Friday, July 11, 2008

Jumping the Gun

I've stated here and at several blogs at which I write, that 2008 is an unprecedented year in Alaska politics. 2006 showed that voter frustration with corruption in our government, particularly Alaska's GOP machine, was growing, drawing people to vote for some Democrats, and causing the GOP's hardcore base to begin to shrink. Nowhere in the state has this been more evident than in the Mat-Su Valley, where organizations, the school board and some city governing bodies have turned away from the far right, if not exactly taking a left turn. By and large, Alaska is probably the most in-flux political climate in the USA right now.

Three items emerged this afternoon that should prove interesting. They involve the upcoming August 26 Alaska primaries.

First of all, if the Democrats regain control of the State Legislature, can we - PU-LEEEZE! - move the date of our state primary up to somewhere like May, or earlier. It is really a huge advantage to incumbents to leave their challengers with only nine weeks to prepare. Maybe, even if the GOP maintains control of the legislature, if one of our national seat Democrats wins, which is fairly likely, they will want to move the date to an earlier time.

The first was the emergence of Gabrielle LeDoux TV ads. Her fundraising was going very well in early 2008. Then she was forced to agree to suspend fundraising while the legislature was in session. Then Sean Parnell declared. Although he was not asked to take a similar pledge - to suspend fundraising while performing the duties he's been elected to perform, LeDoux's fundraising never recovered, even as Parnell's was rapidly climbing.

LeDoux's move - going onto TV seven weeks before the primary, is the first sign that all the candidates will begin spending on media buys real soon.

Two other items that emerged today might test the strength of the Alaska Democratic Party's ability to sort some things out. The first was the challenge by the Begich campaign to the Stevens campaign to debate. Now.

I'd go along with it 100%, except for the important fact that Stevens and Begich aren't running against each other. Although it is doubtful that either will lose his August 26 race, a debate between Stevens and Begich now would be inappropriate, and a rude gesture to members of their parties, who are participating in the only race Stevens and Begich are now legally in.

Stevens' campaign manager, Mike Tibbles, was all totally bullshit today, when he said "I think the senator is focused on the primary and we'll have the conversation down the road."

Yeah, right, Mike. The Senator is focused on using my money to make political speeches in front of the state legislature, in an environment the campaign will ultimately slip into their web site, to enhance the candidate's image at the expense of taxpayers.

But Begich spokesperson Julie Hasquet, isn't much better, saying today, "We’re anticipating the race for this Senate seat is between Mark Begich and Ted Stevens." Again, this is probably true, but these two are not running against each other.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee announced yesterday that they intend to spend an unprecedented $586,000 on ad buys on Alaska media ads in the AK-AL race. It is part of an overall strategy by the DCCC to spend on important races, and they see our U.S. House seat as a likely pick-up.

A DCCC PAC, Red to Blue, is already supporting Ethan Berkowitz in his race against Diane Benson, who gave Don Young a real race in 2006, and is in the Democratic Party Primary. And Rahm Emanuel, whose vehement opposition to Howard Dean's 50-State Strategy in 2006, and support for Bush policies, made Emanuel an enemy of most progressive Democrats nationwide, has been lavishly funding the Berkowitz campaign against another Democrat.

No word yet on whether the DCCC money will be spent in the primary campaign. I hope not, both as a Diane Benson supporter, and as an area officer for the Alaska Democratic Party. And the Benson-Berkowitz race is probably far too close for anyone to call yet, one way or another. My calls today to the DCCC led me nowhere on this. I'll be back on it Monday.

When candidates in a primary contest attempt to foist a faulty or inconsiderate image of their opponents in front of their state or national audience, or when they use campaign funds raised on the premise of a national race, in a primary, ethical and practical considerations come into play that I think are important. Especially, when, as in the case of Alaska's Democrats, you're trying to rebuild a political party.

I've discussed this with Diane Benson, Ethan Berkowitz, Mark Begich and Ray Metcalfe. Benson, being an outsider in terms of the Party, seems to get it better than the other two major candidates do, about how important it is this year to build numbers of voters. I feel strongly that for every ten extra voters who show up at the polls on August 26, seven of them are going to vote for Democrats. And, if we can get them there in late August, we can get them back there in early November.

But Alaskans don't like being manipulated by outsiders, like Rahm, for instance. And we have a strong sense of fair play, on which Begich's jumping of the gun on the Stevens debate issue misses the target.

Update - Saturday 12:00 noon:
Robert Dillon at an Alaskan Abroad writes, "the DCCC is spending $586,000 on television ads in support of Ethan Berkowitz."

7 comments:

HarpboyAK said...

First of all, if the Democrats regain control of the State Legislature, can we - PU-LEEEZE! - move the date of our state primary up to somewhere like May, or earlier. It is really a huge advantage to incumbents to leave their challengers with only nine weeks to prepare. Maybe, even if the GOP maintains control of the legislature, if one of our national seat Democrats wins, which is fairly likely, they will want to move the date to an earlier time.

Sorry, Phil, but that won't work. Legislators can't raise any campaign contributions while the Legislature is in session, so an earlier primary would go the other way and give a total advantage to challengers! No sitting legislator is going to shoot themselves in the foot like that!

Philip Munger said...

hbAK - so when would you move the primary to? Not later, I hope...

Ishmael said...

You're absolutley right, Phil. I hate it when otherwise legitimate candidates, like Ray Metcalfe, are maginalized by the press. Since Begich entered the race, Ray has rarely been mentioned at all! Even Associated Press stories are pitting Ted against Mark in the fall. It's sad.

Philip Munger said...

Ish,

I just added Ray to the list of candidates above. I realize there are more than even that. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

As a conservative, I agree with your assessment of the move away from the right. Primarily that is because of the corruption in the politicians, not because of the believe in conservative causes.

I believe this will be a short term swing...perhaps 4 years or so, so make hay.

I don't have a problem with moving the primary date to May. The less advantage to an incumbent the better. The problem is, the incumbents make the rules.

Anonymous said...

I think that Ishmael was being sarcastic, Phil. At least I hope so... The words "legitimate candidate" and "Ray Metcalfe" couldn't be further apart in my mind. And in the minds of 95% of Alaskans, as most polls show.

Philip Munger said...

I have no idea whether or not Ish was being snarky. I added Ray's name because, thinking back on it, I did discuss ways of building the Democratic Party base with him.

I've also discussed that issue with a lot of people who aren't running, and with Jake Metcalfe, when he was, back when we met in Sitka, in August, 2007.