Democrats preparing to create 'true' House majority - Must Read Alaska
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Tuesday, August 11, 2020
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Democrats preparing to create ‘true’ House majority

Democrats in the Alaska House of Representatives make up 15 of the 40 seats. Add to those the two “stealth Democrats” Dan Ortiz and Bryce Edgmon, and you have 17. They have an outsized influence on public policy in Alaska because of six Republicans who aligned with them in what became a 23-member coalition at this time last year.

The Alaska Democratic Party is unsatisfied with having a majority that includes so many Republicans. They already lost two Republicans from their caucus last session, and they know they could lose more this year, if they push for an income tax or oil taxes, both of which seem likely.

Democrats are seeking to create a “true majority,” according to the Alaska Democratic Party’s year-end fundraising pitch, which was emailed to registered Democrats last week.

“Democrats are getting ready to run for the State House where we seek a true majority, and for the State Senate to strengthen our ranks,” the Democrats’ newsletter stated, hopefully.

They also asserted that Democrats would restore morality to America:

“We are poised to get the country realigned and restore our moral compass,” the ADP fundraising pitch added.

Their targeting committee has been busy identifying which Republicans in the Alaska House they have the best odds of beating in order to create that true majority.

So far, according to MRAK sources, the Democrats have identified the following House seats to flip:

Lance Pruitt, District 27 Anchorage. Their candidate Liz Snyder is rumored to have raised close to $100,000 and Pruitt has not filed for reelection. He seems unlikely to file at this late point; no sitting legislator can raise funds while the Legislature is in session. Liz Snyder, to date, has no opponent and has a path to victory paved with early dollars.

Sarah Vance, District 31 Homer. Vance took out Indie-Dem Paul Seaton (who ran in the Democrat primary unopposed in 2018). Seaton had promoted income taxes and had aligned with Democrats on oil tax hikes. Kelly Cooper, an undeclared candidate who will probably choose to run in the Democrats’ primary and as their nominee in November, has filed against Vance.

Sara Rasmussen, District 22 Anchorage. Rasmussen beat Indie-Dem Jason Grenn in 2018. Grenn ran as an undeclared in 2014 and beat the Republican incumbent, Liz Vazquez, but he caucused with the Democrats, which did not go over well in this Republican-leaning district. Democrats don’t have a viable candidate yet, but it will likely be an Undeclared, rather than an actual Democrat.

Mel Gillis, District 25 Anchorage. Gillis was the Republican appointed to the seat by Gov. Mike Dunleavy after Josh Revak moved to the Senate; the shuffling occurred after the death of Sen. Chris Birch. Calvin Schrage, a registered nonpartisan, has filed to run and will probably be on the Democrats’ primary ballot; Schrage signed the Dunleavy recall petition.

The other seats Democrats could try to flip would be Bart LeBon of District 1, which he won by just one vote in 2018. Democrats wanted that seat to go to Democrat Kathryn Dodge, but she lost after a recount, and then went on to lose a bid for mayor of the City of Fairbanks. Dodge was their best hope for keeping District 1 in 2018 after Scott Kawasaki moved to the Senate; Dodge may be tired of losing and not step up to the plate in 2020. LeBon is currently caucusing with the Democrats, and that may give him immunity from the Democrats’ target list.

On the Republican side, in addition to Lance Pruitt and Steve Thompson not having yet filed for reelection, Ben Carpenter of Nikiski and Dave Talerico of Healy have also missed out on the 2019 fundraising cycle by dragging their feet. Carpenter is likely to file, and announced on the Michael Dukes show on Monday that he intends to file, while Talerico is said to be on the fence. Both are in safe Republican districts.

Rep. John “Agnaqluk” Lincoln of Kotzebue has changed his registration back to Undeclared, and has not filed for reelection to District 40; he has indicated he will not run again. Lincoln had been appointed to the seat after Dean Westlake, who Democrats picked as their way to take out Democrat Ben Nageak in 2016, resigned in disgrace. For his last year in office, Lincoln is still a member of the House Democrat-led majority, but is now not a Democrat.

Ely Cyrus, a registered Republican from Kiana and the former vice mayor of the community, has filed for District 40.

