OPINION: Dems’ blue wave hits red brick wall in Alaska

Most situations in life can be summed up by a quote from Seinfeld or Yogi Berra, and Election Night 2018 was no exception. One from Berra captures it nicely: “It’s getting late early.” After holding high aspirations of defeating Mike Dunleavy following incumbent Gov. Bill Walker’s decision to drop out and throw his support behind Mark Begich, and teased by polling and fundraising into thinking political neophyte Alyse Galvin had a chance of knocking off 23-term incumbent and Dean of the U.S. House Don Young, Democrat hopes were dashed almost immediately. The first set of results gave the Republican Dunleavy a lead of about 6,500; Young led by more than 4,000 and Begich-endorsed Ballot Measure 1, aka Stand for Salmon, trailed by 19,000. Berra also once said, “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.” Well, it was over. After the first round of returns it was only a matter of how large the final margins would be, and whether Republicans could retake the majority in the state House after a two-year hiatus in the minority while a Democrat-led coalition aided by RINOs Paul Seaton, Louise Stutes and Gabrielle LeDoux pushed for higher taxes on oil and new taxes on income. At the end of the night it appears the GOP will indeed claim House majority status in Juneau after all its incumbents won, Seaton was defeated soundly by Sarah Vance and coalition member Jason Grenn, an Anchorage independent, was unseated by Sara Rasmussen thanks in part to the presence of perennial candidate Dustin Darden pulling nearly 800 votes on the District 22 ballot. The night was essentially a clean sweep other than the still uncertain outcome in Senate District A in Fairbanks where Senate President Pete Kelly, the Republican incumbent, leads by just 11 votes over his Democrat challenger Rep. Scott Kawasaki, whose vacated seat seems headed to Republican control in a major flip for the party with a win by Barton LeBon. While national Democrats celebrated taking over the U.S. House of Representatives and President Donald Trump happily endorsed Republican punching bag Nancy Pelosi for Speaker of the House, the blue party took a shellacking in Alaska. Begich, apparently so stunned by how badly he was beaten by Dunleavy, took no calls on Election Night and as of 10 a.m. on Nov. 7 still hadn’t issued a statement on his Facebook, Twitter or official campaign pages, the latter of which still touts his lead in the Alaska Survey Research poll by Ivan Moore as his most recent post. The former Anchorage mayor and single-term U.S. senator who was defeated by current Sen. Dan Sullivan in 2014 is largely regarded as a pretty smooth politician, but there can be no doubt he miscalculated terribly by jumping on the Stand for Salmon bandwagon while it was still a three-way race for governor. In a political move so transparent it would attract bird strikes, Begich’s attempt to draw votes from Walker, who opposed the measure, backfired spectacularly. With a margin of nearly 21,000 votes and 98 percent of precincts in, the outcome for governor may have been a foregone conclusion regardless, but it became inevitable when the once reliably pro-resource development Begich turned off so many potential supporters with his position on Stand for Salmon. Nor did it help that Begich was in favor of taxing all of Alaskans in order to extract some revenue from a couple thousand out-of-state North Slope workers. One thing slightly less short-lived than Begich’s campaign was the House bipartisan coalition that must be the briefest in Alaska history. We’re a long way from the gleeful press conference Nov. 9, 2016, when the majority caucus was announced. Since then, the “Wack Pack” of Reps. Dean Westlake, Zach Fansler and Justin Parrish are all out after a series of transgressions ranging from sexual harassment to assault against women in Juneau; and the basically unflappable Rep. Sam Kito quit the caucus late in this past session after growing sick of LeDoux’s high-handed rule over the Rules Committee. While there may be a place for Stutes in the to-be-formed GOP House majority, LeDoux should find herself in the wilderness after finally burning a bridge or two too many. Alaskans chose a clear path on Election Day, and for the candidates from Dunleavy to Vance the easy part is over. Delivering, as the Democrats found out, is a much tougher task. ^ Andrew Jensen can be reached at [email protected]

