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Amanda Coyne: Predicting political behavior, from Assembly races to mothers for schools

  • Author: Amanda Coyne
  • Updated: September 28, 2016
  • Published April 5, 2014

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 Petersen.

According to Sullivan, Trombley lost because he wasn't hard enough on the unions. Tell that to others who have tried being hard on them.

But it's not over till it's over. We'll know next week when write-in votes are counted. Supposedly, Randy Ruedrich, the once and always chairman of the Republican Party, remains optimistic about the absentees. After all, the Republican National Committee actually sent the elusive operative Michael Shirley to Alaska to help get out the vote in East Anchorage. Or that's what they say. Supposedly he's been here since October.

But I've never laid eyes on him, nor do I know anybody who has.

It's kind of like that mysterious group of diverse kids supposedly representing "family values," who the other Dan Sullivan, the former DNR commissioner running for the U.S. Senate, is using on his website. Jeannie Devon from the blog Mudflats has written extensively about this.

We don't know where the kids are from, but the photographer is from Thailand. That nice group of diverse-looking medical professionals? Alaskans? Nope.

Doesn't Sullivan already have a political problem in Alaska with authenticity? It might seem like a small thing, but had he ever run for anything before, ever, he might know that it's the little things that get you, as any political consultant at the conference would attest. One of the recipients of an award at the gathering, Joe Slade White, is credited for helping get the first white mayor of Detroit elected in more than 40 years over a parking space.

(Interesting factoid: White won the first-ever AAPC award in 1983 for an ad he made for former Gov. Bill Sheffield fishing with Sen. Mark Begich's nephew.)

If GOP challenger Mead Treadwell doesn't nail him for it, then Joe Miller, who's rumored to be officially announcing his campaign this month, will.

Back to Mayor Dan and the little things: The issue of the tennis courts is not going away if Sen. Lesil McGuire has anything to say about it. McGuire, who's running against Sullivan in the lite gov race, shaping up to be the liveliest of the political season, is asking the Senate Finance Committee to reappropriate money slated for the courts to Loussac Library. Considering that the money was meant for buildings built in the 1980s, that's probably where it belongs. So says me and a legislative lawyer.

It would be up to one of the Anchorage senators on the Finance Committee to make it happen. Don't hold your breath. Our current crop of lawmakers isn't setting records for profiles in courage.

If there was a brain scan to predict cowardice among politicians in Juneau, Judy Eledge, queen of the Anchorage Republican Women's Club, would have the results. Eledge, who's never been accused of anything resembling cowardice (or holding her breath, for that matter), was spotted in Juneau last week pacing the halls, muttering about education, legislators and baseball bats.

And speaking of cowardice, to say nothing of stupid political moves: Which member of, or staff to, the "majority" phoned in an anonymous tip to the Alaska Public Offices Commission about Anchorage resident Alison Arians not registering as a "lobbyist."

Arians, a mother and a small-businesswoman, has been spending time in Juneau trying to get more money for schools. She and a group of other mothers are paying for it out of their own pockets, pooling Alaska Airline miles and double-bunking in rented rooms. She shut down her bakery. She's a private citizen petitioning her government, and that government responded by trying to discourage her from exercising that right.

The call from APOC "freaked me out," she said, but now she's even more committed to the cause.

Gov. Sean Parnell might even use the word "immoral" to describe it, as he did when he talked to AP reporter Becky Bohrer about what House Finance is doing to the teacher pension plan.

That was strong brew coming from Parnell. Or, as Hollis French might say, c'est incroyable! Finally, he's going to fight for something other than giving money away to corporations and to pet projects! Maybe he's even hired a consultant!

But then I heard that he visited the House Majority Caucus, apologized and took it back.

Finally: Political cowardice is not partisan and can come in all forms, including risking hurting the state for political gain, as many Dems appear to be doing with the nomination of Richard Rabinow to the Alaska Gasline Development Corp. The rub with the Dems, even though he's the most qualified member of the board, is that he's not an Alaskan.

Notice they're not questioning the nomination of former Alaska state Sen. Drue Pearce to the board. She might be an Alaskan, but she's also an energy lobbyist for D.C. firm Crowell & Moring. Clients including a whole slate of oil and gas companies, Exxon and BP, among them.

No brain scan required to figure out why she, who was once a member of the club, gets a pass.

Independent journalist Amanda Coyne writes about Alaska politics at You can contact her at