Monday, August 4, 2008

Some Notes on the KTUU - League of Women Voters AK-AL Candidate Debates

1) Jason Moore and the League ran the best candidate appearance of the cycle so far.

2) It would have been far better, though, to give each political party an hour, rather than less than 30 minutes. This is a very important election.

3) I found out tonight that at least three of the five candidates read Progressive Alaska regularly.

4) Diane Benson has gotten a response to her Denali query, and is communicating with the sponsors of the Denali Proposal. This important fact seemed to slip by almost everyone there.

5) Weirdest question - from Jason Moore to the Democrats: "If you caught your teenage son smoking marijuana, would you turn him in to the police?" Diane Benson questioned the efficacy of the marijuana law paradigm, and expressed concern over methamphetamine abuse. Ethan got good laughs, saying, "My son's only four, and I can't control him now." Believe me, I know what Ethan means.

6) Most inevitable followup - from Jason Moore to the Democrats: "Have you smoked marijuana?"

7) Most sorely missed question that wasn't asked - from Jason Moore to Don Young: "What have You been smoking?"

8) Most idiotic answer - from Sean Parnell, answering Moore's question, "What are five earmarks to Alaska by Don Young do you think were bad?"

Parnell, as he's done in other forums, didn't answer the question. He tried to refer to outside-of-Alaska earmarks made by Young. He stated that he didn't like the one on Coconut Road, and he didn't like the one that led to the middle-of-the-night, unconstitutional changes in passed legislation. That's all he came up with.

Both items Parnell referred to involve the same act. First time I've heard Parnell talk about this. He stumbled on it, and on trying to come up with more stuff on Young..... he just drifted back off into Saradise.....

Parnell was totally hapless on this. I've been critical about Ethan Berkowitz's cluelessness on one important issue, but I've got to say, after watching and listen to Parnell handle this so cluelessly, Ethan is a fucking Einstein, or Sir Isaac Newton.

It is interesting, that when Parnell had his chance to launch into Young on an issue, he chose one that Diane Benson owns, through her early action on the issue Parnell thought so important.

9) Most dishonest question from one candidate to another - Ethan Berkowitz to Diane Benson, "In the 2002 election, you chose to run against Fran Ulmer as a Green Party candidate. Your race cost her the election. How do you feel about that?"

Benson answered that her run hadn't cost Ulmer the election, that it hadn't been close. She was right:

Murkowski --- 129,279
Ulmer --- 94,216
Benson --- 2,926

Berkowitz's followup reiterated his accusation that Benson had cost Ulmer the election. As a friend said, on the way out of the auditorium, "Ethan wouldn't have done that to another man."

Ethan, you owe this woman a sincere apology.

Tomorrow morning.

And, if you didn't just cook this up out of your head, you need better fucking help.

10) Biggest loser of the night - Sean Parnell. As Judy said as we walked out, "At best, he's just a suit...."

note: I've paraphrased, as I didn't take notes.


The three GOP candidates
The sparse crowd
Robert Dillon and aspiring blogger


clark said...

that's incredible, that bit about diane 'costing fran ulmer the election'. there's just no way that berkowitz looks good after that -- and he wouldn't let go of it, sounds like. so if he really didn't know the numbers, makes you wonder on which other fronts he really doesn't have command of the facts and figures? and if he did really know, then he was intentionally misleading the audience.
oh, but the guy is still leadership material, whereas benson is flighty and flaky, right?

Myster said...

The Ulmer question was ridiculous, yes, but Benson was no angel herself. She managed to slip in little jabs here and there about San Francisco and trust funds. The only answer I was particularly impressed by was her response to the question about an issue on which she'd changed her mind. She spoke very well about the difficulty of the abortion issue.

clark said...

even the ADN article today recites the 2002 gubernatorial election numbers. phil is correct, ethan better issue a retraction.

Philip Munger said...


Benson, IIRC, only brought up Ethan's outside background once, and only after Ethan had backhanded her. IMHO, she showed a lot of admirable restraint.

My wife, like you, thought her comment on women's rights to be deeply thought out, genuine and moving.

Myster said...


According to my notes, Diane got to ask her question first, so the Ulmer question actually followed the trust fund remark. Ethan's question was lame, but Diane threw down the gauntlet.

She also led up to it by emphasizing in a number of her answers that she was born and raised here, which seemed to me to be part of her script, just as Ethan's script was heavy with references to his time in the Legislature.

The Republican debate was a lot more entertaining.

Philip Munger said...


I stand corrected, then. Again, I didn't take notes.

Part of Ethan's script in the past, has been to assert "I'm an Alaskan" at least once in his speeches. Benson's Alaska story isn't just another Alaska story, though.

