Have you ever heard someone say, "Don't ask a question you don't want to know the answer to?" Well, the Alaska Senate majority could well have taken that advice.
In the case of the Senate majority, maybe that could be better stated, "Don't ask for questions that you don't want to give the answer to."
On Feb. 2, the majority took to its Facebook page in the form of Sen. Anna MacKinnon and Sen. Pete Kelly to welcome Alaskans to send in video questions to the Senate Finance Committee. Kelly, in what some could call a stroke of arrogance, stated, "Want to be a star? Want to be relevant? Send us your questions." He said, "Send in your questions, film yourself with your phone, a camera, whatever works."
Jeff Landfield, a candidate for the Senate seat in South Anchorage about to be vacated by Lesil McGuire, took the opportunity and provided a video with the following question:
Hi Senate Finance Committee, I'm Jeff Landfield. Thank you for opening up the floor to the people about our budget problems. My question is simple. Considering the last four budgets have been colossal, giant budgets that have included the largest deficits in state history that you guys not only supported, but were the architects of, why can we trust you to fix the budget mess that you created? And don't say you didn't know because plenty of people were advocating for fiscally conservative policies when the price of oil was high and you guys spent all the money, thank you.
The Alaska Senate majority has had more than two weeks since that video was posted and they still have not responded. In fact, they've only answered one question since they started asking for video questions. It's hard to believe that they've only received two questions from across the state despite the social media effort and online form to upload video submissions.
Landfield is not your average candidate. He has been known recently for his "Speedo" photos with women in bikinis on his Facebook page. Those photos cost him a position on the Alaska Commission on Judicial Conduct. Gov. Bill Walker's communications director Grace Jang called the photos "misogynistic" and "disrespectful."
Landfield is running a different kind of campaign than Alaska has ever seen. He constantly jokes about being in "high-level meetings" and has recently purchased the website highlevelmeeting.com, which redirects to his campaign website. His campaign has featured fireside chat videos, as well as humorous videos, such as his first one, with tranquil music playing as the camera pans over a calm lake. Suddenly Landfield pops out of the lake wearing nothing but short shorts, introducing himself and inviting everybody to his first fundraiser.
He describes himself as an outsider to the Republican-led Senate. He brags on his Facebook page that nobody in the current Legislature has endorsed his candidacy. He publicly criticizes the party he hopes to represent in the state Senate and he made the video that blasts the current Alaska Senate majority for runaway budgets.
On my personal Facebook page I posted Landfield's video and asked Alaska Senate majority spokesperson Daniel McDonald, "Will your bosses be responding to this video?" He answered, "Yes."
To be fair to McDonald and the Alaska Senate majority, McDonald had a terrible accident playing basketball and broke his leg, requiring surgery. However, before this happened the senators had a week to answer Landfield's question.
There is also the issue of Landfield's campaign banner being prominently displayed behind him as he asks his question. To call this a real issue, however, is simply a cop-out. This could be solved very simply and quickly by blacking out the banner.
What's more likely is that the Senate majority does not want to answer Landfield's question -- particularly this year. It's an election year and the Legislature is faced with fixing the budget mess that they have put the state in. With the rhetoric that has been coming out of Juneau, every indication is that we will not be seeing any kind of long-term fiscal plan, whether it be some broad-based tax package, percent of market value (POMV) or the Governor's Sovereign Fund -- in fact, this "we'd like to hear from you, by video" stunt by the Senate majority is another stalling tactic that points to the possibility that we could be waiting yet another year to see a real solution.
If the Alaska Senate majority is serious about input, then they should take the input seriously and answer the questions they receive promptly. By ignoring Landfield's question and only answering one question in all, the Alaska Senate majority has really shown its true colors in this endeavor.
Mike Dingman is a fifth-generation Alaskan born and raised in Anchorage. He is a former University of Alaska Anchorage student body president and has worked, studied and volunteered in Alaska politics since the late 90s. He has contributed $31 to the Landfield state Senate campaign. Email, email@example.com.
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