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.