High Senate stakes: Voters feel frayed and betrayed



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. 


  1. Pray tell, what part of the Alaska state budget is insatiably overgrown (please show figures and descriptions of what is to be unfunded, not vague references to such things as “administration” or “bloat”)? Through the last couple of decades of GOP rule, we find ourselves in this situation. Does that mean the GOP is responsible for the current budget crisis? Sure looks that way.
    And just where will the state find the money to pay out a “full permanent fund dividend,” plus back payments? If we are in a budget crisis now (and we are, but that’s for another rant), isn’t offering to pay a full PFD just a pipe dream? Or is it a ploy to lure gullible voters? And will responsible Alaskans bite?

      • Voir, if you think GOP stands for gullible old people, you are part of the problem. I’ve been a conservative since college and I’m not 40 yet. Who are you to speak to who makes up the GOP? You’d be surprised who makes up the “silent” majority… here’s a clue: it’s not all old people.

        • People like Voir substitute debate with slander, especially when the facts don’t support their cause. Agree to disagree isn’t in their vocabulary but insults are.

    • Full Permanent Fund Dividend can be paid from the transfer from the Corpus. Just like it has been paid in the past. There are a lot of budgeting cuts such as the subsidizing of Secondary Education. There are many things in the State Budget that can be reworked instead of increasing funding for programs on an Annual basis. The state workforce is over bloated and can be cut down first by getting rid of the positions that are unfilled. The Alaska Marine Highway budget can stop being subsidize as much. These are just starters on how the State budget can be cut. In hard times just like in any other business when the funds coming in slow then the services should be curtailed. The incremental increases in programs where good and well when the state was flushed with cash but now you reduce to match both revenue and growth.

    • Greg,
      What part of the Alaska state budget is “insatiably” overgrown? Try the entire spectrum of public employees with benefits and ‘royalty’ retirement. For 700-800K residents, isn’t that ‘insatiable budget” over $5 billion, or is that just Anchorage? Oh, that’s right, $5 billion wouldn’t even jump start the state’s self inflicted responsibilities. The entire state budget is bloated to some extent and in many sectors to a large extent. The ‘public employees’ retirement is far too big a portion of it, let alone funding and caring for replacements. It is entirely within reason, with the current retirement system, for the state and city to be liable and paying for three or more individuals, including retirees, for the same position. No matter the source of revenue, the rate of spending per capita is not sustainable, even with raiding the PFD. Those last couple decades referred to were fine for Alaska, though going downhill in revenue and uphill in spending. Then the grifter with a law degree from Valdez slithered his way into the top slot for the four years of his ruination of Alaska. After him, Alaska may take a generation or more to recover. Don’t badmouth the one trying to repair the damage (Gov. Dunleavy). Pipe dreams are just that. Reality is reality. The leftist scam will not work.

  2. This will be interesting. An all out effort to get rid of Queen Giessel tomorrow. And Conservatives get two shots at Coghill. The Republican Primary, and if that doesnt work, then the General Election, when we will support the Independent. Coghill runs on his daddy’s name. John hasn’t done a damn thing but cause messes in the legislature during the past 8 years. Vote him out!

  3. I certainly agree. I also think that the mail in ballot option combined with the appalling behavior of our incumbents will motivate more of Alaska’s electorate to be counted.

    Many of us in years past left voting to those with nothing else to do. Not this time.

    • Needs based. I need the rights to minerals and oil under my land. If you want that to be needs based, then give it back to us.

      • Good article. The Republican primaries are the clear shot to get reliable and trustworthy Conservatives into office. Bumping off both Giessel and Coghill is a good start. House District 6 will be interesting to watch. Get out and vote tomorrow!

  4. Proving once again that he’s a modern guy, Mr.Fagan states that the election will be a contest between the “working man and the special interests.” So for those working women, shut up. Same for the suburban wives. Then there’s the men who aren’t working because of the not so great economy. Don’t forget the lawyers, who sure as hell aren’t working. This explains why, if the contest is between the working man and something else, the working man gets his ass kicked. Always bet on the special interests.

    • ” . . .the election will be a contest between the “working man and the special interests.” So for those working women, shut up”

      Oh, come on! This “working man” phrase is a common generic pithy phrase that for eons has referred to the hands-on grunt work of our society being performed by the lower and middle classes. How else can it be said? See how this suits you: ” . . . a contest between the working man, as well as the working women, those working directly with their hands fashioning artifacts useful to society, including those underemployed and, by common consent, includes the retired from those categories, versus the special interests composed of . . .”
      Does that work for you?
      You may heartily dislike Fagan’s general philosophical bent, which is fine, but your distaste for him is warping your thoughts.

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