Distance learning keeps growing as technology catches up

On any given day at the Alaska Zoo, one of the staff members may be zipping around on a computer-laden golf cart preparing to show off some of the animals to a camera. That camera carries a live stream all over the state, or sometimes, all over the world. Educators at the zoo can talk to students in New York about polar bears or show students in Kaktovik how animals are adapted to cold environments. The only requirement is an internet connection. Some of the groups participating are school classes, but the audiences are diverse. The zoo began teaching distance education programs around 2013 and has embraced the technology to increase its reach, said Stephanie Hartman, the education coordinator for the zoo. “We have all sorts, honestly,” she said. “When we first started it, we didn’t want to throw it directly into schools … really, we focused on after-school and before-school programs, and libraries. Shockingly enough, a lot of senior centers started booking with us.” Anchorage is the biggest city in Alaska, but with about 300,000 people in the metropolitan area, it’s still a relatively small base to support the nonprofit zoo. Hartman said the distance education programs help accomplish the Alaska Zoo’s mission of connecting people to animals as well as broaden its potential support base. They’re not under the illusion that elementary schools in New York will visit the Alaska Zoo, but they may book a distance learning education program again in the future, supporting the zoo, she said. “We really try to make it so it’s an interactive experience,” she said. “Our packets (which are sent ahead) also round out the experience … and they can also be used throughout the school year because they do meet curriculum.” The use of distance and digital learning is practical in a state that’s largely roadless, sparsely populated and that stretches more than 1,000 miles from end to end. In the past decade, with expanding broadband availability and increasing attention on the cost of education in the state, educational organizations have rapidly embraced technology in the classrooms. That often includes distance and supplementary online education. It’s also been touted as a way to save money in delivering education while keeping pace on quality. Gubernatorial candidates Mike Dunleavy and Mark Begich both focused on educational funding throughout their campaigns, looking for ways to improve performance without inflating the state budget while the state is still recovering from a wounded economy. About 80 percent of K-12 education funding in 2014-15 was spent on personnel costs — salaries, health care and retirement benefits — while approximately 19 percent was spent on purchases of services and supplies, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. While educational technology may improve opportunities, it’s not cheap; school districts and universities nationwide have to budget for updated and refreshed technology every year. Distance learning and educational technology is projected to be a $252 billion global market by 2020, according to a 2016 analysis by EdTechX Global and Ibis Capital. The Alaska Department of Education and Early Development maintains a map with drop-pins marking schools with innovative uses of technology in their classrooms. That ranges from the the Anchorage School District’s use of teletherapy for speech therapists to the Petersburg School District introducing coding classes. That exposure is part of the rapidly evolving education atmosphere — technology is just a part of everything now, said Norm Wooten, the executive director of the Alaska Association of School Boards. “I recall when computers were first being put into schools, we were teaching kids keyboarding, how to type,” he said. “Districts don’t do that anymore. They’re starting students right away on coding, complex topics.” Alaska has embraced technology in classrooms, either on par with or faster than schools across the country, Wooten said. In 2006, the Alaska Association of School Boards embarked on a technology implementation initiative called the Consortium on Digital Learning, aimed at implementing a one-to-one ratio of computers to students in various districts. The goal was to make a laptop or mobile device available to every student. “We accomplished what we (set out to do), which was make technology integrated into every school in the state of Alaska,” he said. Steve Nelson, the communications manager for AASB who coordinated the Consortium on Digital Learning project, added that the cost of technology may not necessarily be a line-item increase for districts over other supplies. “What used to be spent on textbooks, I think, is going to be spent more and more on technology,” he said. Hartman identified the technology as one of the biggest frustrations in the implementation of distance learning — between bandwidth and compatibility issues, there’s rarely a day when a distance learning teacher at the zoo doesn’t encounter a problem. While they can solve some of their problems, in part with help from internet provider GCI, they may not always be able to help the teachers in the classroom solve the issues on their end. “The best part about it is connecting to people who’ve never seen a moose or a wolf or a red fox before. You can see something really igniting in a person,” she said. “Technology at this point is the bane of my existence. We always have a ton of trouble. You name it, it’s happened.” Technology is also a lynchpin in personalized learning, one of the largest pushes in public education in recent years, which provides resources for students to direct their own education with digital resources with the guidance of a classroom teacher, allowing each student to learn by the method that best suits them. Many of the school districts in Alaska have begun implementing tools targeted at personalized learning already, and that’s going to continue, Wooten said. It’s also an integral part of Alaska’s Educational Challenge, which was crafted out of submitted comments from Alaskans all over the state. “You cannot personalize learning in this state without the use of technology,” he said. “It’s not about seat time anymore. It’s about the mastery of the material … No teacher can stand up in front of a class of 30 kids and personalize learning for each of them. You can’t do it without technology.” Broadband is one limiting factor on the expansion of the use of technology in the state. Wooten said AASB regularly make sure the issue is before the Legislature, reminding them that improved broadband in communities brings benefits for business as well as education and residents. Technology is reaching beyond the classroom into extracurricular projects, too. Nelson said AASB has been working on “book slam” projects with Alaska Native village schools for about the last decade all over the state to design digital books targeted at revitalizing Native languages, many of which are in danger of going extinct within a generation. Some areas, like the Yukon-Kuskokwim School District, have completed a number of books replete with local collaboration on illustrations, narrations and storyboarding. “We’ve been working for close to a decade on this,” Nelson said. “As soon as you get the technology, teachers ask, ‘How are we going to use this?’ … It’s pretty cool. It’s got a lot of uses all across the learning spectrum.” ^ Elizabeth Earl can be reached at [email protected]

Tax policy paves way for LNG Canada project

It wasn’t just growing market demand and higher prices that motivated the partners in the LNG Canada project to go ahead with their C$40 billion development in British Columbia. Lower taxes helped, too. The B.C. premier’s decision to scrap his predecessor’s special liquefied natural gas tax and endorse a new “competitive tax structure” helped the companies make their investment decision, LNG Canada’s commercial director Rob Dakers was quoted in Business in Vancouver. In 2014, the B.C. government pushed a new tax on LNG projects, set at a minimum rate of 1.5 percent of net operating income (revenue less expenses) until a project recovers its capital investments and the plant starts operating at a profit. At that point, the tax rate would climb to 3.5 percent for 20 years, then top out at 5 percent. The special LNG tax would be in addition to corporate income taxes. Then, nothing happened. Hopes never turned real for multiple proposed LNG export terminals on the British Columbia coast and booming gas production to feed the projects. The new industry would create so much provincial revenue, then-Premier Christy Clark said, that the B.C. treasury would be able to pay off all its debts, eliminate sales tax and establish a “prosperity fund” — called a “fantasy fund” by skeptics. But the global LNG market did not cooperate with the plan. Turns out plenty of new supply was on the way, prices were headed down, and developers were not looking to commit tens of billions of dollars with that much financial uncertainty. Then, by early 2018, markets were looking much better, prices were up, and the provincial government that took control in 2017 was ready to offer a deal. If LNG Canada — led by Shell, with partners from Japan, China, Malaysia and South Korea — would commit by November to build its project in Kitimat, B.C. (about 100 miles southeast of the Alaska border), the province would get rid of the LNG tax. The government wanted to move the seven-year-old joint venture toward a final investment decision. British Columbia also will exempt the project from paying provincial sales tax during construction, similar to the policy for many manufacturing plants, recovering that forgone revenue over 20 years in a new structure called “operating performance payments.” The province will exempt LNG Canada from a scheduled $20-per-tonne increase in carbon-emission taxes if the project can meet a target as the world’s cleanest liquefaction plant. That would lock in the carbon tax at $30 per tonne for the project, while the provincial tax for other fuel users is set to rise each year by $5 per tonne until it hits $50 in 2021. The offer also provides the project access to cheaper electrical power, putting it on a similar footing to other industrial sectors. B.C. Hydro will cut its rate for LNG facilities and offer its standard industrial tariff in an attempt to get LNG Canada to use electricity and not gas to power much of its operations. “I think these are the right steps forward to level the playing field and enable LNG development in B.C.,” Susannah Pierce, LNG Canada’s director of external relations, said when the government announced its offerings in March. Other LNG developers can get pretty much the same deal. One small project near Vancouver is close to a construction decision, while others still are in proposal-and-planning stages. “Our obligation is to the people who call British Columbia home, and our job is to get the best deal for them and the generations that follow,” Premier John Horgan said in March. “No premier or government can dismiss this kind of critical economic opportunity for the people of British Columbia.” Instead of the provincial treasury receiving an estimated $28 billion in revenue over 40 years from LNG Canada, British Columbia would take in $22 billion, according to government estimates in March. The tax breaks and other terms, however, are contentious. Before he became premier, Horgan spent years in the opposition, accusing the government of giving away too much revenue to large multinational LNG proponents. “Shell does not need handouts from government, in my view,” Horgan said in 2013. Environmental groups don’t like the deal, calling it an abandonment of British Columbia’s commitment to fight climate change. “Today’s announcement is a new form of climate denial,” Sierra Club B.C.’s climate campaigner Jens Wieting said in March. “By sweetening the pot for fracked gas export, the government is laying out a red carpet for investors to help destroy our climate.” Soon after LNG Canada announced its investment decision Oct. 1, the opposition party was calling on the government to make public the details of the tax deal. “What promises has the government made that will bind future governments or cost taxpayers in the future?” asked Mike de Jong, an opposition party member in the provincial assembly. “What has this government promised in exchange for the decision to proceed, and how long have they promised it for? It may be eminently defensible, but surely people are entitled to know.” Finance Minister Carole James said the government is finishing the “operating performance payment agreement” in lieu of sales taxes during construction, and the terms would be released when they are final. The project’s C$40 billion price tag includes two liquefaction trains in Kitimat, with production capacity of 13 million tonnes per year. The partners have the option of later doubling that capacity. Almost half of the construction cost is for the LNG plant. In addition to the Kitimat terminal, C$6.2 billion will be spent on the almost 420-mile pipeline to deliver feed gas from northeastern B.C. In total, the LNG plant, pipeline and upstream development will employ 10,000 workers at peak construction. A remaining hurdle is a jurisdictional challenge over the pipeline, which already holds provincial regulatory approval. An opponent contends that Canada’s National Energy Board has jurisdiction, not British Columbia, because the line would connect to pipe that serves Alberta. The NEB has agreed to consider the challenge. ^ Larry Persily is a former Alaska journalist, state and federal official who has long tracked oil and gas markets and projects worldwide.

