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What is it with the left and elections?

  • Author: Paul Jenkins
    | Opinion
  • Updated: August 17, 2018
  • Published August 17, 2018

2018 gubernatorial candidates Mark Begich, Mike Dunleavy, Mead Treadwell and Bill Walker

What is it with the left and elections? When it is not busy blaming the Russkies for its losses, it frantically is scrambling to engineer wins by hook or by crook — even here in the Frozen North.

Take, for instance, its latest attempt to hammer out a bothersome deal to better its odds in Alaska's upcoming governor's race.

Political prognosticators who are sure they know everything are pretty sure presumptive Democratic Party nominee Mark Begich and Republican-cum-independent-cum-undeclared-cum-independent again Gov. Bill Walker would be roadkill in a three-way general election face-off with the likely GOP nominee, former state Sen. Mike Dunleavy.

What to do? What to do? Well, hey, rig the field, of course. A plan hatched by former Democratic state Sen. Hollis French and titled, "A proposal to resolve the three-way race for governor," would have done just that. It would have had Begich and Walker agree to three polls aimed at gauging Dunleavy, Walker and Begich's support.

If Walker or Begich finished last in all three, the loser would go home.

"One would be required to set his ambition aside and to support the other," French said in a letter to the campaigns. "One makes a sacrifice, and the center and the left join forces and march to victory."

Good grief. We are talking about an incumbent governor and the presumptive Democratic nominee taking a powder. On egos alone, the plan never had a chance, although Begich, apparently confident he could not lose in the polling, agreed. Walker reportedly said, "No thanks."

This election-engineering attempt by the left, prompted by its union pals' cash, is déjà vu all over again. It is not the first time in Alaska the left put its thumb on the scale to select — out of public view, of course — which candidates would run.

In the ramp-up to 2014's general election, pollsters declared incumbent Republican Gov. Sean Parnell would bury Walker, then running for governor as an independent, and Byron Mallott, the Democratic Party standard bearer, in a three-way November matchup. Union bosses declared there would be no money if one of them did not take a hike.

After striking a deal — the details never were made public — Mallott and Walker joined in the so-called "unity ticket," with Walker running as governor and Mallott as his lieutenant governor.

The two managed a slim, 6,223-vote victory after a veritable media cyclone about a National Guard sex scandal rocked Parnell's campaign — and evaporated the day after the election.

The left, again fearing a shellacking in November, is antsy about the upcoming election. It should be. The Walker administration, little more than a de facto Democrat operation, is a dismal disappointment, but Begich is packing a trainload of political baggage. As Anchorage mayor, he spent money faster than it could be printed, made cushy deals with unions and later, as a senator, cast a deciding vote on Obamacare.

Walker's problems may strike many Alaskans as worse.

In a 2014 newspaper interview, Walker promised: "I have no intention to implement a statewide tax or paying for state government by reducing Permanent Fund dividend checks. If we properly develop our natural resources and put in place a sustainable budget that should not be necessary."

Then, he cut the dividend. Then, he let the Legislature slash it, too. Then, there is his gas line, his hiring of pricey state officials and his budget-busting Medicaid expansion over the Legislature's objections. All that is just for starters. The list is long.

Add to that: He appears as popular as a toothache, the second-least popular of the 20 governors seeking re-election this year, Morning Consult's quarterly Governor Approval Rankings show. (He beat out Republican Bruce Rauner of Illinois.) Walker is, the rankings indicate, the nation's 46th least-popular governor.

The good news? He has a 29 percent approval rating. The bad news? His approval rating is crushed by his mammoth 54 percent disapproval rating.

With numbers like that, he could lose to a rutabaga in November. (That said, as an unabashedly right-of-Attila-the-Hun conservative, I think he should absolutely, positively stay in the race to the bitter end, no matter what.)

There is something unseemly about all this, the monkeying around in the shadows with who should run or who should sit it out; unsettling because union cash and back-room maneuvering seem to be oil for the left's political machinery. Why not let voters decide who will be governor in a straight-up election? Is the need for power so strong?

What is it with the left and elections?

Paul Jenkins is editor of the AnchorageDailyPlanet.com, a division of Porcaro Communications, which is producing and placing electronic media for the independent expenditure group supporting Mike Dunleavy in the gubernatorial race.

The views expressed here are the writer's and are not necessarily endorsed by the Anchorage Daily News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary(at)adn.com. Send submissions shorter than 200 words to letters@adn.com or click here to submit via any web browser. Read our full guidelines for letters and commentaries here.

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