Dan Fagan: What will a Dunleavy reelection campaign look like?



Republican Gov. Michael J. Dunleavy is not who he used to be. He ran as a budget hawk promising significant reductions in state spending. The governor now says he believes most Alaskans oppose cutting government.  

And the governor has gone from opposing new taxes to proposing his own.   

“It was made clear by a number of groups of Alaskans that they didn’t necessarily care for large reductions. It’s also been made clear to me by Alaskans, that they’re not necessarily sad about taxes,” Dunleavy told the left-leaning Anchorage Daily News this past week.

The governor’s Commissioner of Administration Lucinda Mahoney told Channel 2 News recently Dunleavy is considering “several new revenue ideas” for legislators during the upcoming special session. 

One idea is a 4% state sales tax that could transfer as much as $1.2 billion out of an already anemic private sector into an already bloated state government. Mahoney says the governor has already drafted a sales tax bill, but it is still in it’s “extremely, extremely, rough form.”

Mahoney says Dunleavy is also considering raising taxes on the oil industry and bringing casinos to Alaska to raise more revenue for the state. 

“The governor is very focused on the idea of casinos in Alaska particularly as a way to create jobs,” Mahoney told KTUU. 

It’s true casinos will funnel millions of tax dollars into state coffers and create jobs. But at what cost? How many families will be destroyed with easy access to gambling? 

Are state leaders so consumed with keeping special interests benefiting from government largess happy and fat that they’re willing to prey on the weak? 

A 2018 study by the state of Minnesota found one-third of all revenue generated by casinos comes from problem gamblers. 

Abraham Lincoln in the Gettysburg Address called for a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. I doubt Lincoln would consider politicians lacking courage to cut the budget using casino revenue funded by the weak as an example of a government for the people. 

It seems Dunleavy and many Republican legislators have joined with Democrats and the media in pretending there’s no fat in Alaska’s state budget. Cutting is rarely discussed. 

But according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, Alaska spends more on state government per citizen than any other state based on 2019 numbers. 

Alaska’s spent $15,240 per citizen in 2019. The comparably populated South Dakota spent $5,073 per citizen that year. Alaska spends either double or triple the money on state government per capita than 35 other states. 

Compare Alaska’s $15,240 per capita state spending to states like Idaho, $4,713; Arizona $5,316; Missouri $4,302; New Hampshire $4,577; North Carolina $4,687; Tennessee, $4,953; Utah $5,178; Florida $3845; and Texas $4,174.   

To argue Alaska’s state spending is anything but excessive, out of control, and unsustainable is laughable.   

Dunleavy announced this past week he’ll run for a second term. He’ll have to run a very different campaign than last time. 

During his first campaign, he promised to return the Permanent Fund dividend money taken by former Gov. Bill Walker, go back to following the traditional statutory dividend formula, and cut the state budget. Dunleavy struck out on all three. 

He not only didn’t cut the state budget, he grew it more than Walker, his predecessor.  

In his defense, Dunleavy was unable to restore the Walker money and go back to following the statutory formula without help from the legislature. He’s since given up on both causes and has adopted the percent of market value plan proposed during the campaign by his opponent, Mark Begich.

But Dunleavy has no excuse when it comes to his campaign promise to cut the state budget. He’s refused to use his line-item veto pen to any significant degree. If he did, he would need only one-quarter of the legislature to stand with him to avoid an override vote. 

Dunleavy must believe he won’t face a challenger from the right since he has clearly abandoned most causes important to conservatives. If Dunleavy faces no one from the right, conservatives will have no choice but to vote for him. 

His refusal to challenge state funding of abortion under Medicaid has angered many pro-life Alaskans. And Dunleavy’s caving on the issue of the state paying for transgender surgeries has disappointed many social conservatives. His spokesman, Dave Stieren, justified the caving by arguing they could lose the case in court. 

What’s hurt the governor most with his base is his silence on the tyranny and stripping of individual freedoms by local governments in Alaska based on an irrational fear of the COVID virus.

Dunleavy penned a ridiculous editorial to this website last week justifying his silence on tyranny arguing his critics on the issue are tyrannical themselves. 

Other Republican governors like Greg Abbott of Texas and Ron DeSantis of Florida have not helped Dunleavy’s street cred with conservatives. DeSantis and Abbott have been much more aggressive in speaking out and fighting the forces of tyranny in their states. 

Even Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson showed up Dunleavy by coming out strongly and quickly condemning the Anchorage School District’s recent face mask mandates. The governor, to this day, has yet to speak out against the policy targeting children. 

What will Dunleavy’s reelection campaign look like? Hard to imagine, considering he failed to deliver almost everything he promised during his first run.

Maybe we’ll hear: I’m Mike Dunleavy and I’d appreciate your vote. At least I’m not a Democrat.   

