PART II: GIESSEL, COGHILL, VON IMHOF
Alaska voters, especially conservative Republicans are angry, frustrated, and feeling betrayed. On Tuesday, many will look for revenge at the polls. Incumbents beware.
Two years ago, conservatives voted in one of their own when they chose Mike Dunleavy as their governor. Dunleavy promised to return to issuing a full yearly permanent fund dividend check. He also said he’d restore the money former Gov. Bill Walker took from Alaskans by ignoring the statutory formula that determined each year the size of the check.
Dunleavy’s plan was to stop the raiding of the fund to feed the insatiable overgrown beast that is Alaska state government.
Most of Dunleavy’s promises never materialized. He certainly could have employed better strategy and been bolder in trying to fulfill his promises. He also could have used his line-item veto pen more.
At one point he secured $130 million in cuts to the bloated university system. The cuts motivated university leaders to find new efficiencies like possibly consolidating campuses. Something that should have been done years ago. It was a major win.
But at the last minute, Dunleavy, possibly spooked by the recall targeting him, reversed most of the $130 million in cuts to the university. For his conservative supporters, it was like having your wind knocked out.
But Dunleavy is not a dictator with unlimited powers. Most of the blame for the governor failing to deliver on many of his promises belong to a hostile House and Senate. Especially since both bodies were made up of majority Republicans.
Conservatives thought the stars were finally aligned with Republicans controlling the House and Senate and governor’s mansion. But the Republicans in name only in the House showed us who they really were and organized with the Democrats. It gave the big government, labor union boss, non-profit cabal, deep-state, and lobbyists pleasing party control of the House. It was a major victory for the Juneau swamp.
Then the Senate fell. President Cathy Giessel, long considered a reliable and consistent conservative morphed into something nobody recognized. Giessel became the governor’s chief antagonist and leader of the resistance.
She’s also considered by many as the chief raider of the permanent fund.
Giessel joined herself at the hip with former liberal Democrat and now independent Speaker of the House, Bryce Edgmon. The two worked together to resist Dunleavy at almost every turn.
They were even willing to break the law and ignore the governor’s call for a special session in the Mat Su Valley. If Dunleavy said up, they said down.
Giessel, who is one of a very few vulnerable Senate candidates facing a primary challenge Tuesday, has every right to fight Dunleavy and block his agenda. But as she campaigns for another term, she has a tape problem.
Most voters have seen Giessel during her last campaign on a YouTube video criticize Walker for raiding the fund. She called it a money grab. Giessel also on the video promises to work with Dunleavy to get the money back.
What she has done as Senate President and what she said as a candidate could not be more different.
But it gets even worse. Her current campaign ads double down on her first campaign’s lies. And on her recent appearance on the Mike Porcaro Radio Show, if she had a Pinocchio problem, her nose would have busted a glass window.
Giessel campaigns based on the belief voters are idiots and have a third-grade level of ability of understanding. And some do and will probably fall for her deceptions. But most won’t.
But Giessel leading the opposition to Dunleavy’s conservative agenda has made her the darling of labor union bosses, lobbyists, non-profit leaders, and most Juneau swamp creatures. They’ve given her a ton of cash and she’s spent plenty of it trying to rehabilitate her image and defeat her primary challenger, Roger Holland.
But Holland is a credible candidate, a Coast Guard veteran , and comes across as reasonable and trustworthy. Giessel is in real trouble come Tuesday.
Natasha Von Imhof, Giessel’s lieutenant in the war to block all things Dunleavy, also has a primary opponent. Von Imhof is much more fortunate in her opponent than Giessel.
Stephen Duplantis says he does not believe George Floyd exists. Floyd is the man killed by a Minneapolis cop that set off riots across America. Duplantis also cut a video on his Facebook page recently warning us that UPS delivery trucks are used by the federal government as temporary jails. He says the trucks go into neighborhoods seizing people and then locking them up in the back of the trucks.
As frustrated as voters may be with Von Imhof, she doesn’t face much of a threat in Tuesday’s primary.
The only other Senate candidate that may be in trouble on Tuesday is John Coghill of Fairbanks. Coghill, Von Imhof, and Giessel led the charge to resist Dunleavy. They also punished and neutered the five or six legitimate conservative members of the Senate.
Robert Myers is taking on Coghill. He’s certainly an underdog but the word is that Coghill’s name is mud with many conservatives in Fairbanks. We’ll see.
What’s at stake Tuesday is a battle between the working man and the special interests benefiting from government largess. Should the tens of billions in the permanent fund be used to maintain government bloat? If legislators continue to raid the fund, they’ll never right-size state government. We must starve the beast.
The special interests are organized and have highly paid lobbyists and powerful union bosses to make sure politicians put their interests first. The only power voters have is at the polling place.
Tuesday’s a big day for Alaska.
Dan Fagan hosts a radio show weekday mornings from 5:30 to 8 am on Newsradio 650 KENI.