Just two weeks have passed since Jeff Landfield signed up for a rematch with incumbent state Sen. Lesil McGuire in a South Anchorage district, and there are still 15 months to go before the election, but a social media war is already brewing between the two Republicans.
On Sunday, a photo of Landfield with two women at a bar turned up on retired radio talk show host Eddie Burke's Facebook page. A few hours earlier, Landfield had written a lengthy post on Facebook accusing an unidentified Alaska state senator of behaving drunkenly at a barbecue they both attended, swearing at him and taking his photo or filming him while he was playing blackjack. He later identified the senator in an interview as McGuire.
The third person signed up for the 2016 Senate race, Democrat Forrest McDonald, was taking it all in — and expecting more from his Republican rivals.
Landfield seems to keep confronting his own photos on Facebook: Gov. Bill Walker rescinded Landfield's appointment to the Alaska Commission on Judicial Conduct after his office found "disrespectful images" of Landfield in a Speedo bathing suit with women in Las Vegas. The 30-year-old candidate has been unapologetic, saying, "I think it's no secret I like to have a good time."
But Landfield said he wrote his Facebook post about "Senator _____" because he wanted to "get out ahead" of any negative image that might emerge from the party, while acknowledging he himself had been drinking. In his post, he said he would identify the senator if a video or photo surfaced of him "in a negative way."
"I don't like to get bullied or pushed around," Landfield said Tuesday. "For me, it's this whole next level of filming me, then almost trying to threaten me with it."
McGuire did not respond to a phone call, a text message, two emails and messages left with an aide and with the press office for the Senate majority; the aide said her cellphone was "out of commission." She sent a one-line response to a follow-up email Thursday night about plans to publish a story: "I sincerely hope this is not true."
On Sunday, McGuire sent Landfield a private Facebook message, which he shared with Alaska Dispatch News, demanding that he "remove the inaccurate statements" about her.
She also sent Landfield the same photo that appeared in Burke's Facebook post and said that while people send her such photos, she chooses not to post them. Around the same time, Burke put up his post.
In a phone interview, Burke said he didn't talk to McGuire before posting the photo and isn't endorsing her. He said Landfield can't complain if he put the photo out there on his Facebook page.
"I just think it's entertaining," Burke said. "If I was running for the state Senate, I would want that picture out there."
Landfield said he wasn't ashamed by the post, and he isn't trying to hide anything.
"There's a lot more worse photos (on my page)," he said.
Landfield said he was instead striking back at McGuire for "trying to passively threaten" him by filming him at the weekend barbecue. He claims when he approached her, she appeared to have been drinking and swore at him. He said he believed the adversarial nature of the interaction stemmed from their history as political rivals -- in the 2012 Republican primary, Landfield got 44 percent of the vote to McGuire's 56 percent.
In her private Facebook message to Landfield, McGuire correctly inferred the unnamed senator in Landfield's post was her, and she demanded he remove "inaccurate statements" in it.
"I would not like to post your photos or my version of your drunken obnoxious state Saturday night," McGuire wrote in the message.
She said she didn't do any of the things Landfield attributed to her except for taking his picture. She scolded Landfield for saying "ugly things" about her.
Later that night, around the same time Burke posted the photo on his page, McGuire sent the same photo in a message to Landfield and wrote: "These are the kinds of photos people send me of you. I never publish them. Nor do I post about you."
Democratic candidate McDonald, who said he saw Landfield's post, said McGuire supporters shouldn't attack Landfield based on his photos on social media.
"People over-share on social media. That's how things are, that's how younger people operate," said McDonald, who is 28.
He also observed that it's still early on in the campaign.
"I anticipate things are going to get more ridiculous or fabulous or whatever as time goes on," he said.
Alaska Dispatch Publishing