Dan Fagan hosts the number one rated morning drive radio show in Alaska on Newsradio 650 KENI.


  1. Bill Walker thinks Dunleavy is vulnerable. All Dunleavy’s supporters have to do is bring up two things:
    1. Full PFD per statutory formula.
    2. Dunleavy did not pick a pedophile as a running mate.

    • Start printing up t-shirts with pictures of Bill Walker and the ghost of Byron Mallott ……. surrounded by little girls pointing their fingers at those two shameful turds.

      • Walker/Drygas. Boy the Republicans will have a field day with that one. Communist Chinese looking to do an Alaska natural gas deal with Walker and Drygas? LOL.
        Brings new meaning to a dry hole.

  2. I’m fine with Casinos. I don’t want a tax but I would rather a sales tax than income or reducing the PFD. I voted for many years to protect big business and what has it gotten us? Big oil turned its back on Trump AND us, just like every other big business. After decades of the right fighting to get them less regs and less taxes? They go woke and big time left and now they’ve lost me completely. About the only thing on there I don’t agree with is government CAN and SHOULD be smaller. Everything else I’m at Least open to-But dismantle the damn bureaucracy. A second Dunleavy term needs to include some serious swamp fire to burn out the creatures lurking in their lifetime appointments (essentially any state job is)…and a FULL PFD—THEN we can talk Casinos and sales taxes.

  3. Unfortunately, if Duleavy gets re-elected, it will not be on his record, or his policies. It will be because Soros, and ActBlue are pushing a “progressive”

  4. Dunleavy: The Spineless Wonder.

    Dunleavy: Standing really small for Alaska.

    Dunleavy: I’ll surrender your PFD.

    Dunleavy: I protect state workers at all costs. Especially from consequences.

    What will a Dunleavy re-election campaign look like? A clown show.

  5. I hear Sarah Palin is looking for someone to “primary,” which is now an obsolete term in Alaska (unfortunately).

  6. “I’m Mike Dunleavy and I’m a complete failure. I can’t fix the PFD, want to tax you in any way I can, and am scared to death of the legislature”

  7. I don’t know how serious Dunleavy is.
    Voting no longer matters for conservatives because he refuses to use his bully pulpit to demand that Kevin Meyer and others who are responsible conduct a full and complete forensic audit of the 2020 election in Alaska. Ranked voting probably passed due to fraud, and that might ensure his political demise too. Its now up to who counts the votes.
    He just doesn’t have what it takes to fight for what’s right. We all know the legislature holds the power of the purse and they were going to fight him on the full PFD. The way to handle that was to go to every district that had representatives that were against him and lay out the facts to the PEOPLE in those areas. Sell the plan to the PEOPLE of Alaska everywhere with appropriate TIMING. Timing is everything. Ask them to demand their representatives vote for the full PFD, and if not vote them out. He refused to do it. The same can be said for all the other issues he needed passed and couldn’t. He forgot that the people hold the power, but they needed guidance, timing, and team work from him. They could have lit up their representatives in a coordinated effort to ensure the message was communicated clearly.
    Dunleavy made the same mistake as many other Governors make. He hired people who could talk a good game like Dave Stieren who you mentioned Dan, but have no idea how to get a damn thing done in State government, other than to offer horrible advice. His choice in Commissioners such as Adam Crum and John MacKinnon have been a total disaster. He immediately caved when he felt a little heat from the left when Art Chance was given an opportunity to come back and get things up and running for him in the beginning. That was a horrible decision because there is no one more knowledgeable about the functions and mission of the Department of Administration than Art Chance.
    We could write a book on the mistakes so far Dan. I just about started. Sorry Suzanne!

    • Thank you for the kind words. Parting ways with them is the best thing to happen to me lately because I never learned to either go down with the ship, fall on my sword for somebody else, or suffer fools, and there have been lots of those opportunities in this Administration.

      In ’99 when I returned to the Executive Branch, we were looking at over half of our high level supervisors, managers, and subject matter experts becoming eligible to retire in the next five years. The Knowles people talked about succession planning a lot and went to a lot of training in warm places with pro sports teams to learn about succession planning, but no real succession planning was done. They had already decapitated the merit system early in the first term by either running off or neutering the vital merit system range 20-somethings that are the experienced skilled employees who preserve the organizational culture. I was the last of the “old hands” to leave labor relations in Nov. of ’96. When I returned in ’99 there was only one staffer who had been there when I left and he had been very junior. The rest had no L/R experience beyond what they had acquired in a couple of years with no skilled supervision. The situation in L/R was extreme because the Administration had essentially sold L/R to the unions and it took them six years to learn that even a Democrat administration can only be so friendly with unions and still govern. But the L/R situation was not unique; most functions with control over money, people, or stuff had been gutted and turned over to kids and hacks.