Even without ‘blue wave,’ Democrats take narrow House majority

WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrats have regained control of the House from President Donald Trump’s Republican Party in the midterm elections, powered by a suburban revolt that has threatened what’s left of the president’s governing agenda. But the GOP added to its Senate edge and prevailed in some key races for governor Tuesday, beating back the potential of big Democratic gains across the board. The “blue wave” that some had feared from Election Day never fully materialized. The mixed verdict in the first nationwide election of Trump’s presidency showed the limits of his hard-line immigration rhetoric in America’s evolving political landscape, where college-educated voters in the suburbs rejected his warnings of a migrant “invasion.” But blue-collar voters and rural America embraced his aggressive talk and stances. The new Democratic House majority will end Republican dominance in Washington for the final two years of Trump’s first term with major questions looming about health care, immigration and government spending. House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California, who would be in line to become the next speaker, spoke of “a new day in America.” Trump, in a tweet, said that “in all fairness” Pelosi “deserves” to return to her former role as speaker, despite some rumblings in her party. “She has earned this great honor!” But the Democrats’ edge is narrow. With 218 seats needed for a majority in the 435-member Houses, Democrats have won 220 and the Republicans 193, with winners undetermined in 22 races. The president’s party will maintain control of the executive branch of the government, in addition to the Senate. But Democrats suddenly have a foothold that gives them subpoena power to probe deep into Trump’s personal and professional missteps — and his long-withheld tax returns. Early Nov. 7, Trump warned Democrats against using their new majority to investigate his administration. “If the Democrats think they are going to waste Taxpayer Money investigating us at the House level,” Trump tweeted, “then we will likewise be forced to consider investigating them for all of the leaks of Classified Information, and much else, at the Senate level. Two can play that game!” It wasn’t clear what “leaks” he was referring to. It could have been a much bigger night for Democrats, who suffered stinging losses in Ohio and in Florida, where Trump-backed Republican Ron DeSantis ended Democrat Andrew Gillum’s bid to become the state’s first African-American governor. The elections also exposed an extraordinary political realignment in an electorate defined by race, gender, and education that could shape U.S. politics for years to come. The GOP’s successes were fueled by a coalition that’s decidedly older, whiter, more male and less likely to have college degrees. Democrats relied more upon women, people of color, young people and college graduates. Record diversity on the ballot may have helped drive turnout. Voters were on track to send at least 99 women to the House, shattering the record of 84 now. The House was also getting its first two Muslim women, Massachusetts elected its first black congresswoman, and Tennessee got its first female senator. Three candidates had hoped to become their states’ first African-American governors, although just one — Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams — was still in the running. Overall, women voted considerably more in favor of congressional Democratic candidates — with fewer than 4 in 10 voting for Republicans, according to VoteCast, a nationwide survey of more than 115,000 voters and about 20,000 nonvoters — conducted for The Associated Press by NORC at the University of Chicago. In suburban areas where key House races were decided, female voters skewed significantly toward Democrats by a nearly 10-point margin. Democrats celebrated a handful of victories in their “blue wall” Midwestern states, electing or re-electing governors in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Minnesota and in Wisconsin, where Scott Walker was defeated by the state’s education chief, Tony Evers. The road to a House majority ran through two dozen suburban districts that Hillary Clinton won in 2016. Democrats flipped seats in suburban districts outside of Washington, Philadelphia, Miami, Chicago and Denver. Democrats also reclaimed a handful of blue-collar districts carried by both former President Barack Obama and Trump. The results were more mixed deeper into Trump country. In Kansas, Democrat Sharice Davids beat a GOP incumbent to become the first gay Native American woman elected to the House. But in Kentucky, one of the top Democratic recruits, retired Marine fighter pilot Amy McGrath, lost her bid to oust to three-term Rep. Andy Barr. Trump sought to take credit for retaining the GOP’s Senate majority, even as the party lost control of the House. In a tweet Wednesday, he referred to the election results as a “Big Victory.” History was working against the president in both the House and the Senate. A president’s party has traditionally suffered deep losses in his first midterm election, and 2002 was the only midterm election in the past three decades when the party holding the White House gained Senate seats. Democrats’ dreams of the Senate majority, always unlikely, were shattered after losses in top Senate battlegrounds: Indiana, Missouri, Tennessee, North Dakota and Texas. Some hurt worse than others. In Texas, Sen Ted Cruz staved off a tough challenge from Democrat Beto O’Rourke, whose record-smashing fundraising and celebrity have set off buzz he could be a credible 2020 White House contender. Nearly 40 percent of voters cast their ballots to express opposition to the president, according to VoteCast, while one-in-four said they voted to express support for Trump. Overall, 6 in 10 voters said the country was headed in the wrong direction, but roughly that same number described the national economy as excellent or good. Twenty-five percent described health care and immigration as the most important issues in the election. Nearly two-thirds said Trump was a reason for their vote. One of Trump’s most vocal defenders on immigration, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, lost his bid for governor. Kobach had built a national profile as an advocate of tough immigration policies and strict voter photo ID laws. He served as vice chairman of Trump’s now-defunct commission on voter fraud. The president found partial success despite his current job approval, set at 40 percent by Gallup, the lowest at this point of any first-term president in the modern era. Both Barack Obama’s and Bill Clinton’s numbers were 5 percentage points higher, and both suffered major midterm losses of 63 and 54 House seats, respectively. Several ambitious Democrats easily won re-election, including presidential prospects Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York. Some others played outsized roles in their parties’ campaigns, though not as candidates, and were reluctant to telegraph their 2020 intentions before the 2018 fight was decided. They included New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, California Sen. Kamala Harris, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Vice President Joe Biden.

