Interior voters dismantle Senate majority
Fairbanks voters saw to it that the Senate Bipartisan Working Group would not survive the 2012 election.
As Anchorage voters cast ballots to preserve the status quo by reelecting oil tax reform opponents Sens. Hollis French and Bill Wielechowski, Interior residents sent two Democrat incumbents packing and elected Republican Click Bishop to an open seat.
Eagle River voters flipped another Democratic seat to the GOP by electing Rep. Anna Fairclough against incumbent Bettye Davis, who was redistricted into former senator status.
Of course it’s far too early to know how the structure and leadership of the Senate will shake out, but change is certain after the previous 10-10 party split with only seven Democrats remaining, five new Republican senators heading for Juneau and the four-member GOP minority fully intact after its leader John Coghill took out Democrat Joe Thomas in Fairbanks by a wide margin.
Surviving GOP members of the previous majority include Senate President Gary Stevens of Kodiak and Majority Leader Kevin Meyer of Anchorage.
Of the five new GOP senators, all but Bishop campaigned expressly against the 16-member majority controlled by Democrats. In fact, during his primary, Bishop declined to sign a pledge to caucus only with a GOP majority. However, all he needs to do is look around the Interior at the fates of Joe Paskvan and Thomas to understand the consequences of failing to deliver for his constituents.
It’s not surprising that Interior voters, who are far more in touch with the resource industry and their electric bills, would vote to blow up the do-nothing Senate while voters in the service-based economy of Anchorage would have no problem sending a couple unproductive legislators like French and Wielechowski back to the capitol.
French is holding on to a 249-vote lead over Bob Bell with absentee ballots still to be counted while Wielechowski crushed Bob Roses in a fine example of how adopting your opponent’s positions is a bad way to win an election.
Thankfully, in their new minority status, this pair should have a hard time finding committee chairmanships or anything resembling the sway they had in the last legislative session.
Even as it controlled the Senate by a huge margin against a four-member minority, the majority was unwieldy, incoherent and unable to produce any legislation to address the issues of oil taxes, coastal management, declining North Slope production or the unsustainable cost of energy throughout the state.
Clearly, the Alaska voters spoke out against the gridlock in Juneau, preserving the GOP House majority and rejecting nearly half the Senate coalition between the primary and general elections.
With President Barack Obama winning a second term, it is even clearer that Alaskans must take over their own destiny on our lands as we face four more years of this administration’s ideological and anti-resource EPA and Department of the Interior.
We’ve never endorsed the oil tax proposal offered by Gov. Sean Parnell, but here’s hoping that new faces and the diminished role of his most vociferous opponents will finally allow something productive to be accomplished on a host of issues that are long past due for addressing.
The presidential race
There’s not a lot to be said about an outcome that will undoubtedly hurt Alaska over the next four years, so I’ll just leave you with the words of the candidates and one wise Iron Lady:
“If you’re looking for free stuff you don’t have to pay for, vote for the other guy.” — Mitt Romney to a heckler, March 20, 2012
“If you have a business, you didn’t build that.” — Obama, July 13, 2012
“I mean, I do think at a certain point you’ve made enough money.” — Obama, April 29, 2010
“Socialist governments traditionally do make a financial mess. They always run out of other people’s money.” — Margaret Thatcher, Feb. 5, 1976
Andrew Jensen can be reached at [email protected].