Sarah Palin myth-making effect: Why East Coast liberals go for Al Gross


JUNEAU, ALASKA – Al Gross, an orthopedic surgeon from the rainy capital city, has been running for U.S. Senate since last year, self-funding his race with over $1 million early in the election cycle.

He had the money, having worked in Alaska as a surgeon for years. Juneau is a town where surgeons can charge what they want, and the State of Alaska health insurance plan pays. It’s a lucrative living. Gross’ fortune and penchant for tall tales have launched him further politically than his small-town roots might have predicted.

This year liberal operatives around the country have decided his race against Alaska U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan, the Republican, is competitive.

It doesn’t look competitive on paper: During the Alaska primary, Sullivan won 65,257 votes to Gross’ 50,047 votes, in an election that saw a 19.5 percent voter turnout.

Sullivan is well-liked by the conservative voters and the business community, and he’s also a U.S. Marine, earning the respect of military families, all of whom tend to turn out higher during general elections in presidential election years. They’ll come out in November, and they’ll vote for the Marine who served in Afghanistan, rather than the liberal doctor who went to the private Phillips Academy Andover, and Amherst College, and who LARPs at being an independent.

The calculation for Gross also does not look good when compared to 2014, when Democrat Sen. Mark Begich got over 58,000 votes in the primary. Gross is nearly 14 percent below that number in his primary this year, and he faced no real competition.

Why have East Coast groups like the Lincoln Project targeted this supposedly safe Alaska Republican seat?

Call it the “Palin effect.” Al Gross is the Democrats’ Sarah Palin, an empty vessel into which all kinds of fantastical, romantic notions of Alaska are poured and fed to the head-nodding mainstream media and willing donors.

Those liberal donors have been enchanted by Gross’ “killed a grizzly” story; and his marketing team has used his fishing boat as a prop to great success.

Gross is just the kind of Alaskan who Americans love. The story of being a doctor-fisherman appeals to city folks with fat wallets and a longing for the larger-than-life experience of Alaskans. He is the mythical creature conjured up by consultants who know what buttons to push on the donors.

Palin, of course, was marketed to American conservatives in much the same way: The beautiful, Alaska-born, moose-hunting mama with a quick wit and a gift for public speaking. She spoke to people’s values and she minced no words. The pencil skirts and stilettos were a plus. Millions of Americans voted for Sarah Palin.

“If Sarah Palin could do this to a moose, think of what she can do to a donkey,” the t-shirt read in 2008. It was irresistible.

But this year, even Newsweek found the campaign ads for Gross a bit incredulous, labeling them a “mix between a reality T.V. commercial and Dos Equis’ ‘Most Interesting Man in the World.'”

Gross says he was born in the “wake of an avalanche” and killed a grizzly in self-defense, prospected for gold, and then he promised donors they might win the prize of joining him for an Alaskan adventure, if they were the lucky number.

Gross had a choice. He chose not to run as a Democrat, because that’s increasingly a bad label in Alaska, where Democrats and now the false-flag independents are held in lower regard. The Democrats have endorsed him, however, and that means the state party and the Democrat National Campaign Committee are on board and won’t support any other Democrat on the ticket.

“Alaska allows Independents in the Democratic Primary, and I suppose because people believe I’m a strong candidate, Alaska Democrats have chosen not to field a candidate against me, to endorse me and when I win I will caucus with the Democrats because Democrats seem the most interested in promoting policies geared toward economic development in Alaska,” he told a reporter.

Recently, Gross appealed to the DC-based grassroots fundraising group called 31st Street Swing Left.

It is one of countless grass-roots fundraising groups pouring cash and energy into potential swing races across the country this election cycle, Meagan Flynn wrote in The Washington Post. The group’s leader Lisa Herrick explained that the group usually targets local and state candidates, and that Gross is the only congressional candidate that 31st Street is supporting this year.

During a Zoom fundraising call last month that raised $118,000 for Gross, liberal check-writers from all over America heard from the fisherman doctor, and from a Native staff member who wove the scene for them of rural Alaska, where her people rule the very blue ballot. She sealed the deal as the group exceeded its fundraising goal by 18 percent.