GOP poised to retake state House after knocking off Seaton, Grenn

Republicans were poised to recapture control of the Alaska House of Representatives on Tuesday night at the same time voters were on track to elect a Republican governor to office. Two incumbents, Rep. Paul Seaton and Rep. Jason Grenn, lost their seats to Republican challengers. A third seat, in Fairbanks’ House District 1, was set to flip from Democrat to Republican. Meanwhile, the president of the Alaska Senate, Fairbanks Republican Pete Kelly, was holding on to a razor-thin margin against Democratic Rep. Scott Kawasaki in a high-profile and hard-fought race that put the direction of the Senate on the line. With all precincts reporting Election Night, Kelly was leading Kawasaki by just 11 votes. A spokesman for Kawasaki’s campaign, Will Jodwalis, said Kawasaki’s campaign wasn’t ready to concede. The votes counted Election Night do not include absentee and questioned ballots, and the number of ballots left to be tallied vary by district. The key races for seats in the state House became referendums on lawmakers’ decisions and views about the Permanent Fund dividend, crime and taxes. Republicans had also vowed to reclaim control over the chamber after losing it in 2016 for the first time in more than two decades, when three moderate Republicans — Seaton, Louise Stutes of Kodiak and Gabrielle LeDoux — joined Democrats and independents to form a new majority coalition. Seaton, whose tenure in the House has extended nearly two decades, was soundly defeated by Republican Sarah Vance. Vance garnered 59 percent of the vote to Seaton’s 40 percent. Seaton was a longtime Republican but registered as a nonpartisan for the first time this election. He said he wanted to see a new revenue measure to balance the budget. Vance, meanwhile, campaigned on calling for cuts and no new taxes. Grenn, an independent elected in 2016, was losing to Republican Sara Rasmussen by 5 percentage points Election Night with all precincts reporting. Rasmussen, who campaigned on an anti-crime and anti-Senate Bill 91 platform, said in an interview Election Night that voters thought Grenn would lean more conservative and felt “deceived” that Grenn had caucused with Democrats. Republicans also appeared poised to flip Kawasaki’s former seat in Fairbanks, House District 1. Republican Bart LeBon, a retired banker, held a 79-vote lead over Democrat Kathryn Dodge late on Election Night. Not all of the Republicans in the majority fell: Incumbent LeDoux was on track to keep her East Anchorage seat. She beat back a Democrat and three write-in candidates, including Jake Sloan, a Republican who got an enthusiastic push from the Alaska Republican Party, which is no fan of LeDoux’s. LeDoux’s win would come despite a primary victory that was overshadowed by allegations of voter fraud. LeDoux has said she’s done nothing wrong. Stutes, the third Republican who joined the largely Democratic House majority coalition, also won handily against a Democratic challenger. But for members of the Republican minority, no seats were lost, Alaska GOP chair Tuckerman Babcock pointed out. In East Anchorage, incumbent Republican Rep. Lance Pruitt fielded a strong Democratic bid from Liz Snyder, but Pruitt was up by 214 votes early Nov. 7. In another competitive race, in South Anchorage, Republican Josh Revak beat Democrat Pat Higgins by a solid four-point margin with all precincts reporting. Revak had ousted incumbent House minority leader Charisse Millett in the August primary. The Republican victories were bolstered by heavy advertising by independent expenditure groups. One umbrella organization, the Washington, D.C.-based Republican State Leadership Committee, financed at least four different groups. Those groups generally supported conservative Republican candidates and opposed independent candidates and moderate Republicans who caucused with Democrats, campaign finance reports show. One, Families of the Last Frontier, spent at least $271,225 statewide by Election Day, and received more than $400,000 in donations from the Republican State Leadership Committee, records show. Another, Interior Votes, received at least $183,700, which went toward supporting the Republican candidates and opposing the Democratic candidates in the Fairbanks area. Two other groups, Alaska for a Sound Economy and Alaska Accountability Project, documented expenditures that were more focused on competitive races in Anchorage, including supporting Rasmussen. On the Democratic side, a union-led independent expenditure group spent more than $100,000 on efforts to support members of the Democratic-controlled House majority coalition, records show. The group Putting Alaskans First ran ads supporting Kawasaki, LeDoux, Seaton and Higgins and opposing Pruitt, the Republican incumbent in South Anchorage. One group was specifically focused on re-electing independents: Grenn, Seaton, Chris Dimond in Juneau and Rep. Dan Ortiz in Ketchikan. That group raised about $25,000 for campaign activity, records show. Only Ortiz won his race.

