CANDIDATE MIKE GORDON READY TO TACKLE BUDGET CLIFF
When Mike Gordon first came to Alaska as a young child, he didn’t see a land covered in snow and ice, as he expected.
In fact, it was summer in a land where the days never seemed to end, yet everything was covered with a heavy coat of ash.
“It felt like Pompeii,” he recalls of the Mount Spurr explosion that had left Anchorage cloaked in white ash in the summer of 1953.
Mountain Mike, as he’s sometimes called, arrived with his mother in Anchorage by military transport ship that year to join his father, who had accepted a job with the Red Cross at Elmendorf. They lived for a while on Government Hill, before moving to District 18.
Less than a year later came the 1964 Great Alaska Earthquake, but by then Gordon was in college in San Francisco. Unable to reach his family, he discovered that they were OK when he saw an aerial photo of their home — still intact — on the cover of the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper.
“There was a big crack going right up to the front door, but the house was standing,” he says. “I couldn’t get through to my parents, and I could see the house across the street from ours was totally destroyed. All the Iliamna Bluff houses went into the drink that day.”
Later, he learned that his dad and mom had walked into Spenard after the quake hit and had a drink at the Buckaroo Club. It seemed a reasonable thing to do, under the circumstances.
Gordon was stuck in California for a while, working at various jobs that made money, and gave him a secure career path, but it didn’t help him build the life he sought.
He had become an Alaskan, and so he drove back up the Alcan Highway. Home at last, he and friends bought the Birdhouse Bar down the Seward Highway with some borrowed cash. It was his first foray into business ownership, and it became the best-known bar in Alaska for many years with its quirky decor of all-things-possible stapled to the walls and ceiling.
A year later Gordon bought the Alibi Club in Spenard, renamed it Chilkoot Charlie’s, and the place began its legacy as a legendary destination watering hole with a distinctly Alaskana theme.
The enterprising young businessman stayed with Chilkoot Charlie’s for the next 45 years, finally leaving the business in 2015 to launch a campaign for House District 18, which runs from Spenard, through parts of Midtown and into a section of the U-Med district of Anchorage.It’s a moderate district with a very liberal House incumbent representative.
Perhaps in preparation for a political season in his life, Gordon has run 15 marathons and climbed six of the seven summits of the world. He attempted summiting Everest three times, but weather pushed him back each time.
But this is a different challenge. This year, he’s been walking District 18, as he has done three times since last October, to make the case to voters that they can do better with more a more capable representative in Juneau. He knocks on doors and he listens to what people in Anchorage have to say.
WHAT IS DISTRICT 18 SAYING?
Gordon is hearing frustration from voters. He shares with them the concern that not enough important work is being done in Juneau. A lot of it seems frivolous.
Safety is one of the biggest concerns in the district, especially along greenbelts and parks. Gordon is not unfamiliar with that observation, having written on the topic of trail safety a 2014 piece titled “Evil Presence” that was published by the Anchorage Press.
In addition to safety, he’s hearing impatience at both the Legislature and the Governor for not “getting the job done.”
“There’s a lot of anger at incumbents right now. I’m glad I’m not an incumbent running in my district,” he says. “They’re upset the Legislature did not do its job.
“The governor used a sledge-hammer to correct the situation by taking half of everyone’s dividends — rich or poor, young or old, rural or urban,” he says.
That doesn’t seem right to him.
As a businessman, Gordon is comfortable making the tough calls. This is not an easy time to be a lawmaker, he acknowledges; there won’t be a lot of money for capital projects and government spending must still come down before Alaskans are comfortable that their leaders have done all they can do short of bringing on new revenues.
He wants voters to know that although he’s a conservative, he’s not an ideologue. He believes someone like him — more centrist than the harshly partisan incumbent — is the right choice for voters at this time in Alaska’s history.