Part of what makes her a unique candidate in Alaska history, is the degree to which she has overcome Alaska-size obstacles over a long period of time. From challenging Ketchikan High School prohibitions against wearing any tribal identified garb at school, when she was a runaway freshman, to anonymously helping victims of sexual assault for years, to having the guts to stand up against Don Young when the Democrats didn't think it worth their bother, to being the first person in public light to request closer scrutiny of Coconut Grove, to bothering to ask the Denali proposers serious questions about the economic depth of their development package, to last night's debate, her challenge to Alaskans is historic.

Ethan's remarks about Benson costing Ulmer the 2002 election border on a violation of existing Democratic Party of Alaska working rules for candidates, if he misstated the facts on that race intentionally.

Myster said...

There's no denying she's a remarkable politician with an incredible past. But now she's also a politician. And last night I didn't feel we were hearing from Diane Benson, Advocate And Activist. We were listening to Diane Benson, Politician.

Myster said...

(I meant to say "a remarkable woman with an incredible past.")

clark said...

i recall talking to someone else about diane benson's age about what it was like being native and female in ketchikan in the '60s. she didn't make it sound like it was a joyful experience fraught with opportunities and sunshine and light. quite the opposite. i don't think it's possible to overstate the degree that it took tenacity, perseverance and imagination to find her way out of that morass. benson's experience was much the same, sounds like.
it shouldn't matter where you're from. i definitely have no negative impressions of san francisco, per se. but someone who experienced severe discrimination and hostility firsthand, and lived to tell about it, in a non-bitter and constructive fashion might be in a really good position to represent people who still face an uphill battle.

Tucker24AK said...

So Berkowitz owes Diane an apology for criticizing her run against Fran Ulmer because, well I guess because he's not supposed to criticize a woman. But her essentially calling him a special-interest whore when in reality she's just pissed that she didn't get their money first...that's just fine? Phil, why is it that you keep going back to "Ethan must be a sexist" when everyone who has ever met him knows that isn't remotely true?

Philip Munger said...


Mr. Berkowitz claimed that Benson's run in 2002 led to the election of Frank Murkowski.

When Ms. Benson countered that the margin of defeat Ulmer underwent was far greater than the number of votes the former had received, Mr. Berkowitz replied, "I think you should have some regrets about helping to elect Frank Murkowski and getting in the way of Fran Ulmer's election. Think of what this state would have been if we had Fran Ulmer as our governor instead of Frank Murkowski."

Ethan's statement is totally untrue, demonstrably false. And it was made immediately after Ms. Benson stated the matter correctly. If you think he needs a free pass for doing that, I think you need to evaluate your own biases, rather than those you seem to see in my analysis.

It goes far beyond your characterization of it as "criticizing her run against Fran Ulmer because, well I guess because he's not supposed to criticize a woman."

In some states, Mr. Berkowitz's false characterization of facts about a primary race opponent would expose him to Party sanction and a withholding of funds in the general election. Although what he did, if intentional, was far less serious than Ray Metcalfe's leaps to conclusions about Mark Begich's real estate business, it is essentially quite similar.

By quoting what a female friend said to me on the way out of the Williamson, I'm somehow accusing Mr. Berkowitz of being sexist? I fail to see your point.

It is interesting, that in 2002, with a huge amount of Party Support for Ulmer, the tally for Murkowki-Ulmer was:

Murkowski --- 129,279
Ulmer --- 94,216

and in 2006, with virtually no Party support for Benson, the AK-AL tally was:

Young --- 132,743
Benson --- 93,879

So, in 2006, with a grassroots campaign, Benson was able to get only 337 less votes than did Ulmer in 2002.

Anonymous said...

When is Sean's campaign going to implode? I keep waiting because I really do not like him.

Philip Munger said...

anon @ #12 - stuff cooking right now. Last week, I turned a lot of info people have been coming to me with over to other people in a better position to deal with it.

ilikepolarbears said...

One fact I think everyone is overlooking is Diane's crossover appeal. Even before her sons unfortunate injury, Diane was active in the veterans community. I think we can say with certainty that Diane siphoned off a lot of Republican votes from veterans who appreciate what she has done for the local veterans community.

Tucker24AK said...

We all know that third party candidates with no chance of winning often have an electoral impact far greater than that of the number of votes they take. It's why they run, typically - to help shape the debate. Every time Diane spoke, she forced Fran just a little bit further to the left to stop the bleeding-off of what would normally have been a key component of the Democratic base. That in turn alienated more and more moderate swing voters who were not thrilled with Murkowski but were more afraid of the increasingly left-of-center Ulmer. And THAT cost Ulmer the election.

It's also the strategy that Benson seems to be employing again, which is deeply troubling for all us Democrats who actually want to WIN in November.

No part of Mr. Berkowitz's statement was false. Stupid, yes. Mindnumbingly wrongheaded and far too nuanced for a 30 second question on a tv debate, yes.

False, no.

Philip Munger said...


please see my answer in the later thread on this subject. going fishing.

red said...

thank you