GOP keeps Senate control in win for Trump

WASHINGTON (AP) — Republicans retained Senate control Nov. 6 after ousting Democratic incumbents in Indiana, North Dakota and Missouri, delivering a victory to President Donald Trump by preserving the chamber as a showplace for his conservative priorities for two more years. “Donald Trump went out and worked his tail off,” Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., who heads the Senate GOP’s campaign committee, said in an interview. He cited Trump rallies that drew thousands in crucial states during the campaign’s closing weeks and added, “The president was THE factor.” The significance of the Republican victory in the Senate, which the party has dominated for the past four years, was magnified because Democrats wrested House control from the GOP. That’s a sure-fire formula for two years of legislative gridlock and positioning for the 2020 presidential and congressional elections. Nevada Sen. Dean Heller, the only GOP incumbent seeking re-election in a state Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton won in 2016, became the only Republican senator to lose. First-term Democratic Rep. Jacky Rosen ousted him, attacking him for backing last year’s Republican effort to repeal President Barack Obama’s health care law. Republicans retained Senate seats in the South, Midwest and West and ensured at least a 51-49 majority, equal to their current margin. With three races unresolved early Nov. 7, Republicans stood a chance of expanding their majority with wins possible in Florida, Arizona and Montana. They paved their path to victory by defeating Democrats Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Missouri’s Claire McCaskill. They kept competitive seats in Texas, where Sen. Ted Cruz fended off Rep. Beto O’Rourke, the well-financed liberal darling, and Tennessee, where Rep. Marsha Blackburn prevailed. Trump called Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., “to congratulate him on the historic Senate gains,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said. It was just the second midterm election in over three decades when the party holding the White House gained seats. The Republican Senate win was especially significant because that chamber confirms nominations, including for Supreme Court justices and federal judges, a top GOP priority. The GOP agenda includes tax and spending cuts, trade, immigration restrictions and curbs on Obama’s health care law. Short of compromises, perhaps on infrastructure, its initiatives will go nowhere in the House. Even passing many bills will be difficult for the Senate. The GOP will fall short of the 60 votes needed to break Democratic filibusters, procedural delays that kill legislation. Though Republicans entered the night commanding the Senate only narrowly, a crucial piece of math worked for them: Democrats and their two independent allies defended 26 seats, Republicans just nine. “Senate Democrats faced the most difficult political map in 60 years,” said Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., chairman of Senate Democrats’ political arm. He lauded his party for winning at least half the 10 seats they were defending in states Trump carried and preventing Republicans from capturing a filibuster-proof majority. Blackburn, a conservative and ardent Trump backer, defeated former Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen, 74. Bredesen had promised a bipartisan approach if elected. Heitkamp lost to GOP Rep. Kevin Cramer, whom Trump persuaded to seek the Senate seat. McCaskill was denied a third term by Josh Hawley, 38, Missouri’s attorney general, who called McCaskill too liberal for the state. Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin was re-elected in West Virginia, which Trump captured by 42 percentage points. Democratic incumbents prevailed in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, which Trump carried narrowly. Democrats hoped their supporters’ would surge to the polls. Fueling their intensity were Trump’s anti-immigration stances, his efforts to dismantle health care protections enacted under Obama and the #MeToo movement’s fury over sexual harassment. “Ever since President Trump has been in office, it has just been not the country that I am used to or that I thought I would be in,” said Sarah Roth, 22, a Democratic voter from Minnetonka, Minn. “And so this really was my opportunity to help this country in changing who is making the decisions.” AP VoteCast, a national survey of the electorate conducted by The Associated Press, highlighted Trump’s impact. Nearly 4 in 10 said they were casting ballots to express opposition to him, while just 1 in 4 said their vote was an expression of support. “I believe he values immigration, but he wants to make sure we’re safe,” said Tina Newby of Wetland, Michigan, a GOP voter. “I like the fact that he is not a politician, and I forgive some of the socially incorrect or politically incorrect things that he says.” Vermont independent Sen. Bernie Sanders and Democrats Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Minnesota’s Amy Klobuchar were easily re-elected. All three and Sherrod Brown, a pro-labor senator victorious in Ohio, are considered potential 2020 Democratic presidential contenders. Democrat Sen. Bob Menendez won a third Senate term in New Jersey, despite a federal bribery indictment that prosecutors dropped this year after a mistrial. Also victorious was Republican Mitt Romney, the vanquished 2012 GOP presidential candidate, who grabbed an open Utah seat.

