Thursday, December 17, 2009

Diane Benson Asks Packed Bartlett Club Audience - What Do You Think?

Tlingit civil rights icon, Diane Benson, after delivering a poignant yet powerful talk Thursday to a packed house at Anchorage's Bartlett Democratic Club, on what she has learned about women's role in Alaska public life, how that is perceived, and how she has acted upon it, announced she will not be running for the AK-AL U.S. House seat, a race she had entered in 2006 and 2008.

She then asked the crowd to help her out on what she might do next in the political arena.

After describing what she thinks she could bring to the job of Lieutenant Governor, she asked the crowd to let her know what they thought of the idea. Quickly, the entire room stood for her, applauding loudly. Gubernatorial candidate Bob Poe, the only current candidate for that office attending, was the second or third person to stand for her.

She was convinced enough to then announce her candidacy.

Both AK Muckraker from The Mudflats and Linda Kellen from Celtic Diva's Blue Oasis were there. AKM wrote on her laptop through the speech.

KTUU TV was there. They stated that the Benson announcement will probably lead their evening news today.

No other Alaska media appeared to be present. The Anchorage Daily News' Sean Cockerham has posted a blog entry, though.

It was a remarkable showing of interest and support for such a dangerous and difficult driving day, with near-record snowfall throughout parts of southcentral Alaska. Here's a picture I took, going up the opposite side of Brakelight Hill, on my way in:
Update - Friday 11:00 a.m: AK Muckraker's account of yesterday's announcement has been posted at The Mudflats:

She started off witha a great talk about women in politics in Alaska. She noted that despite the fact that Alaskan women lead the nation in rates of professional jobs, we elect few women to executive positions and we have never elected a progressive woman to statewide office. We lack a Women’s Commission in the state, and we have no women’s caucus in the state legislature.

She also spoke at length about her own experience after getting dissed by the Alaska Ear on Sunday. She talked about her experience as a mother, managing a home, directing and overseeing a large number of events for the Arctic Winter Games, a NOW conference, and a huge amount of volunteer work. She has been an outspoken advocate on the issue of violence against women, and has been involved in advocacy, teaching, public speaking, holding workshops and being featured in several publications. She’s taught upper division courses at UAA about Native women surviving violence, and women and social action. She served two terms in the Alaska Native Sisterhood, and served on the board of Healing Racism in Anchorage. She also was featured prominently in the PBS documentary “For the Rights of All” where she played the role (brilliantly) of Alaska Native civil rights pioneer Elizabeth Peratrovich.


She talked about Governor Sean Parnell’s recent moves toward addressing the issue of violence against women in the state, and noted that it was well past time that this became a political issue that got some attention. She noted that Parnell’s plan fails to address the cause. “We don’t just need more arrests and more shelters,” she said. “We need it to stop.” This happens through education, addressing the issues in the open and talking about it, supporting drug and alcohol treatment, addressing wage equity, affordable child care, and good mental health treatment. She also suggested that forming a Women’s Commission is in order. What is good for women is good for society as a whole and everyone benefits.

She talked about our former Commissioner of Public Safety Walt Monegan and his great idea about having teams of judges and law enforcement that work together on sexual assault issues. Restructuring into localized teams improves response times and gets help to victims more quickly.

Then she shared a fact that stunned the room. Anchorage right now has forensic rape kits that it has not tested. Victims do all the things they are supposed to do, samples are taken and they are sitting there unlooked at, untested. The city doesn’t even know how many of these untested kits have been set aside. Why are they not being tested? Lack of funds. What does that say about our priorities?

Palin chose to charge the victims of rape to have their evidence examined and their rape kits tested. We don’t charge the families of murder victims for forensic tests. “How is it just to charge a victim, or to just disregard evidence altogether? Do only those with money have justice? If protection of our citizens is not a fundamental priority, then what is?” Benson asked.

In the 2008 election, she was advised not to talk about these things because she’d be considered a “one issue candidate.” The election cycle before, she was accused of being a “one issue candidate” about veterans’ issues. She was accused of being a “one issue candidate” about the war. All of these are important issues and we need to talk about them.

Read AKM's entire account of the Bartlett Club meeting and announcement!


Anonymous said...

Too bad - a woman with absolutely no executive management experience (nor any experience in any elective office) is running for a position that is one heart-beat away from the governorship snd that requires at least a modicum of management skills/experience.

As a candidate, however, she will get a lot of press attention, many chances to be in the public eye, and ample opportunity to assert her victim-hood -- and that's what it seems it's all about with Ms. Benson.

Aussie Blue Sky said...

Too bad Ms Benson doesn't have time to get Wasilla $20 million in debt and THEN run for Lt Guv. Talk about executive experience ... ha!

Anonymous said...

Right you are, Aussie. But comparing Ms. Benson's experience with Ms. Palin's raging incompetence is damning her with very faint praise.

Philip Munger said...


Dane Benson addressed these concerns directly in her talk. They will be available soon.

Blue_in_AK said...