The myth-making has been a strategic success for fundraising, but in Alaska the bear stories feel cheap, and even people in his home town of Juneau chuckle into their sleeves when he says he was born in the wake of an avalanche. Locals here know far too much about his family history; his father, Avrum Gross, was a swashbuckling Democrat attorney general who had many proclivities that the mainstream media refuses to probe.

Al Gross will get their vote in the capital city, where Democrats rule the roost. It’s a government town and he’s their man, even if he makes the inappropriate “toxic masculinity” comments in his ads about having the “cojones” to do the job. All is forgiven for the stealth Democrat in a town ruled by Democrats.

But in the Railbelt, where private sector jobs are more common and where people actually have to work hard for a living, Gross is going to be a tough sell, as evidenced by his weaker-than-expected performance in the primary. The Railbelt will come out for Trump, and they’ll vote for Sullivan.

Of course, this is Alaska politics, and no one can say with certainty how much things will change in 50 days and these are strange days, indeed. We do know this much: Candidates from Southeast Alaska rarely do well on the statewide political stage. And by rarely, we really mean never in Alaska history have they succeeded for U.S. House or Senate.


  1. It seems to me that Al Gross is more of a “real Alaskan” than Dan Sullivan. Gross was born in Alaska, and Sullivan married into the state in his 20’s. And what has Sullivan done for a state where the economy was weak while the rest of the country was having a boom?

    • Sue, what is a real Alaskan? I think that is something to ponder, or at least to consider. Is Al Gross’s million dollar Gillnetter, ( think tax shelter for Dr. Income) make him a real Alaskan?
      I wonder. How about his Bear Killing story? What are the details? Is killing a bear make you a real Alaskan?
      Ted Stevens and Jay Hammond were not born in Alaska, both came here in their 20’s and 30’s. Were they ” Real Alaskans”?

      • It is my recollection that the late Governor Hammond hired and promoted more people from the northeastern US than any governor before or after (and beyond all comprehension). I was first exposed to then Senator Hammond in 1966 and watched him thereafter. There was a fair portion of self-promotion in the late former governor. Once Hammond became governor, it was almost mandatory for many of those that he imported into Juneau to run State governor also sport a beard. You could spot them two blocks away. The title of “real Alaskan” is a tough one. I am a fourth-generation Alaskan and can tell you that the distinction is not worth a cup of coffee, even in Muldoon. (I do not mean to beat up on you – if I am correct, your family has been here plenty long enough to use the “real” tag…)

        • I concur with your assessment of the growth of Government under Hammond, however Jay had 59 others pushing spending, (Oral Freeman the lone exception)..
          My family like your family has been in Alaska for generations , like before airplanes. This is why I am so perplexed by this “real alaskan” argument. What does it mean? Perhaps Robert Service ‘s poem the “Spell of the Yukon” can be a guide into what makes one “real”. Point is, it isn’t a choice of ones self so much as what the land does to one?

        • Jay Hammond hired Al Gross’s dad, Avrum Gross, as Attorney General in 1974. Avrum was a long-haired hippy attorney from back East. He convinced Hammond NOT to sign legislation which would enact a PFD. That would come later in a voter-approved measure to amend the state constitution which provided for a PFD. It would be safe to guess that Al Gross doesn’t believe in a statutory full PFD payout to Alaskans. I bet Al signed the recall Dunleavy petition.

      • My 17 yr old Grand daughter has killed a grizzly. Also, moose, caribou, sheep, goats and muskox. She also runs a trapline in the winter. She’s more of a real Alaskan than Dr. Gross.