Young cruises to 24th term over newcomer Galvin

Alaska U.S. Rep. Don Young notched another re-election win Nov. 6, leading independent challenger Alyse Galvin by nine points to keep his title as the longest-serving member of Congress. With 98 percent of precincts counted statewide, Young held 54 percent of the vote to Galvin’s nearly 46 percent. Victory was never in doubt, he said in a scolding interview with reporters. “The people of Alaska, I thank them,” he said. “They’ve supported me these years and I’ve supported them and that’s what it’s all about.” Galvin’s campaign watched the returns in an overflowing ballroom at 49th State Brewing Co. in downtown Anchorage, dancing beneath moose antler chandeliers. A speaker took the stage and read the first percentages to the crowd, who replied with a chorus of boos. Galvin said she was inspired by her supporters and disappointed by the vote count, with Young’s lead growing throughout the night. “Every town I go to I hear new stories about the needs, the wishes, the hopes of Alaskans and it inspires me to want to work harder to ensure the people of Alaska are truly getting what they deserve,” she said. “Real representation when it comes to basic needs of pharmaceutical drug costs, housing, jobs with livable wages. These are real issues.” Craig Compeau, a Fairbanks boat and snowmachine dealer and longtime Young supporter, said before the election that Galvin had been light on specifics during her campaign and that he had urged Young to attack her on policy. “All she talks about is rolling up her sleeves,” Compeau said. “If she wants to save some time, she should just get a short-sleeved shirt.” The crowd of Galvin supporters on Election Night included a trio of young women who described the independent candidate as a role model. Dona Kubina stood among them wearing a “Nasty Women” shirt — a nod to President Trump’s campaign debate remarks about Hillary Clinton — as she made her way through the throng. “I’ve never seen anyone work as hard as her on a campaign,” Kubina said. But in Alaska, the dynamics that appeared to deliver control of the U.S. House to Democrats failed to dislodge Young, the most stubborn of Republican incumbents. Young, who has served as Alaska’s sole congressman since 1973, had faced his most well-funded challenger yet in Galvin. A first-time candidate, Galvin hoped to become the first woman to serve as the state’s U.S representative. Young, 85, sought to maintain a 45-year winning streak. Galvin, 53, portrayed the incumbent as beholden to special interests and campaigned on delivering job growth, better health care and education. Young cast himself as an experienced warrior for Alaska interests. National analysts such as FiveThirtyEight and the Cook Political Report considered Alaska to be “leaning Republican” but saw Galvin as within striking distance of Young. (The Cook report listed Alaska among House Districts that were only in play due to “Republicans with self-inflicted wounds,” meaning red districts where Democrats or independents would normally not be considered competitive.) Galvin’s voter registration is “undeclared.” With her August victory in the Democratic primary, she became the first independent candidate to represent the party in the general election. Young portrayed her as a liberal and potential ally to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. His campaign ads — using imagery of falling bombs — warned of “the mother of all tax hikes” if she won election. Galvin ads said she would refuse gifts from lobbyists and special interests — possibly a nod to a 2014 finding that Young broke ethics rules by accepting hunting trips, rides on private planes and other gifts and failing to report them on disclosure forms. Galvin raised far more money, collecting $1.4 million as of mid-October. That’s a larger war chest than any Young opponent, including current Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz, who challenged Young in 2008 and lost by five points. The last time Young received less than 50 percent of the vote was 1992, against Democrat John Devens. Of Galvin’s total, at least $409,000 was donated through ActBlue, an online fundraising platform that connects political donors with progressive candidates. Young campaign manager Jerry Hood said the donations received via ActBlue show Galvin was supported by “the Democratic machine.” Galvin vowed not to take money from corporate political action committees and at a September forum criticized Young’s receipt of corporate funding. Young raised $1.04 million. He received $482,000 from PACs representing corporations, unions and other interests. Young has earned the nickname “Teflon Don” for overcoming scandal and setbacks that might derail other candidates. Like the time he apologized for insensitive remarks on suicide. Or the time he called California farm workers “wetbacks.” Or was caught on camera twisting the wrist of a congressional staffer. The 2018 campaign was, in comparison, a peaceful affair. In interviews, Galvin downplayed one flare-up, in which she appeared to react in pain as Young shook her hand during an appearance at the Alaska Federation of Natives convention. Young’s campaign called it a moment of theater by Galvin while Galvin said it was a “cheap bully tactic” by Young. Young waved away reporters’ questions about whether the outcome was ever in doubt. “Mostly that was made up by the media. I know the numbers pretty well,” he said. Those who know Young best saw the victory coming. Early on Election Day, Galvin stopped for lunch at the Lucky Wishbone, a downtown fried chicken joint that serves as the beating heart of Election Day politics. Galvin was greeted by Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who said she’s grateful that her name won’t appear on a ballot again until 2022. Young has been Alaska’s congressman since before Murkowski, 61, was old enough to vote. She told the Daily News she never doubted he would survive this latest challenge too. “Don Young has nine lives. He has not used them up,” she said. Reporter Alex DeMarban and photojournalist Marc Lester contributed to this story.

Habitat initiative defeated by nearly 2-1 margin

A ballot measure designed to boost protections for salmon and other fish failed by a large margin Election Night amid an onslaught of heavy opposition spending by powerful oil and mining interests. With 98 percent of precincts reporting by 1:30 a.m. Nov. 7, Ballot Measure 1 received 145,997 votes against, and 83,479 votes in favor, a 64-to-36 margin. Supporters conceded defeat early in the night. “We had an uphill battle the entire way,” said Stephanie Quinn-Davidson, a measure sponsor and former state fisheries biologist, noting the overwhelming spending by the opposition. “But this effort was unprecedented and we will continue to move this forward.” Commonly called Stand for Salmon, the controversial measure generated more than $12 million in spending. At least $10.2 million of that was spent by industry-led opposition group Stand for Alaska — Vote No on One. Opponents had contended the measure would create project delays and costs, halting some development. “The results of this election signal that Alaska remains open to responsible resource development going forward,” said Kati Capozzi, Stand for Alaska campaign manager. More than 100 supporters of the measure, gathered at 49th State Brewing Co. in Anchorage on Election Night, took early indications of defeat quietly in stride as they appeared on a big screen. Some said win or lose, they’d been successful in starting a statewide discussion about the need for stronger protections for salmon habitat. “Salmon now have a seat at the table, they’re no longer just on the platter,” said Mike Wood, another measure sponsor and a Cook Inlet commercial fisherman. Capozzi, speaking by phone from the Captain Cook Hotel Quarter Deck, where Stand for Alaska had gathered, said the large amount of money spent by the group was needed to help educate Alaskans about the negative effects the measure would have on jobs and the economy. “We just had to explain what it really meant,” Capozzi said. “Alaskans are really smart and they got it.” The measure was launched more than a year ago as major mining projects such as the Pebble prospect in Southwest Alaska advanced, and conservation groups, fishing interests and others grew concerned over state laws they considered weak and outdated. The third sponsor was Gayla Hoseth, an Alaska Native from the Bristol Bay region. More than 40,000 Alaskans signed the measure. The measure would have mandated public comment periods for major projects and added other regulatory steps before the Alaska Department of Fish and Game could permit activity affecting anadromous fish habitat. Such habitat includes streams or other waters where ocean-dwelling fish such as salmon return to spawn. Supporters saw the measure as a way to restrict, if not stop, projects like Pebble. It also would have added regulatory steps for smaller activities, and for existing mines, oilfields and other development seeking permit renewals. Quinn-Davidson said her group is ready to work with Alaska Native corporations and state lawmakers to introduce a bill that increases habitat protections for salmon and other fish. “It’s clear Alaskans want stronger protections for salmon,” she said. “We just disagree about the approach.” Alaska’s major oil producers ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips and BP, along with mining corporations such as Donlin Gold, Kinross Fort Knox, Teck Alaska and Pebble Limited, led funding for Stand for Alaska at $1 million each. A total of about 550 organizations around the state formed the Stand for Alaska coalition. Yes for Salmon and other pro-measure groups spent at least $2.3 million. The fight over Stand for Salmon shared some similarities with the $15.3 million battle over Alaska oil taxes in 2014. Voters then faced ballot language designed to repeal and replace a new oil-production tax. Industry, led primarily by the state’s major oil producers, heavily outspent the pro-measure forces then, too. Voters rejected that measure, though by a much slimmer margin.

