By SUZANNE DOWNING
Former Alaska Gov. Bill Walker is pulling out all the stops to convince voters that his decades of haunting their ballots is worth their time once again.
Even though equally liberal Les Gara is making a case to the Democrat voter base for next year’s gubernatorial race, it is the Walker camp that is benefitting from that most valuable proxy for the Left in Alaska: The Anchorage Daily News, known during his last campaign as the Alaska Dispatch News.
In a Sunday guest column, the ADN gave the perpetual candidate and failed governor its top billing to attack Gov. Mike Dunleavy.
Let’s face it: Opinion pieces from candidates are essentially placed advertisements from the campaign. It’s the same everywhere in the news business, but was a campaign technique elevated by the Anchorage Daily News years ago.
By pushing wind into the sails of a man in his seventies who was beaten twice for public office and forced to end his campaign under the scandal of his running mate’s sordid behavior, the ADN is acknowledging that Walker is the Left’s best chance of regaining the Governor’s mansion.
Oh, how the Juneau elite long for those days, when the Walker-era Governor’s Mansion was the spot for lavish parties and when the booze flowed freely, all billed to the Alaska treasury and taxpayers (yes, you do pay a tax to the state treasury — it’s your garnished Permanent Fund dividend, a tradition begun by Walker and continued by the Alaska Legislature.)
It will take a lot of ink on the printing press to blot out the memory of the Walker years, both for Democrat-leaning voters and even the “Murkowski Republicans” who won’t vote for someone like Gara, but who balk at Dunleavy.
But the reasoning for the furious pace of attacks makes sense right now, especially to clear the decks of anyone who might present themselves as an actual challenger of substance and means.
Dunleavy is currently ranked one of the most popular governors in America, with support from former President Donald Trump, among others. His management of Covid-19, which resisted the Left’s demands for statewide mask and vaccination mandates, while protecting the elderly and vulnerable populations, has Alaska remaining one of the safest places in America for handling the health challenges brought from the virus.
Walker knows that his attacks on “pandemic management” will not play with a public that is exhausted by whipsawing calls from Dr. Anthony Fauci and the CDC to “follow the (ever changing) science.”
He also knows that he cannot attack Dunleavy on the issue of public safety, after he devastated the Alaska State Troopers with cuts under his administration, and at the same time championed SB 91 into law, over the objections of rank and file police and prosecutors. His support for SB 91 is why he lost the support of law enforcement unions during the last election. They went over to law-respecting Mike Dunleavy.
Walker is leaving the ADN-designated hatchet man (and vacationing family friend) Kyle Hopkins and his editor Dave Hulen to do the work of making Dunleavy look weak on public safety.
Walker also knows that the Permanent Fund dividend is a topic he has no credibility to talk to voters about. After pledging to never touch the PFD, he unilaterally vetoed the amount of the dividend in 2016, and never looked back in his pursuit to accomplish what AFL-CIO president Vince Beltrami and other special interests were demanding in Juneau: to hook up government spending to a guaranteed funding source, and leave the PFD behind.
It would be a monumental success if the Walker campaign can convince people he can save their PFDs: Who better to put out a fire than an arsonist?
Now, the ADN, which obstructs every conservative columnist by fact-checking them into extended frustration, has allowed the very man who fired Angela Rodell as Department of Revenue Commissioner to imply, inaccurately, that Gov. Dunleavy had something to do with her recent firing as the head of the Permanent Fund. Yes, Walker is the governor who didn’t have the courage to call her on the phone to fire her, but allowed her to read about her firing in the ADN. Now he says she was the savior of the Permanent Fund, but he didn’t respect her enough to inform her in 2014 that she was history?
This week’s developments leave little doubt about the coming volume and tone of the coverage from the state’s largest newspaper. The playbook is not new: It is the same one used by former owner Alice Rogoff to manufacture outrage over scandals in the National Guard against then Gov. Sean Parnell. They only have to dust it off.
Above the fold for months, the National Guard recruiting story, like the mainstream media’s attempt to link President Donald Trump to Russian interference in elections, gave the ADN the reputation as Alaska kingmaker, more than news outlet.
And, like the bogus Russia scandal, it just faded away the day after Bill Walker won in 2014.
That sorry episode in Alaska journalism, which has the lowest standards in the nation, gave birth to Must Read Alaska. During the year after the 2014 election, the editorial page of the ADN refused to print letters or op-eds from conservatives. And in the spring of 2015, Must Read Alaska started — one small voice against the liberal-dominated media. First, it launched as a newsletter, and a year later it became a website and newsletter.
It is time for conservatives to buckle up and be ready for what Hulen’s crew is cooking. The last four years of the Dunleavy administration has been a traumatic event to liberals hoping to reshape Alaska. Will conservatives forget the ADN’s crime against journalistic integrity?
It appears the ADN will do everything it can to put Walker back into office. Get ready for the sales pitch, now being funded by liberal nonprofit entities from out of state that will allow so-called journalists to run roughshod over neutrality.
Must Read Alaska will continue to call out the mainstream media bias in 2022. It looks like it will be a full-time job.
Suzanne Downing is publisher of Must Read Alaska.