      Over the next couple of years I was able to build a staff that could do what was asked of them effectively, but it takes years of experience to be able to figure out what to do and I didn’t have time to build that. That said, my immediate successor was one of my hires from that time as is the current Director of Personnel and Labor Relations and one of her deputies. Another of my hires is one of the lead attorneys in Department of Law. That said, the math is telling.

      It has been over twenty years since I came back to Admin to fix the mess they’d made. Most of the people I hired are at or near retirement on either age or time of service. That is true of every work unit that was gutted or restructured early in Knowles. At the appointee level most of the Murkowski appointees quit or got run off by Palin. She either replaced them with pals with little or no government experience or left Knowles era holdovers in place. Parnell just maintained the Palin status quo. Walker and his henchman Bruce Bothello extirpated everyone in the government who’d ever had a Republican thought, but even they had a very limited skilled resources.

      Then Dunleavy did what he should have done and demanded the resignations of all the appointees, but then didn’t have the guts to go through with it. All that accomplished was making a lot of ‘crats really hate him, not that many of them didn’t already. In John McKinnon’s defense, he at least knew his way to the offices of DOT&PF from his time as a Deputy Commissioner during Murkowski. As to Crum, nobody has ever improved DHSS from being simply a place where competence goes to die. Democrats don’t get any criticism for the mess because they’re Democrats. A couple of Republicans rearranged the furniture skillfully and quickly enough to parlay their tenure there into a better job somewhere else before anybody figured out all they’d done was redecorate.

      What Dunleavy is dealing with is he didn’t hire anyone who knew anything about running the Executive Branch and now the Executive Branch doesn’t know how to run itself other than on the “this is how we’ve always done it.” plan. When I retired in ’06, I could have walked into any major State office and know most if not all of the upper level people; today I would know almost no one. I wrote my book over ten years ago now, and in it I recommend that if you can’t hire a competent, loyal Republican leave the job open and let the ‘crats run it. I’m not sure that is good advice anymore because the ‘crats don’t really know how to run it either.

  8. Alaska is so corrupt and it’s people are so turned around. They don’t know what is up, down, right, and left.
    It is not correct comparing Dunleavy and his situation to What better situation Desantis and Abbott face when majority of their state residents are conservative, independent, and more literate than Dunleavy’s state residents.
    If Alaskans were more Independent and they personally didn’t rely so much recieving something from the state and federal government, they wouldn’t have had the Fear they felt in Feb 2019 about Dunleavy’s first budget proposal, if they werent so dependent. Even tourists from more conservative states noticed and surprised once they get here, they exclaim they are surprised how Dependent Alaskans are on the government in some form whether by grants or public assistance, while technically Alaska is a red state.

  9. I would quibble with your arithmetic; when I divide $12 billion by 733,000 I get about $1,000 more than your number. And my number is about $65,500 for a family of four! Is there anyone who cannot see that we cannot support this on 500,000 barrels a day, six medium-sized mines, a struggling tourism industry (the smallest tourism industry of any state), and a subsidized commercial fishing industry? How can anyone say with a straight face that we do not need to cut the annual state budget – for real, for once? Our economy cannot begin to support this level of state spending. That is why we have spent down one-time savings to keep the party going. Every Alaskan I know who is not either an elected Democrat, or a state or municipal government employee is very aware of this arithmetic. So most Alaskans know the budget must be substantially cut (for the first time, ever) and it’s the job of the Alaska Governor to alert the Legislature and public employees to that fact! If Governor Dunleavy has lost his courage, or if he has lost the ability to do arithmetic he should not run in 2022.

    • Don’t forget the Dividend is part of the budget you would like to cut. It’s pretty simple – we have an income that creates a competition between the size of government and the size of the Dividend. Right now the size of government is at a tipping point where more people are against cutting the budget further than people who want a larger Dividend. Give people a zero Dividend this year and see what happens next. God forbid the people would then demand taxes to boost the budget.

  10. Same old show from every Governor. Maybe the next one will promise the same again…no taxes, PFD belongs to the people, more oil, a gas line, cut bloated govt. Same show, different governor, it’s all smoke and mirrors until the work begins. I do like the idea of casino’s even if the state runs them, I mean they are politicians and good at gambling right? At this point it is right up their alley.

  11. I was a Dunleavy supporter but am now questioning that loyalty. You can always tell a persons character when they compromise their basic principles to try and appease everyone. This is called a consummate politician who blows wherever the winds take him or her. You will know them by their actions or inactions. Governor, if you want my vote, you better start showing a spine. If you want an example of what a Governor should be, check out the actions of Ron Desantis in Florida. Everything he does is to represent the people of Florida and protect their Constitutional rights! A good start would be to end Mask Mandates! An executive order removing all COVID mandates and protecting individual rights would be a good start. You also need to mandate that no school in the State of Alaska will teach social justice or CRT! I hope we have a conservative challenger to your run to keep you honest and that Trump will not support you unless you show some meat to your words and actions.