Dunleavy takes decisive win against Begich for gov

Republican Mike Dunleavy is set to become the next governor of Alaska after building a wide lead over Democrat Mark Begich with most precincts reporting. The former state senator from Wasilla had about 52.4 percent of the vote with 98 percent of precincts reporting early Nov. 7. Begich, a former U.S. senator, had about 43.6 percent of the vote. Gov. Bill Walker, who suspended his re-election campaign and threw his support to Begich, had 2 percent of the vote. Dunleavy’s win would mean the Alaska Republican Party taking back the governorship after four years of Walker, an independent, in office. At a Republican watch party at the Anchorage Alehouse on Election Day, Dunleavy thanked the packed crowd around 11 p.m. He had walked into the restaurant earlier that night to cheers and people chanting his name. “I’m feeling good about where we’re at and I’m feeling really good about where we’re going to go with the state of Alaska, so I want to thank everybody for all of your support, being here tonight and throughout this campaign,” he told the crowd. “We’ll keep watching the numbers but it looks good right now.” In an interview, Dunleavy described his campaign as one of the greatest experiences of his life. The Dunleavy campaign released a statement around midnight on Election Day saying the candidate had won, referring to him as “governor-elect.” Begich and his campaign manager didn’t return calls just before 1 a.m. Begich’s campaign had not issued a statement about the race through its his campaign website or social media pages early on the morning of Nov. 7. Dunleavy, 57, and Begich, 56, have been locked in a two-way fight since Walker suspended his campaign for re-election Oct. 19. Just days before that, his former Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott unexpectedly resigned after making unspecified “inappropriate comments” to a woman. Walker dropping out turned a crowded three-way race into a clearer Republican-versus-Democrat battle for the state’s top elected office. But because Walker didn’t formally withdraw from the race by the Sept. 4 deadline, his name and Mallott’s remained on the ballot. Walker is the only independent governor in the country, meaning Republicans nationally would count a Dunleavy victory as a win to flip a governorship red in the midterm elections. Dunleavy said in an interview that the election results show his message resonated with voters. “I think it’s the message that we can develop our resources, that we don’t have to default to taxes or Permanent Fund until we get our fiscal house in order. That we need to create jobs,” he said. “I’m not going to celebrate, for example, the expansion of welfare programs,” he said. “I’m going to celebrate the expansion of job creation in the state of Alaska, developing our resources in the state of Alaska. I think that’s what Alaskans want. “We’re going to try to have a night where we’re able to fall asleep and not answer the phone for a couple hours.” State Sen. Kevin Meyer was elected lieutenant governor alongside Dunleavy. Begich walked into Flattop Pizza + Pool in downtown Anchorage on Election Night with his family and Call. A crowd of supporters there cheered and chanted, “Mark.” In an interview around 9:45 p.m., Begich said that he anticipated a close race. “I’ve been looking forward to this day. This is the day you wait for,” he said. “You wait for these numbers and then you — one of two things will happen: You win or you lose. And at the end of the day, we put a great agenda forward.” This year’s governor’s race came at the tail end of a deep economic recession in Alaska, driven by a crash in oil prices. Lawmakers drained billions of dollars from the state’s savings account to fill the resulting budget gaps. Walker also reduced Alaskans’ Permanent Fund dividend checks in 2016 in response to the state’s fiscal crisis. Lawmakers capped the oil-wealth payouts the following two years. Both Dunleavy and Begich attempted to tap into the resentment some Alaskans felt after three years of reduced dividend checks. The PFD and the economy, as well as crime, arose as key campaign topics for both candidates. Dunleavy and Begich both campaigned on reducing crime in Alaska, but diverged sharply on their plans for the budget and the PFD. Dunleavy promised full PFDs under the formula in law. He wants to cut the state budget and limit spending. Begich has said Alaska needs revenues, and he’d support certain new taxes. He wants to calculate dividends using a different formula, and use a portion of the money drawn from the Permanent Fund each year to pay for public education. Libertarian candidate Billy Toien was also on the ballot in the governor’s race. He had less than 2 percent of the vote with 98 percent of precincts reporting. Around 8 p.m. Tuesday, as people trickled into Election Central at the Egan Center in downtown Anchorage, Toien sat at a table with several people holding signs bearing his name. “It’s been long and kind of grueling and this is the grand finale,” he said, “and I’m just going to sit back and enjoy the show and watch for the outcome.” Of Alaska’s 573,798 registered voters, about 57 percent are nonpartisan or undeclared, about 25 percent are Republicans and about 13 percent are Democrats. Before Walker, the last three governors in Alaska were Republican. Walker, too, had been a Republican, but switched to independent for his gubernatorial bid in 2014. Dunleavy was first elected to the state Senate in 2012. He resigned from the senate in January to focus on his campaign for governor. Dunleavy also worked as a school teacher, principal and superintendent in Alaska. He served on the school board of the Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District. Born in Pennsylvania, Dunleavy moved to Alaska in 1983. This year’s governor’s race was also marked by big spending by independent expenditure groups. The groups dumped more money into the race in the final weeks leading up to Election Day, trying to win voters over by pushing out a flurry of advertisements and signs. Those groups aren’t allowed to coordinate with campaigns, but they are able to raise unlimited money from individuals and organizations. The Nov. 6 ballot count includes early votes cast through Nov. 5 and absentee ballots logged and reviewed up until Friday. An elections division spokeswoman said Nov. 6 she didn’t have a number of how many ballots will be outstanding, including the number of questioned ballots. Absentee by-mail ballots had to be postmarked by Election Day.

