AD Main Menu

Amanda Coyne: Tempers are flaring in Juneau just in time for spring

Amanda CoyneThe New York Times

Juneau was abuzz this past week over a heated incident involving Senate President Charlie Huggins and Rep. Johnathan Kreiss-Tomkins, AKA "the kid." It happened in the legislative break room and involved one of them getting backed up against the soda machine. Huggins, 67, is former Army special ops. When 25-year-old Kreiss-Tomkins was knocking on doors campaigning, he was often pegged for a high school student selling raffle tickets. Guess which one got backed up?

Tempers are flaring, and just in time: It's the weekend of the annual legislative shoot. As in with real guns, and bows and arrows, not, in like "Shoot, what's up with the all the bullies around here?" I've been told that historically, nobody's face has appeared on a target. Not yet.

Perhaps Huggins will show wearing his camo kuspuk and pink tie.

Huggins was his normal perfect-gentleman-self when presiding over the passage on Tuesday of the "historic" gas line legislation that will allow the state to continue to negotiate to give a huge share of the pipeline away to TransCanada.

Do any of the same seven senators who called it "historic" this time remember how "historic" and "momentous" the last gas line bill was that they voted for? The one that gave TransCanada and ExxonMobil $300 million in state dollars, so far? For what, aside from locking us into doing business with TransCanada, nobody really knows.

The bill is now with the House, in this case is the more deliberative body. Rep. Mike Hawker has taken a beating over the Legislative Office deal he put together in Anchorage, but so far, he's keeping a hawkish eye on the pipeline bill, as are Reps. Eric Fiege, Peggy Wilson, Craig Johnson and Geran Tarr.

Hawker staffer Rena Delbridge and Tarr staffer Jeff Stepp, smarties both, will help.

More legislative news: Carol Austerman, daughter of House Finance Co-chair Alan Austerman, made it official: She's running for the seat her father will be vacating. Why not? Alaska is no stranger to a father passing his seat on to his daughter.

Republicans are excited about a new candidate, Dave Talerico, who is running for an open state House seat. He's the former mayor of the Denali Borough and ran against Rep. David Guttenberg for that seat prior to redistricting.

Former state Sen. Ralph Seekins is rumored to be considering another run for Sen. Click Bishop's seat, which means the website "Not Ralph Again" can get repackaged. Just Click on Ralph?

For their part, Dems are jazzed about former Rep. Harry Crawford's Senate candidacy, turning out for him on Thursday night at Café Del Mundo, where he made his announcement. About 50 showed, including Vic Fischer, Jane Angvik, Eric Croft, Pat Abney, and former Daily News columnist Mike Doogan. Former Sen. Bettye Davis, whom Crawford had challenged in 2012, introduced him. There was said to be a festering resentment there, but as one attendee put it, "It looks like they buried the hatchet!"

So many hatchets to bury among the group, so many of whom have spent so many of their evenings over the decades at one another's fundraisers. If Sen. Hollis French were there, he'd have experienced deja vu.

Crawford will be running against Anchorage Sen. Cathy Giessel, a nurse who conducts her legislative business with great purpose and efficiency. She doesn't waste words and she doesn't expect you to, either, particularly when you're testifying on a bill that might poison your rivers, and change your way of life. Two minutes, exactly the time it takes to boil a perfect egg, is what you get before the bell goes off. No more. No less.

And you might barely get that if you're one of her constituents who buys a $400 plane ticket to go see her and other legislators to talk about education funding. Just ask Alison Arians, who lives in Giessel's district, owns a bakery, has a 9-year-old daughter, and prior to this session had never been involved in politics. Others, even Sen. Mike Dunleavy, took the time. Giessel shoved some charts her way, and stood for a quick photo op before Arians was quickly sent on her way.

In turn, Crawford got a $500 check and a dedicated volunteer.

Speaking of fundraisers and deja vu: Former Gov. Bill Sheffield had one on Tuesday night for mayoral candidate Dan Coffey, who's always more charming in person than his reputation would suggest.

On to the Assembly, where the hot race is between incumbent Adam Trombley and former Rep. Pete Petersen. Trombley's got the full force of the unions against him, former ally Mayor Dan Sullivan vetoed Trombley's park plan. Retribution for pulling support for Sullivan's tennis court?

The tennis mess made its way into a radio ad, which is rumored to have upset Rep. Lindsey Holmes who was also involved in the tennis court affair. The problem? The ad is Ivan Moore's baby, and Moore runs Holmes' campaign.

Anyway, if Trombley can eke out a win here, he'll be sufficiently seasoned for induction into the deja vu club, spending many evenings with Alaska's political class, going to fundraisers for the same people, running over and over again.

Finally, it's Spring Break! If you're tired of deja-vuing and find yourself in Seattle, visit Sara Adrienne Designs, the new interior design business of Sara Knowles, the youngest daughter of former Gov. Tony and Susan Knowles. And what's spring without love? No word on if House minority leader Chris Tuck, the most eligible bachelor in Alaska, has found it. But former Valley Sen. Linda Menard has. She's newly engaged to Michael Cody Post. They'll be making it official this year.

And a happy birthday to GOP Senate candidate Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, who turned 58 on Friday.

Independent journalist Amanda Coyne writes about Alaska politics on her blog amandacoyne.com. You can contact heratamandamcoyne@yahoo.com.

Note: An earlier version of this column incorrectly reported that Dave Talerico was mayor of the Denali Borough. He's the former mayor.

 



Anchorage