Anonymous, you don't have a clue.

Anonymous said...

I've never understood the following Diane has either. I've known her for over 30 years and couldn't really tell you what sort of employment experience she has had since she was a teamster on the pipeline all those years ago.

She's opinionated and has some good ideas, but since she was a teenager she's mostly really liked finding ways to get her name in the paper.

Look deeper Phil, you are buying a bill of goods with no real groceries included.

AKjah said...

I have taken the time to hear Diane talk and i will proudly back her for ANY position. This is good news in a sad news week.

Anonymous said...


I for one have no problem supporting or feeling quite comfortable with Diane in the Lt. Gov position.

Now if we could only begin to elect our AG... sigh...


Anonymous said...

Phil: No doubt you will post the link to Diane's talk so we can see for ourselves if she satisfies the concerns of Anonymous @ 5:46pm and myself are adequately addressed?

Anony @ 6:34: Are you suggesting that Diane should be a candidate for an elected Attorney General position, or is your non sequitur just that?

Blue: If "Anonymous" posters "don't have a clue," perhaps you could provide one. I, together with Anonymous @ 5:46pm apparently, think there's a paucity of "there" there. I have suggested before, and do so again, Ms. Benson should run for, and win, an office for which she is qualified and which will allow her to demonstrate some capability in legislating or administering the public's business. At this point, notwithstanding the braying of her sycophants (who remind me of SP's followers), she hasn't demonstrated any such capabilities.

Philip Munger said...

Anon @ 6:54,

A dividing line between those who think Diane Benson might be qualified for offices to which she has or is aspiring and those who don't falls primarily in the territory of what experience actually is.

I've noticed over the past three and a half years of involvement with Diane, and having spent about 130 hours on a yet far from finished biography of her that there is a general lack of awareness of how knowledgeable on important issues she has become, and on how different she is from female leaders in our state who have sought to reach an office from which they might make a difference.

I've also noticed that, rather than being a publicity hound or self-centered political climber, she is quite modest, sometimes shy, very discreet in her handling of the inside baseball game of Alaska politics, and more dedicated to the long-term, susainable development of Alaska's treasures and resources than anyone else currently running for office.

There is a large echelon of Alaska Native achievers, intellectuals and visionaries active in our state who rarely get a voice - in policy, in educational structure from pre-school to PhD, in the relationship between extraction industries and our own population (indigenous or otherwise), and so on - and Diane has been fighting to change this paradigm for over 30 years. In the sense of representing this new echelon, Diane might be considered emblematic.

You may think that I am a "braying sycophant." I'm a strong supporter, and agree that she comes from outside the realm from which we might normally expect our political candidates to rise. In some cases that might not be a good thing. And, in the case of Lt. Gov, the position does seem to demand more executive experience than that of a U.S. Congress Representative.

We are in different times, though, as witnessed by the utter failure of the Right during the Bush years, and as illustrated in the buyout of Alaska's GOP by the sleaziest person in Alaska history - Bill Allen. Right now, we're witnessing the betrayal of the Left by the corporate dominance of the Obama administration and a Democratic Party-controlled US congress.

Benson's struggle, from abusive foster care as a child, through a troubled youth, into the discovery of the redemptive power of knowledge that can be provided by creating artistic vehicles, in confrontations - some victorious, some not - with Native, corporate, educational and political paradigms in Alaska, is unique.

Claims that she hasn't demonstrated "any such capabilities" in terms of administrative or electoral victory accomplishments are often based on limited vision of what we are as Alaskans, and about what Diane Benson has actually achieved.

Anonymous said...

Dear Phil,
Diane rocks! Please send me that pic of me with her and Bob Poe.

Philip Munger said...


I will, but the picture is very blurred. Sorry.

Anonymous said...

Diane needs to actually run for something she can win. Is the school board, city council or even a rep seat to small for her?

Philip Munger said...

"Diane needs to actually run for something she can win. Is the school board, city council or even a rep seat to small for her?"

This exact same wording has appeared at other blogs and posts on this subject.

Diane Benson has been elected to a number of offices very important to the Alaska Native community. There is no way in my mind that being an officer of local and statewide bodies of the Alaska Native Sisterhood, for example, is less worthy than being elected to the Anchorage School Board.

Diane doesn't feel that a Democrat can - at this time - gain AK House District 16. I agree. A good person to ask about this might be Kevin Harun, Communications Director of the Alaska Democratic Party. Ask him who he thinks might be able to win that seat.

You are certainly welcome to appear at any event to which she has been invited, and ask her these same questions.

Anonymous said...

Phil, it's not a question of whether serving in a post in the ANS is more or less "worthy" than serving in a public body; rather, it's a question of the relevance of the service.

Philip Munger said...

anon @ 10:56,

So you are saying that when Alaska Natives serve to advance their own causes within the mix of all Alaska interests, it is less relevant than causes that include non-Natives?

How much do you know about what Alaska Native advocacy groups upon which Benson has served do and seek to accomplish, or how they are organized?