Long-running Sturgeon case heard before Supreme Court

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court sounded skeptical of the National Park Service’s authority to prevent an Alaskan moose hunter from using his motorized rubber boat to access remote areas of the state. The justices heard arguments Nov. 5 in a case that tests the limits of the federal government’s authority in a state in which more than 60 percent of the land is federally owned. The state and moose hunter John Sturgeon are arguing that the Park Service cannot enforce a national ban on amphibious vehicles known as hovercraft on a river in Alaska for which the state claims ownership, even though it runs through a national conservation area. Sturgeon won an earlier round at the Supreme Court. The case stems from Sturgeon’s 2007 encounter with three park rangers who ordered him off the Nation River within the Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve in northeast Alaska. The rangers told him it was illegal to operate the noisy craft that can navigate shallow water or even mud. He sued in 2011. The issue is whether a federal law enacted in 1980 to protect undisturbed land but also allow Alaska residents to maintain their way of life provides an exception to Park Service regulation of rivers that pass through national parks. “Well, but, I mean, the waters are very important to Alaskans’ way of life in the way they aren’t elsewhere,” Chief Justice John Roberts said, voicing doubt about the Trump administration’s reading of the law that gives the federal government sweeping control of the waterways. Justice Department lawyer Edwin Kneedler told the court that the 1980 law is a compromise because it allows hunting and airplane use in areas that usually are closed to those activities in national parks in other states. But Congress did not intend to allow hovercraft to be used, Kneedler said, calling them very loud and unsightly. Roberts didn’t sound persuaded by that argument. “While you may think a hovercraft is unsightly, I mean, if you’re trying to get from point A to point B, it’s pretty beautiful,” he said. That comment aligned with the argument made by Alaska assistant attorney general Ruth Botstein, who said the law protected the state’s control over rivers. “Our rivers are our only roads,” Botstein said. The session Nov. 5 also displayed the difficulty the justices were having in reconciling the precise language of the 1980 law with arguments on both sides. “I’ve burned up an awful lot of gray cells trying to put together the pieces of this statute,” said Justice Samuel Alito.

Permanent Fund Corp. nets 2.13% return in first quarter

Alaska Permanent Fund Corp. managers encountered challenges in the first quarter of the 2019 fiscal year, generating a 2.13 percent return during the first period they are being relied upon to provide revenue for government services. The Permanent Fund ended the quarter Sept. 30 with a balance of more than $63.9 billion, according to Alaska Permanent Fund Corp. financial statements. CEO Angela Rodell said in a formal statement that the less-than-desirable quarterly return highlights the significance of having of a well-diversified investment portfolio and “meaningful allocations to private market assets.” “As the market becomes increasingly volatile, it is more important than ever to remember we invest with a 10-, 25-, 50-year or longer time horizon. Our APFC team continues to be focused on building real financial wealth and resources for the State of Alaska,” Rodell said. APFC leaders expect financial markets to remain volatile through the rest of the fiscal year, according to a corporation release. Fund investments generated $846 million in statutory net income, according to an APFC report, which is transferred to the fund’s Earnings Reserve Account and can be appropriated by the Alaska Legislature for inflation-proofing the fund principal, Permanent Fund Dividends or government expenses. The Permanent Fund’s $63.9 billion total balance was $931 million less than the nearly $64.9 billion at the start of the quarter despite the net income growth largely because — for the first time — money was appropriated from the Earnings Reserve Account to help fund state government operations. The Legislature approved a 5.25 percent of market value, or POMV, draw from the fund in May; however, it was for the fiscal year 2019 state budget and not actually made until after the new budget cycle began on July 1. About $1 billion of the roughly $2.7 billion POMV draw went to pay annual PFDs, which were distributed in October, and the remaining $1.7 billion will help fund government services. According to the APFC, about $1.4 billion of the overall draw was distributed prior to Sept. 30 and the remaining $1.3 billion will be transferred to the General Fund over the rest of fiscal 2019. The Earnings Reserve Account held approximately $17 billion as of Sept. 30. The 2.13 percent quarterly return was down from a full-year 2018 investment return of 10.74 percent, which netted $5.1 billion of growth in the Permanent Fund. Still, the relatively slow start to 2019 for fund managers was better than a comparable 2.06 percent passive index benchmark return during the quarter. Over the past five years the APFC Board of Trustees has set a strategic return objective of 6.52 percent, which managers have bested with a five-year return average of 8.32 percent. The fund’s $3.9 billion real estate portfolio was the lone asset class to return negative results with a negative 2.28 percent return during the first quarter. APFC managers achieved a 6.99 percent return on real estate investments in 2018. APFC spokeswoman Paulyn Swanson said via email that real estate valuations, done quarterly, “caused the slight decline on the quarter, but that the investment team expects future quarterly valuations to reverse this decline because the underlying property fundamentals are strong.” Public equities, or stocks, which comprise roughly 40 percent of the fund’s investments, earned a 3.18 percent return for the quarter. Stocks that performed better during the period are “viewed as relatively expensive by the fund’s active and quasi-passive managers and are under owned in the public equities allocation,” an APFC release states. On the flipside, the fund’s $4.7 billion private equity portfolio performed the best of all of its asset classes during the quarter with a 6.38 percent return. Elwood Brehmer can be reached at [email protected]

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