleased.

After the event, Begich staffer Schawna Thoma approached Coons rather timidly, "Can I get a picture with you?" she asked. "Everyone knows who you are," she said. "You're famous."

After they all left, Coons laughed. "That was really smart," he admitted.

Thumbs up, Thoma.

Speaking of the Senate race: The once-moderate Republican Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell turned Republican-Senate-candidate firebrand has now turned into the "pro-life leader." He put out a campaign video on the 41st anniversary of Roe v. Wade to prove it.

Speaking of videos: Did you happen to catch the now-private video of pro-life U.S. Senate candidate Kathleen Tonn singing in tongues to a woman named Suzie in the steam room at the Alaska Club West? Enough said.

Word is that more than a handful of Gov. Sean Parnell's cabinet members showed for fundraiser for U.S. Senate candidate DNR Dan Sullivan in Juneau on Thursday night.

And for those of you who have written off Joe Miller, don't. Sullivan may have won over some of the state's tie-wearing bureaucrats, but Miller has the Valley water drinkers, who use ties for tourniquets. They're gathering up there. And, as Joe Miller put it to me during a mostly-off-the-record talk, "People are angrier than they were in 2010."

Parnell has never come across as angry, but for a change he actually seemed passionate and resolute in his State of the State speech Wednesday night. Not so much the next day in front of the press corps. About education funding, he said: "Is it a change of position? Of course it is, but that's how governors lead."

Snark-free zone: We're all praying for the speedy recovery of Rep. Charisse Millett and Sen. Fred Dyson, and Jeanne McQueary.

And we'll all miss Rep. Beth Kerttula, who's leaving her job for California soon. In turn, she might miss the rain and sleet in Juneau, the in-fighting and the drama, Gara's speeches and Chenault's cattle prod.

She might even think of uber-Republican Rep. Lora Reinbold with some fondness. (OK, that was a little snarky.)

A change of position? Of course it is, but that's how columnists write. Until next week.

Independent journalist Amanda Coyne writes about Alaska politics on her blog