Alaska is the number two strongest union influenced state in the nation (just behind New York) with 22% workforce membership.
Though Governor Sean Parnell is not generally an enemy to the unions, his running mate, Dan Sullivan, the current Anchorage mayor, definitely is. Yard signs against Anchorage Ordinance 37 have graced neighborhoods all year, thanks to Dan’s firm position.
When the governor’s race was a three-way, Sean’s re-election looked assured. Even as a two-way race, poll numbers didn’t show Byron Mallott winning head-to-head with Parnell, and though Bill Walker head-to-head against Parnell would give a stronger fight, he’d still get no cookie.
Then the primary happened. The Parnell campaign added the flammable, union enemy number one, Mayor Dan Sullivan, to his ticket. What a way to fire up the union base. The unions scrambled fast, scratching off every lottery ticket of hope, because they saw the inevitable.
Then Alaskan political magic happened. No one imagined two potentially unsuccessful candidates forming a joint winning ticket – except the unions. Remember, without a credible chance to beat Parnell, the unions were posturing to sit out the governor’s race?
After the primary, when the water should have been settled, they boiled up the Walker-Mallott ticket. Remarkably, it didn’t provoke the Parnell campaign.
Parnell didn’t grasp the dramatic impact of what two ballot remakes can do. First of all, he lost the likable Mead Treadwell from his ticket and gained that feisty Mayor Dan Sullivan. Secondly, he dismissed the latent strength of the joint ticket of his two previous non-rivals, Bill Walker and Byron Mallott.
The reality is the unions got fired-up-silly and are now pounding the pavement harder than ever. For the first time in my 27 years in Alaska as a lifelong Republican super voter I got a phone call from a Democratic Party volunteer asking for my vote. What gall, crossing over party lines!
This governor’s contest has one more intense feature: a cat-scratcher U.S. Senate race. It’s being fueled by Put Alaska First PAC, the fourth largest liberal-leaning super PAC spender in the nation. Despite them supporting Mark Begich for U.S. Senate and not directly in the governor’s race, they are union-friendly and collaterally helping to get out the Democratic or union-leaning anti Dan Sullivan for Lt. Gov. voters (along with the other anti Dan Sullivan voters).
Today we witness, as we have before, what appears might be another chapter in Alaska’s flaming night politics. Miracles aside, after November 4th, we’ll hindsight the impact on this governor’s race of Mayor Sullivan’s presence on the ticket.