Sunday, March 23, 2008

The New Shape of the AK-AL U.S. House Race

Sean Parnell's entry into the U.S. House GOP primary in Alaska thrusts some new dynamics into what had been, up to his filing, an almost automatic pickup of that seat for the Democratic Party victor of the August 26 2008 statewide primary. Parnell, a fairly conservative Republican with solidly visible support from Governor Palin, is likely to draw campaign funds from GOP organizations outside of Alaska who have been waiting to see a higher tier candidate emerge from Alaska's Republican ranks. Parnell has solid credentials, having worked his way up from State House to State Senate to Lieutenant Governor. When in both chambers of the legislature, he was in majorities, and passed some fairly progressive legislation in the realm of victims of sexual abuse and domestic violence.

Even though the Palin/Parnell axis was defeated in the move at last week's state GOP convention to have Randy Ruedrich unseated as state party chair, Palin's 85% approval rating, combined with national-level GOP worries about Young's negative draw on Republican prospects in a strategic sense, spell doom for Young's fundraising chances. His quarterly report will show more money spent on legal fees. He started a legal defense fund early in 2008, but probably sucked another $200,000 or so out of his war-chest into legal defense this year.

State Representative Gabrielle LeDoux's strong showing in last week's commercial fishery debate in Kodiak helps keep her in the race, in spite of the newly enacted, big oil-inspired, ban on her being able to raise campaign funds while the legislature is in session.

The possible Parnell-Berkowitz matchup should be of concern to Ethan's camp. Parnell has the same background as Berkowitz - white male attorney who became a lawmaker. Both had legal careers that are ungoogleable. In other words, they marked time while working in private practice, or, as in Berkowitz's case, as a prosecutor. Jake Metcalfe looks, in a Parnell-J. Metcalfe matchup, even more vulnerable.

Parnell, as a former member of majorities and legislative committee chair in both houses, can show a lot of bills he introduced and passed. Berkowitz's record in that regard, as a House Minority Leader in an environment where the GOP majority was incredibly disciplined, has little in the way of legislative accomplishment toward which he can point.

The Democratic Senate Campaign Committee and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee are as concerned about the November 2008 race in Alaska as are their GOP opposite numbers. Part of this must be because Democrats are beginning to wonder whether or not Alaska can be swept. Ted Stevens is less vulnerable than is Don Young. The U.S. House Democratic Party candidate from Alaska that brings the most votes to Mark Begich in November is what they should want.

In 2006, Diane Benson polled better among Veterans, military families, blue-collar workers and Alaska Natives than did the Berkowitz/Knowles ticket. She won parts of the state important to a Begich victory that Berkowitz/Knowles lost. Here's a 2006 Parnell-Berkowitz matchup:

Berkowitz/Knowles --- $1,100,000
Parnell/Palin ---- $880,000
Young --- $2,000,000
Benson --- $192,000

Berkowitz/Knowles --- 97,000 votes
Benson --- 94,000 votes

Considering Berkowitz and Knowles had the state party spending thousands of hours and hundreds of thousands of dollars on them, and Benson was essentially running a guerrilla campaign, these raw numbers are quite telling. The DSCC and DCCC are looking into them further. That's part of why in the DCCC's Sunday announcement, the organization kept out of our AK-AL primary. For now. But they're highlighting the AK-AL race. And so are others.

Diane Benson is in Juneau this week, finishing up the filming of a PBS documentary, based on Benson's screenplay of the life of Alaska civil rights pioneer, Elizabeth Peratrovich.

Update - Tuesday morning: The author of this article volunteered for and donated to the 1978 and 1980 campaigns of Rep. Don Young (he was then a Republican), volunteered for and donated to the Alaska Democratic Party when Jake Metcalfe was chairman, has volunteered for and donated to Diane Benson since July, 2006; and he or his wife have donated to the current Jake Metcalfe and Ethan Berkowitz campaigns.


Anonymous said...

Philip, nice post. 2 comments:

1. You should state your affiliation to the Benson campaign.

2. Your hypothesis assumes that Berkowitz was running against Parnell. Palin and Knowles were the main draws. If Alaskan voters are as sick of Republicans as the rest of the country, Berkowitz should receive an edge, just from party affiliation. And Berkowitz has run head-to-head against Young in previous polls better than Benson, so there' no reason to assume Berkowitz would do worse against Parnell

Philip Munger said...

I have stated my affiliation with Benson's campaign here. More than once. Nobody asked me to do that when I praised Berkowitz's fine performance in Kodiak, so why should I have to do that every time Benson is covered in a favorable light in comparison with Berkowitz and J. Metcalfe?

The perception I wrote about concerning a Parnell-Berkowitz matchup was observed by others before I shared it here.

People need to remember that on August 25, who votes in the Democratic primary will be partially solved by which of two ballots primary voters choose to deal with.

Until a Berkowitz-Parnell or Benson-Parnell poll comes out, you're speculating at least as much as I am.

HarpboyAK said...

This is all specious speculation until we have publicly available polls done by a credible polling firm not allied with any campaign that matches up all the possible candidate pairings.

And yes, Phil, you DO need to state your affiliation with Diane's campaign every time you give her favorable mention, or criticize other candidates, because some folks are not regular readers of this blog and wouldn't know about it.

I'm glad to see Diane making the Peratrovich film. She's a great actress and performer, but that doesn't make her either most electable or the best choice for Don Young's seat. I have real trouble with a candidate who doesn't believe in academic freedom or the First Amendment.

Philip Munger said...


I think Benson's complaint was about confidentiality and plagiarism. McCarriston used materials from a confidential session with Benson, combined with materials from Benson's similar and earlier poem, to create "Indian Girls," a knock-off piece of plagiarism if there ever was one, IMHO.

The ADN's spinning of that story into one of, as you say, "academic freedom and First Amendment" rights was only one of many egregious acts of journalism there when dealing with issues in Alaska's Native American community.

Re Benson's role in the PBS docu-drama on Peratrovich, Benson is involved in the film as actress, writer and originator of the idea. Her origin of interest in this subject was also part of her long-standing efforts in the area of civil rights, extending back to the 1970s.

As I wrote to anon above, I'm relaying information I've gotten out of DC from friends connected to the DSCC and DCCC.

Philip Munger said...

anon and harpboy,

fixed it...