Alex Gimarc: Matt Claman is sneaky, but smart, while Costello is smart and reasonable



Representative Matt Claman is running for State Senate.  He was redistricted into a new area with incumbent Republican Sen. Mia Costello.  Claman represented the Turnagain area, a part of town that has turned pretty blue in recent years. They like him a lot in that part of town.  

Claman is a smart Democrat. Sneaky, but smart. Up until the last week or so, he has concentrated on turning out his people from Turnagain.  Recently, his union supporters expanded that a bit, publicly going after Costello with a series of radio ads blasting away at her for being too extreme for West Anchorage. At the end of the ad, the unions behind it make the claim that Costello is out of step with what they calls West Anchorage values.

Given the claim, let’s examine some of what they call his West Anchorage values.

The same ad claims that Costello voted against police and fire pensions, cute verbiage, but ultimately misleading (perhaps another West Anchorage value).  Last legislature, union-supporting democrats pushed HB 55, a change in existing police and fire pensions from current defined contribution to defined benefit.  

In 2005, state pensions were changed to the defined contribution model for new employees because there simply wasn’t enough money in the budget to pay the defined benefit model. This change was made much to the distress of democrats and union members statewide.  They have tried for the last 17 years to change it back. The game appears to be to change police and fire first and then follow up in future years with similar changes to the other bargaining units. Note that for the record, we couldn’t afford those pensions in 2005.  And we can’t afford them today, unless Claman plans on using the PFD to pay the additional costs

Maybe that is another West Anchorage value.  

In pushing this, Claman’s supporters demonstrate at best, that he is an economic illiterate. Claman appears to be perfectly happy with blowing up the entire state budget to purchase a few more union votes. Worse, he is claiming that Costello’s accurate understanding of state economics translates into non-support for police and fire, something that couldn’t be farther from the truth.

April 2019, the Alaska Legislature sitting in joint session turned down Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s nomination of Karl Johnstone for Alaska Board of Fish.  Democrat Ivy Spohnholz blew up the meeting claiming a couple anonymous, last-minute sexual harassment complaints against Johnstone, who was vehemently opposed by commercial fishermen. Rather than send the nomination back to committee to investigate, this gave the majority the excuse to defeat the nomination. 

Claman voted to defeat the nomination. He could have asked for it sent back to committee if for no other reason than to get all the liars in the same room at the same time. Instead, he chose to support what was ultimately a last-minute political hit by a fellow Democrat, Rep. Ivy Spohnholz, as an opportunity to do political damage to Gov. Dunleavy.

In December of 2008, Claman had moved from Anchorage Assembly Chair into the Hill Building as temporary Mayor, replacing Mark Begich who was on his way to the U.S. Senate.  Once in office, Claman, who had approved every single one of Begich’s Muni budgets, was shocked, simply shocked to find a multi-million-dollar budget deficit.  Solution?  56-hour unpaid furlough for all Muni employees. If Claman had done his fiduciary duty (perhaps we are back to the economic illiterate observation), that budget shortfall doesn’t exist.  

None of these appear to be positive values for any part of town, much less West Anchorage. I am mystified at the notion of sending someone to the State Senate who willingly, gleefully, wants to blow up the state budget, uses a last-minute sexual harassment claim to defeat a nomination and embarrass a governor, and after years on the Anchorage Assembly approving Muni budgets suddenly discovers multi-million-dollar budget shortfalls at the last minute.  

But Claman is smooth, smart, presents well, and most importantly, lets his other fellow travelers do the crazy part in public while voting in lockstep with everything they are interested in. We will see if he gets away with it again.  I hope not, as we can’t afford it.  

Alex Gimarc lives in Anchorage since retiring from the military in 1997. His interests include science and technology, environment, energy, economics, military affairs, fishing and disabilities policies. His weekly column “Interesting Items” is a summary of news stories with substantive Alaska-themed topics. He was a small business owner and information technology professional.


  1. I picked up a new label for democrats a couple days ago fiending off an annoying hustler. Democrats are Hustlers. They ‘fix’ whatever however so it gets them money or anything else. Clamon is a hustler that’s what hustlers do.

  2. Matt Claman colluded with the spenard community council to SILENCE my free speech.
    …. all I did was call him a baby murdering psychopath, and they deleted the entire comment section henceforth.

    Look up USC TITLE 18 Section 232 real quick.
    What is the punishment for a government official CENSORING the public?

  3. I think it is high time that unions are prohibited from making enormous contributions to political campaigns. The employees “represented” have little to say about this expenditure of what is really their money. It’s like being forced into the mafia. Shut up and pay your dues or we will make your life miserable.

  4. I have known both Mia and Matt for quite some time. West Anchorage is very purple and it is fair to say Mia and Matt both have many great values that represent West Anchorage values. I will support the candidate who exhibited the most sound, financial values in the last Session

  5. I felt so lucky to be able to cast a vote for Mia Costello against Matt Claman.
    I was one of the folks furloughed during Matts time as a horrendous acting mayor. He told us muni employees, sucks to be you.
    He hates we the people, let me reciprocate.

    • Yes and no. You are right about Turnagain, for sure. But the other part of the new district is Tom McKay’s in Bayshore – Klatt / Campbell Lake, which is a lot redder. Looks like Matt plans on maximizing Turnagain turnout while picking up what he can in Bayshore – Klatt / Campbell Lake. Cheers –

  6. Sorry for my friends in West Anchorage but Claman will win. The demographics have changed over the years from a solidly conservative area to straight up Crazy Town. I think Mia is the better choice, but she is toast.

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