Democrats will probably find a blue candidate for District 40 to replace Lincoln in 2020. They likely won’t target Republicans like Louise Stutes of Kodiak, who is one of their biggest Republican allies in the Democrat-controlled caucus. Others they’ll leave alone are Reps. Jennifer Johnston, Chuck Kopp, Gary Knopp, and Steve Thompson, all who abandoned the Republicans’ once-22-member caucus, and now are part of the Democrats’ caucus. Of those, Knopp is the only one in trouble in his district, as he faces a primary challenge from Republican Ron Gillham.

Republicans who remain in the Republican caucus, now a minority, are 16 strong, two more than at this time last year, when they only had 14 of their elected Republicans working together.

House Republican Minority Caucus

For the 17 Democrats to create a ‘true’ majority, they’ll need to pick off four seats, and ensure that Republican Rep. Gary Knopp of Kenai doesn’t lose in his primary.

If all that comes to pass, the Democrats will not need at least some of the Republicans who crossed over to their caucus. Which ones would lose chairmanships under that scenario is a far-more speculative topic.

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Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • Republicans might remain in the republican caucus, but the rest of them need to go into the turncoat caucus with Benedict Arnold’s caricature as their logo. Useless politicians, but I repeat myself.

  • Bart brought this on himself. He forgot a very important lesson. ” Don’t forget where you came from.” He along with several others are done. It could be time actually to use the nuclear option to purge the RINOS.

    • Ah Yes, the eternal conundrum:
      Nuke your own party members and lose the majority on “principle”. Or
      Bend to “principle” and hold on to power.

      • Better to see the enemy in plain view and confront them head on (Democrat), as opposed to see a shadow and not be sure if they are friend or foe (ie. RINO).

  • On one hand, I wonder what is going on with the Republican party.

    On the other, I cannot fathom how bad it would be to run for office. Then, if you win, it gets even worse – you are a legislator. Wait there’s more – the very worst part is you have to be in Juneau. Times like that, I’d be glad that I don’t carry a handgun because I’d probably have to blow my brains out.

    • “the very worst part is you have to be in Juneau.”
      Seems like the move to Anchorage is long overdue, unfortunately the wheels are greased so well in Juneau they may never stop spinning in place.

  • When you have a cancer it must be eradicated.

  • I’m sure there are some true Republicans out there. Thing is, they must be smart and tough. The leftists fight as dirty as Tyson did when he bit that guy’s ear off. Worse, in some instances. At least Tyson didn’t do it on a daily basis and I’m pretty sure he left families out of it. Not so with the leftist politicians and clones. With many of them, it’s not daily. It’s by the hour and minute. Even so, there are perfectly capable Republican/conservative candidates out there. In this case they need a thick skin, a useful wit and the determination to see it through. I know. Easier said than done. When those seemingly select few decide to step up, the rest of us need to support them to the best of our ability. That’s how we’ll win. Any less is not good enough. Decide now to vote. Follow through next November.

  • Democrats and their union backers need to worry about keeping their own people in office. Republicans aren’t the only ones who can be targeted. Cheers –

  • The turncoat Republicans in the House and the Senate have brought this disease down upon us. Democrats will likely banish SB 21 as a part of their continued success this election year. We sat by while Palin brought her oil tax change, and the architect of that is the husband of the woman running against Congressman Young. We elected Governor Dunleavy to fix what is broken, and the Republicans in the Legislature who thwarted us by working against Dunleavy will convert Alaska to a blue state if we allow it. After an income tax and destruction of investment on the North Slope we can expect to see gun registration, banning of semi-autos, continued increase in people on welfare, continued growth in state and municipal spending, etc. etc. If the PFD remains at all it will be for low-income applicants only. The 2020 election year will determine the fate of Alaska for much of the remainder of this century.

  • Very sound insights. Unfortunately, many Republican District leaders are standing behind their turncoat house and senate members, Until the Alaska Republican Party and the local District leaders stop supporting the ones who joined the majority, we will lose.

  • Thanks for clarifying about Lincoln’s change of affiliation, which I first saw mentioned elsewhere without the clarification. Doncha love how certain corners of the mainstream media treat their readers as if they’re too stupid to understand what a flag of convenience is, pretending that Edgmon and Lincoln have never been Democrats simply because they aren’t calling themselves Democrats today?

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