When a legislator comes under attack from one part of the Swamp (say, the Democrat part), it’s easy to wonder if it’s because that legislator is beholden to another part of the Swamp (say, the Republican part).
It’s when a legislator comes under attack from multiple parts of the Swamp at once that you know it’s the Swamp itself that’s upset, not just a political party or one part of the political spectrum.
And if you see established political groups abandoning their most treasured issues just to be able to take a shot at a specific legislator, you know that it’s now about specific issues, but something bigger—the Swamp calling in all its favors to defend itself.
Nowhere is this more true than in my race to represent the Mat-Su in the State House.
In what other race in this state, or any state for that matter, do you have conservative, moderate and liberal groups each abandoning strongly-held political positions in order to oppose my re-election?
Big Labor, whose bread and butter is more and better jobs for Alaskans, is now backing my opponent who is publicly advocating for a complete elimination of state funding for the University of Alaska. From the perspective of a union that represents a lot of lost jobs.
Moderate Republican legislators, along with the Swamp-front group Council on Good Government, have a mission to retake the Alaska State House from Democrat control. Only, in this case they are spending less to oppose the three Republican legislators that actually voted to turn the State House over to Democrat control, and instead focusing their $195,000 campaign war chest on my race and two other races in solidly conservative districts in the heart of the Mat-Su. The other two conservative candidates they are opposing are Christopher Kurka in District 7 (Wasilla), and LD Howard in District 9 (Palmer).
The Anchorage-based Alaska Family Council has a mission of promoting conservative family values. In my race, for the first time in their organization’s history, they have publicly endorsing a candidate who has an active warrant out for his arrest in another state, and who chose to misrepresent his previous arrests and convictions in a recent candidate interview.
As a legislator, when you out are advocating for your district, and you begin to see the flak coming up from all over, even from groups that claim to be opposed to one another, you’ve gotta know you are over the target.
This year the target is the Binding Caucus. It has held Alaskan legislators hostage for decades, but now it’s power is beginning to wane.
Before legislators arrive in Juneau they are invited to join the legislature’s version of a street gang. If they don’t join—they’re punished.
If they join and then vote against the street gang—they’re punished.
As we saw this year, if they join and vote how they are told but don’t show up for a vote the gang thinks is important—they’re punished.
And if they take a public stand against a particularly odious piece of legislation, or a stand that discourages other legislators from joining a street gang in the future—well, we learned this year that legislators can get punished for that too.
With all the threats and tests of loyalty from the street gang, legislators must continuously walk a tight-rope to avoid being punished by fellow legislators; a tight-rope that simply doesn’t leave room for representing the people they were elected to represent.
And that’s the real issue. You elect someone to represent you, and then when they get down to Juneau you discover, to your dismay, that they have switched roles and are now in Juneau to represent the Binding Caucus. Some legislators who have been in Juneau for decades will even defend this as a good and praiseworthy thing. It’s a good way to “get things done”, they say. Of course, they’re right about one thing: the Swamp always has things that need getting done.
So when a legislator takes a stand that threatens the future of the Binding Caucus, it’s a Swamp-wide emergency—guns from both the liberal and conservative corners of the Swamp swing into action, and up comes the flak!
You see, it’s not just the Swamp itself that is threatened, but all of the various groups and interests that have come to rely on access to parts of the Swamp for their livelihoods and continued success.
This is nowhere more true right now than in the Mat-Su Valley where the Swamp has enlisted the help of liberal groups, as well as conservative ones, to protect its preferred candidates. In what other races do you have liberal special interest groups like Big Labor, aligning with moderate groups like the Anchorage Republican Caucus and the Republican State Leadership Committee, as well as social and fiscal conservative groups like the Alaska Family Council and Americans for Prosperity? Whenever self-declared conservative groups choose to back the less conservative candidates in two-way races, it should be clear that there is something bigger than ideology at play.
The way the spin doctors have it worked out, to take a stand against the corruption of the Binding Caucus is to take a stand against everything from families to middle class workers to Republican voters.
In reality, a legislator can be for all of those things, and still take a stand against the corruption of the Binding Caucus, but that’s not how the headlines will read.
The Swamp is on full alert today because, for once, we have a crop of candidates who have made it clear from the get-go that they consider standing up to the Swamp part of the job description of a legislator. Alaskans can thank LD Howard and Christopher Kurka for being convincing enough as candidates for the Swamp to consider them a threat to the continuation of the status quo in Juneau. Well done, gentlemen.