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Amanda Coyne: Funny thing about Juneau: The place is full of elephants

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 goes all bad and viral anyhow.

So they pressed the "send" button, and sure enough, it all went bad and viral. Lefty outlets all across the country used it as evidence of a pattern. Of what, it was hard to say. The problem was that because the phrase originated with a woman, it didn't exactly fit.

Anyway, the colorful and playful Hughes apologized and House Speaker Mike Chenault had to take full responsibility for calling breast-feeding sexy, which has to top Sen. Fred Dyson giving a speech on the Senate floor about the research he had done on the price of condoms, or Sen. Pete Kelly's remark about birth control being for people who don't act responsibly.

More could have been made of those remarks, the ones that did matter and did follow a pattern -- that is, if the women in the Legislature organized, forgot their differences and banded together to form their own caucus. There's enough of them now to constitute a force to be reckoned with, if some of them, two House members in particular -- one Dem and one Republican -- would stop perpetuating stereotypes by crying, throwing fits and terrorizing their staffs.

Speaking of caucuses: Word is that some of the more moderate legislators are tiring of their more socially conservative brethren (and sistren), and are thinking of forming something different next session, depending on who gets elected. For the record: Sen. John Coghill, although about as right as you can be, is highly respected by most and would be offered coffee in most anyone's caucus.

And speaking of avoiding the elephant: I'm writing this on Good Friday from Anchorage, and there's no telling what bills are or aren't going to pass in Juneau by Sunday night. They've left the big ones for last: the gas line, education, minimum wage and of course, the budget.

One thing is for sure: The fiscally conservative bunch, led by the fiscally conservative governor, won't be spending conservatively. Au contraire! It's not the largest budget in the state's history -- Parnell signed that one in fiscal year 2013 -- but it will usher in the biggest period of deficit spending -- nearly $2 billion -- in state history.

Nevertheless, Parnell continues to talk about responsible spending and applauds those legislators who are intent on giving hundreds of millions away to refineries, say, to study energy projects that everyone knows aren't going to produce energy, to softball fields and university buildings, for a bridge that isn't going to get built ... It goes on. The good folks at the Alaska Policy Forum are keeping a list.

Amazing, how our politicians can call themselves fiscal conservatives when they're anything but. Just another big elephant in that little room. Some had hoped that Democratic gubernatorial candidate Byron Mallott might take on the elephant. But his campaign appears to be listless. Maybe when the session is over, Sen. Hollis French, who's running for lite gov and whose bête noire is listless ennui, can fire up the troops.

Anchorage lawyer Brad Keithley had played around with jumping in the race but now he tells me he's decided against it. He will continue to write and to keep track of things on his own blog, and on a new site called Alaska Politics and Elections, created by former Rep. Tom Anderson.

Now some good news: Did you hear that Russ Millette, the short-lived former chair of Alaska's Republican Party, has a job? Yes! He's the chair of the Republican Party! Or at least that's how he signed a highly distributed email about school choice. Word from the Alaska Libertarian Party is that he's also considering a run for governor on their ticket. Some might remember how Millette was voted in in 2012 after longtime chair Randy Ruedrich resigned, and when the Joe Miller people met the Ron Paul people, and formed a fomenting family. He was given the boot shortly thereafter but he didn't go very far. Elephants are hard to move.

It's so much fun when Republicans get dysfunctional. When Democrats get dysfunctional, they "hear" one another and try to "work their differences out" by creating "boundaries," fostering "mutual respect." While they're doing that, they lose elections.

More good news: Most of you will likely be reading this on Easter. Here's to new beginnings and to the start of a big campaign season. Here's to forgiveness, which I ask of Reps. Lora Reinbold and Les Gara, and Sen. Cathy Giessel, for poking at them all session. Here's to redemption, which Cathy will need a lot of if she's going to win. Les: Here's to meditation and the sound of silence. Lora: Here's to accepting one another's differences. Here's to love and hoping that once the session dies down, House Minority Speaker Chris Tuck, the most eligible bachelor in Alaska, finds some.

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


By AMANDA COYNE
amandamcoyne@yahoo.com