Amanda Coyne

OK, admit it. You've missed Sarah Palin. Her exasperating relationship with the truth. The clan-like sense of justice. The malapropisms. Those mysteriously acquired Midwestern vowels. The smile as she's reaching for the dagger. The voice, which has within it a piercing dog whistle that, for those who hear it, beckons like an abandoned swing set during a windstorm. Come back and play, kids! Sarah Palin called into KWHL-FM's Bob and Mark show, her go-to boys of yesteryear, and blew hard. Gov. Sean Parnell? An oil lackey, "bless his heart." Repealing the oil taxes and reverting back to the system she created while governor? You betcha. Bill Walker? Right on! He's got his "thumb on the pulse," of Alaska, she said. I caught Walker on the phone a few hours after it happened. He was in the...Amanda Coyne
It was inevitable, perhaps, that one of the three GOP Senate candidates and/or their surrogates would go there. Last week, adman Art Hackney, who runs the pro-GOP Senate candidate Dan Sullivan super PAC, released an anti-Begich radio ad taking on the Begich campaign's recent commercials that show him all virile-like, zooming on a snowmachine through the North Slope, talking about the ground being penetrated, rigs that are going to be raised, oil that's going to be pumped, homestyle country twang in the backdrop, music that Hackney's ad says sounds straight out of an "erectile dysfunction" commercial. There is a House candidate in Ohio who has an ad that goes after Speaker John Boehner for "electile" dysfunction but I'd venture to say that Hackney's ad is the first that takes ED straight...Amanda Coyne
Last week was supposed to be my last column, this time around, about the Alaska Legislature. So imagine my surprise, touched with dismay, that for five days after they were supposed to have left, some sort of strange stasis overtook the bunch. Until Friday, that gavel was tucked away in a drawer somewhere, perhaps next to House Speaker Mike Chenault's cattle prod and Sen. Cathy Giessel's egg timer, behind Fred Dyson's condoms, atop Pete Kelly's pregnancy sticks, embedded in Sen. Hollis French's croissants. Sacre Bleu! The House blamed the Senate and the Senate blamed the House and everyone was fuming that Rep. Lora Reinbold skipped town on Monday to spend her 50th birthday in Dubrovnik. For one, had she been in Juneau, she probably could have gotten them out of there on Thursday, saving...Amanda Coyne
Let's just look straight at that elephant in the room. It's not easy but sometimes being in and around politics requires asking tough questions. And here's the question everyone in Juneau, and much of the rest of the country, was grappling with this week: "Is breast-feeding sexy?" The question was spawned by a press release dashed off by Palmer Republican Rep. Shelly Hughes, about a House resolution encouraging the practice. In its title, the release called breast feeding "Smart and Sexy." The boys working the House majority press room either didn't read it before sending it out or didn't feel in a position to edit the release. What, they might have thought, do we know? Maybe that's what the ladies are saying these days. Who can keep up? Any time a Republican mentions women, something...Amanda Coyne
You know how Wally Hickel used to talk about the little guy on his shoulder who guided him? More and more I'm feeling like we all have a little version of Sen. Cathy Giessel sitting on our shoulders, her little egg timer in one hand, her little finger on the mute button in the other. Two minutes, exactly! That's what she gave the public when testifying on HB 77, the bill that would radically alter Alaska's water and land use laws to benefit mining and other commercial interests. A second more and they got muted. Sen. Hollis French's egg couldn't even parboil during a committee hearing last week in Senate Resources. At issue was whether oil executive witnesses should take an oath before giving testimony. The U.S. Congress does it. Why not Alaska? Particularly as the industry has a history...Amanda Coyne
This is being written from San Diego, where I'm attending the American Association of Political Consultants annual meeting and awards ceremony. Let me say up front that I have no intention of ever becoming a political consultant. And though I knew they were around, and I've even met a few, including Art Hackney, who's the president of the association, I didn't know they existed in quite this number and that their jobs were so, well, complicated. One academic here is even working on brain-scanning models to predict political behavior. If that doesn't work, there's always gerrymandering. Even the most jaded consultants at the gathering may have been impressed with Mayor Dan Sullivan's spin on why conservative darling Assemblyman Adam Trombley appears to have lost to union darling Pete...Amanda Coyne
I'm calling it. It's officially breakup. Matching my heart, also breaking up, burdened with grief and shame. My mother had worked for months on a secret mango recipe for the Pillsbury Bakeoff Contest, which offered a grand prize of more than $1 million. I insisted on proof-reading the recipe for her. As I was doing so, the time slipped away. And so did the deadline. Poof went the $1 million do-the-fandango-mango dream. There's always next year, she said. Which is what those lawmakers who have been pushing for a constitutional amendment to allow for vouchers are thinking. Poof went the educational no-more-slouchers-choose-vouchers dream. What happened? Teachers. Some people like to beat them up, but I challenge you to find a more committed, organized and hard-working group in Alaska...Amanda Coyne
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...Amanda Coyne
Until recently, Gov. Sean Parnell has had a relatively soft ride, with the public and Alaska media taking it comparatively easy on our well-coiffed, unassuming governor. The one who declared during his 2008 race against U.S. Rep. Don Young that "I just want to be a light." A little odd, and he wasn't elected, but it sounded good. Who doesn't like light? Besides, after Frank Murkowski and Sarah Palin, hiring someone whose highest aspiration was to be a light sounded relaxing. Like sitting on a beach in California, where perhaps he met the oil industry exec he wanted to appoint to sit on a board that decides the value of the trans-Alaska pipeline and how much local taxes the oil companies pay. Where else would he have gotten the name? Parnell won't say. All we know is whoever sits on the...Amanda Coyne
Abortion bills. Immigration and drivers' licenses. School choice. Guns on campuses. Dismantling collective bargaining. Changing the way the state chooses those judges who get in the way of restricting abortion -- and we're only halfway through the legislative session. I spoke with onward Christian soldier Jim Minnery about what's looking like the most conservative Legislature in forever. He didn't agree with me about the conservative part. Even Rep. Tammy Wilson, the conservative from North Pole, has the temerity to want family planning money that would help limit abortions in her abortion bill. "I can't wait for her primary," he said. It makes Minnery and his people "gag" that they are having such a hard time passing a "clean" abortion bill. What is it about women's reproduction that...Amanda Coyne