  12. Dunleavy campaigned to cut the government and return full PFD’s to the people of Alaska and restore the PFDs stolen by Bill Walker. How has he done with those promises? Did he really “Stand Tall for Alaska”? I have never been so disappointed in a politician in my life.. He makes Cathy Giessel and Kelly Merrick look like honest upstanding Republicans. What a disappointment! The minute there was any objection to his initial budget cuts, he caved and dropped to his knees begging for all to like him. He is not a leader, never has been and never will. We need to clean out the Governors office.

  13. Dunleavy has even lost the support of MRAK readers, a bastion of conservative principles. I warned him about his empty rhetoric concerning the Dividend before he got elected. His preoccupation with pandering about the Dividend has cost him in every other facet of his agenda. I voted for him but he has lost me and I won’t make that mistake again. Now with ranked choice voting he stands even less of a chance of being re-elected. Unfortunately, there is no candidate out there now that won’t be as bad or worse. Is this Sarah Palin’s second chance? Binkley? We need someone like a Mystrom to step up.

      • I assume you mean Dunleavy owes us money. In fact, HE doesn’t us money but he did make empty promises he couldn’t keep. Just about as bad IMO.

        • I said it correctly he owes us money. He owes me back pay from the years I was up there. He promised me something that he didn’t deliver on. I left him my forwarding address but the check still isn’t here.

  14. The dividend should be statutory with make-up opportunitiety for previous years not paid. Otherwise make state budget smaller. No state money should be spent on improvements” for federal property – 98 percent of the state. Governor Dunleavy is the best candidate so far. He should have asked the legislature to inquire about Anchorage Assembly’s refusal to allow a requested by city inhabitants earlier election but were denied – denied by the assembly persons. Those assembly people I believe should be reported to the Commander in Chief’s Secret Service for denying the guaranteed Constitutional republic form of government. The lawyers may have gone to law school but did they pass. Perhaps they can get their money back.

  15. Nearly everyone has skipped Constitution class or it was so long ago it is forgotten. I believe the left does a horrible job inculcating respect for the republic, American history and knowledge of how to claim your rights under the Constitution. I don’t believe the private club, the Bar Association members can or will reliably explicate the US Constitution either. The entire nation needs remedial studies in the US Constitution of 1776.

  16. I have virtually no enthusiasm for a Dunleavy campaign, unlike I had initially for his run. I think big Mike will land on his butt if a conservative would primary him.
    Could that happen?

    • They encounter a bureaucracy and its unions that hate them and legislators that should wear uniforms like NASCAR drivers that have all the logos of their sponsors on them.

  17. As a student of Alaska public policy, I found it difficult to read this whole column. The first thing that happens to an incoming governor, is that he or she is confronted with the reality that Alaska has two main industries – oil and government. Cut the government too far and that impacts the bottom line of the service industries (groceries, plumbing, restaurants, you name it) run by people because that is that many fewer customers they are coming to have. Then, if you are a conservative, the lack of support that you are going to receive is monumental. Alaska state government has to provide the same services, come good times or bad, unlike businesses that can down size in difficult times. Then there is the added cost of these services due to Alaska’s sheer size and lack of a real transportation network, as well as its distance from the contiguous United States. And the coming problems when the two giant faults erupt along the Pacific Coast and lay waste to the ports from San Diego to Vancouver in Canada will dwarf anything Alaskans and their governors have ever had to confront. And the San Andreas and Cascadia are seriously overdue to “correct” themselves, making the size of the earthquakes larger than have ever been experienced. People in California and Washington are too readily aware of these facts. Governor Dunleavy had tried to find some way to deal with Alaska becoming more independent, saying in his third state of the state speech that Alaska must become a sovereign state with the Federal republic. This is part of what he meant. As to what can really be accomplished when you are being sniped at by the Walker minions with their recall effort when conservatives do not bother to pressure their legislators in support is minimal. But to say he has given up, is not correct. Politics is the art of the possible and until people really confront the reality of the Alaskan economy, they will never see the reality and what has to be done before their dreams can be fulfilled.

    • Should you invest your time, energy, and wealth in a state that does not deeply respect the US Constitution, our history and liberties? Is it “safe” or wise to invest in a state that will bump you as a medical patient when you need it the most. And lack of transportation. The groundwork is laid to remove you from a southbound plane if: anyone doesn’t like you, or you wear a tee shirt someone thinks is “wrong”. Also, the fake ally “Canada” will not allow you to use the Kings Highway even though it was us that secured the right in Jamestown Charter in 1606 (before them). Nine months of the year you can’t grow anything to eat and the salami for pizza isn’t coming again. Should you invest here?

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