Getting the band back together: Musk Ox Coalition gets Labor money - Must Read Alaska
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Getting the band back together: Musk Ox Coalition gets Labor money

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The “Musk Ox Coalition” could rise again, as it has a big backer in Big Labor, which is funding campaign messaging on behalf of all but one of its original members.

The Laborer Local 341 group “Working Families for Alaska” is pouring significant support into candidates who are aligned with House Democrats but register as Republicans or nonpartisans.

In the latest filing with the Alaska Public Offices Commission, the group shows it is spending big bucks to get Jim Colver back in office in District 9, and is also supporting the other members of the self-described Musk Ox Coalition.

Colver was the one who coined the term “Musk Ox Coalition” back in 2015.

The candidates the labor group is supporting through its recent media spending include:

  • Jim Colver, District 9 Republican: $22,000, radio and digital ads
  • Gabrielle LeDoux, District 15 Republican: $3,000, digital ads
  • Daniel Ortiz, District 36 undeclared: $11,500, radio and digital ads
  • Louise Stutes, District 32 Republican: $8,000, radio and digital ads
  • Jason Grenn, District 22 nonpartisan: $10,000, radio ads

Of the $68,500 reported on the group’s most recent report, some $54,500, — nearly 80 percent — is being spent on Musk Ox Republicans and the indie-Democrat sympathizers whose campaigns seem at risk.

It is a partisan play by the Laborers union to keep the House under Democrat control.

The only member of the original Musk Ox Coalition not receiving the Laborers’ support is Paul Seaton of Homer. He has left the Republican Party at its invitation and is running in the Democrats’ primary. Support for him from the Laborers could occur after Aug. 21.


Working Families for Alaska’s chairman is Joey Merrick, a young man with a good nature, but who is an old-style labor Democrat heading Laborers Local 341.

The pillow talk in his house must be curious: Merrick’s wife, Kelly Merrick, is running as a Republican in Eagle River for the House District 14 seat being vacated by Rep. Lora Reinbold.

Reinbold is one of the most far-right members of the House and Kelly might be one of the farthest-left Republicans, if elected. And she has a good shot at it. Ms. Merrick has by far the most campaign signage in Eagle River, with candidates Eugene Harnett and Jamie Allard being outspent and outworked by the experienced union support that the Merrick family has. Ms. Merrick appears to have an easy ride through the Aug. 21 primary.

Original Musk Ox Coalition member Jim Colver was removed from office by voters in 2016, replaced with Rep. George Rauscher.

Now, Rauscher is having to defend against a heavy union media buy for Colver, who the Alaska Republican Party has technically banished, along with Reps. Stutes and LeDoux. Their offense was running as Republicans in 2016, but immediately — within 24 hours of the election — forming a political alliance with Democrats in exchange for key leadership spots. They gave the House leadership to the Democrats for the first time in 22 years. The party voting officers found that deceptive and has withdrawn support from them.

For Stutes and LeDoux, there were rewards to be dissidents. Stutes, although she had served for just two years, was awarded the role of Majority Whip by the Democrat-led House. LeDoux became Rules Chair.

Ortiz told voters he would organize with the Republicans, even while running as an undeclared candidate. He immediately organized with Democrats.

Grenn is less of a Musk Ox because he accepted so much union and Democratic support as a candidate that it was hard to miss his allegiances.

He won in a reliably Republican district because the incumbent Rep. Liz Vazquez didn’t run an effective campaign in 2016, and was outspent by union-backed Grenn. This year he skipped the primary and will go to the General Election as a petition candidate, with Democrat and Big Labor backing once again.

Working Families of Alaska is also supporting former House Rep. Nancy Dahlstrom as she tries to win back a seat she vacated several years ago. The union group has awarded $8,000 to support her campaign. She is a Republican making a play for the House District 13 seat being vacated by Rep. Dan Saddler. The other Republicans running for the District 13 seat are Craig Christenson and Bill Cook.

Merrick’s group also spent $4,000 in an Anchorage Assembly special race to replace West Anchorage Assembly member Tim Steele.

Austin Quinn-Davidson, who is the hard-leftist in the three-way race, will get support with digital advertising from Working Families for Alaska.

Quinn-Davidson is an environmental lawyer with the Great Alaska Land Trust. She is married to Stephanie Quinn-Davidson, and both are actively supporting the “Yes on 1” ballot initiative to shut down most projects that Laborers would hope to work on by making it impossible to get building permits in the any area that can be considered salmon or other anadromous fish habitat.

Although the Quinn-Davidson family backs the “Yes on 1” initiative, Joey Merrick serves on the board of the governor’s Alaska Gasline Development Authority. The governor has said that Yes on 1 would halt many needed projects around the state and it is clear that building a gasline to tidewater would face enormous hurdles if the initiative passes.

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Written by

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 comment

  • Yikes. Very good information! Thank you.

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