The Mat-Su Democrats are gearing up for the February 5 state presidential caucuses, and their responsibility for running the State Democratic Party Convention in the spring. You could feel that heightened interest in the air at their monthly Egan Dinner this evening in Wasilla.
This month's speaker, Ethan Berkowitz, rounded out their set of three dinners featuring Diane Benson, Jake Metcalfe and Berkowitz.
Berkowitz's talk wasn't long, and he didn't make any new statements about the issues. He did mention, as has Benson, that the unique situation of three credible candidates vying to run against Don Young is an opportunity to draw voters to the Democratic Party. But his comments and answers to questions from the audience afterward drew over an hour's spirited discussion.
Berkowitz handled an array of questions fairly deftly until the talk turned to reform of our failing medical care structures. He's the least progressive of the three Dems on this, and struggled in his earnest efforts to answer some sweeping questions from the audience, with answers which wouldn't really provide solutions.
Berkowitz is right that medical care reform is a very complex set of problems with no easy answer for one community, let alone for the entire state or for our country. When he talked of waste, inefficiency and greed as being the major systemic flaws, though, his suggestions that we can tweak our way out of this dilemma didn't resonate at all with the audience.
On issues pertaining to the crisis facing our planet from environmental degradation and climate change, he is one of the most convincing candidates in the country, and gave answers that made a lot of sense. They also displayed his extensive knowledge about this. On the need to elect people to public office who are ethical, rather than change laws to make those already in toe a better drawn line, he was anecdotal, rather than specific, but connected, with his humor.
I brought up Ray Metcalfe's claim from last year that Ethan did nothing with evidence Metcalfe had provided Berkowitz with, over three years ago, about the criminal behavior of Ben Stevens and others. I asked Berkowitz, "What would you tell Ray if he were here?"
Berkowitz stated that he was paralyzed from acting upon it within the legislature because of rules, and by the fact that APOC was already investigating. He also said, somewhat cryptically, that he isn't free to talk about some of the things he did at that time with information he had.
Ethan chided me for not asking him for his side of that story when I wrote about it here last year. He's right. I should have called Ethan then, and didn't.
The Mat-Su Democrats are one of the state's most important party regions. Because the GOP has dominated the Valley landscape so fully for the past 14 years, the state organization is maybe a bit too used to not wanting to devote a whole lot of resources. I'm impressed with how much effort is going into preparing for the state convention. I hope the party reciprocates by helping us more with getting our candidates interested in taking on Lyda Green (update - or her successor) and the GOP state reps this year.
Update - Saturday night: Ray Metcalfe told me this evening that he has more to say about Ethan Berkowitz's role while House Minority Leader. Metcalfe has an article coming out soon in the Alaska Report.