    • Really Sue? Is your head in the sand? You care more about where he was born or what he’s done for AK as a former AG and now US Senator? You are either a fool or a tool….
      Senator Dan Sullivan has……
      – Instrumental in opening the north slope to responsible development…you think Lisa got this through the way the mainstream media wants you to believe? The President hates Lisa and with good reason. Dan is the only reason the President is the most pro-Alaskan President we have ever seen since statehood.
      – Brought an entire new fleet of fighters to AK and further defense spending in the 49th state, giving a foundation to our otherwise bipolar economy…”…two squadrons of F-35As will ultimately bring 54 new aircraft and approximately 2,765 new residents to Interior Alaska. The first aircraft are scheduled to be delivered in April 2020, with a total of 54 to arrive by December 2021.”
      – Improved healthcare access and benefits for our many Alaska based vets…”WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK), a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, released the following statement after signing on as an original cosponsor to S. 1493, the Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2015. The legislation allows for an increase in rates for VA disability compensation, dependency and indemnity compensation, and clothing allowance by the same amount as the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) provided to Social Security recipients.” (I’ll take a former Marine over a buy who was born during an avalanche, later killed a bear and financially raped the good people of Juneau any day)
      – Personally brought AG Barr to AK and toured him around the entire state, which resulted in this per the ADN: “US attorney general declares emergency for public safety in rural Alaska, freeing up $10.5 million to support police.”…
      – Steered billions in federal funding to native corporations to spend and invest in Alaska…this is from Alaska Public Media on 4/21/20 “Sullivan defends inclusion of Alaska Native Corporations in CARES Act funding.” and then
      this is according to Bloomberg on June 29th… “The Treasury Department began distributing $4.8 billion of the $8 billion designated for tribal governments on May 5.”
      – Personally transformed the PPP formula so that rather than a per capita allowance, there was a state minimum that actually gave AK the highest per capita PPP funding in the country… by far!!! That money was distributed to thousands of AK corporations which spent that money here in Alaska, retained employees here in Alaska, protecting our fragile economy here in Alaska…
      – Personally lobbied successfully to change the PPP calculations to allow funding for seasonal AK business like tourism and fishing which had no payroll in March but which would have serious payroll deficiencies come summer when their operations would have been normally in full swing. Without this many AK businesses would have been without any support…he identified this, fought for it and won….
      What have you done other than sit behind your computer and throw stones?

      • Dan: You miss the point entirely. If we didn’t have a few responsible, knowledgeable people sitting behind computers, you would have no idea what was happening or who was doing what. I’m thankful for people like Susan.

        • Yes, it’s good to have a few fools like Sue, here at MRAK. They display their own ignorance, which can be easily refuted by smart readers.

    • What exactly is a real Alaskan, Sue? Being born in the state is the test? I know a lot of people in Anchorage who were born there, and could not point to Mt. Susitna if asked to. They would have to look up the State motto, and if asked what the state bird is, they would probably say mosquito.

      And, who cares where you were born. Where you choose to call your home is what counts. How you choose to act, and the values you take on are what counts. Dan Sullivan is an Alaskan.

      As to the rest of your claims, about how the State economy remained weak while the rest of the country was having a boom has more to do with the Governor, State Legislature, and local Governments than the US Senate. Tell you what, talk with Walker about how the economy stagnated, not Sullivan.

  2. What a difference? Sullivan is a Marine but has never served over seas or in wars of any kind… He had desk jobs that was needed to do at the time. So, the politics of who did what must be a big deal….They both have done professional work but very different.. I like them both but will vote only one..

    • Afghanistan is not overseas, or in a war of any kind? Do your homework. Democrats and Joe Biden always refer to son Beau, also a JAG officer. Did he serve overseas during a war?

  3. Has Al’s bear killin’ been looked into ?
    Was it on a hunting license?
    Was it a DLP? If so, was it legitimate?
    DLPs are generally investigated to see if it was necessary, and if not, are cited.
    BTW, technically a “grizzly” in SE is called a (coastal) brown bear. Same species, but grizzlies are interior bears.

    • I’m sure most readers cringe whenever you post something here so you don’t have much room to talk. Where else are we going to get the conservative viewpoint in this state? The left has the ADN and most if not all the TV networks in their back pocket but yeah, Susan is biased. lol

  4. Yesterday my wife received a postcard from the Gross campaign. The opening sentence said, “Support independant (sic) Dr. Al Gross.” It continues, “We need his independant (sic) vote.” The misspellings aside, it was postmarked in Sacramento, California. One would think that a candidate running for a senate seat would ensure no spelling mistakes in an election flyer. And one would think that a candidate running as a real Alaskan would not send election flyers from California. Since Gross’s electioneering postcard was sent from California it tells us where candidate Gross gets his election support. His claim of independence is a charade.

  5. Sullivan went to Culver Academy, a fancy lower 48 boarding school too, and Harvard. That’s hardly the profile you are trying to paint here.

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