The Alaska State Capitol is seen on Sept. 24, 2021. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire file)

The Alaska State Capitol is seen on Sept. 24, 2021. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire file)

Opinion: The peninsula deserves better than Babcock

If conservative peninsula voters want to see Republicans have the best chance of controlling the Senate in Juneau then voting for Babcock is just plain dumb

  • By Vince Beltrami
  • Monday, October 31, 2022 10:29pm
  • Opinion

By Vince Beltrami

For the life of me I can’t figure out why residents of the Kenai Peninsula who live in Senate District D would ever vote for Tuckerman Babcock as their state senator. Let me provide a bit more context.

I retired a year ago. The jobs I held for two decades required me to work in and around all the dynamics of statewide politics, particularly the Alaska Legislature. One thing I learned real quick was that the governor’s chief of staff (COS) is arguably the single most powerful person in state government. Babcock had that job.

In 2019 Dunleavy and his fiscal hatchet woman Donna Arduin, who was brought in by Babcock, cut funding to, and shut down, the Silvertip maintenance station in Turnagain Pass. No serious budget item like that gets past the chief of staff. Every single person who lives on the peninsula knows how important winter maintenance is in Turnagain Pass. Babcock let it happen. So it was either purposeful, or he is the most inept chief of staff in the history of the state. Predictably, huge snow storms stranded big rigs and regular travelers alike. That winter was tough for anyone going back and forth to Anchorage. The pass was completely shut down by the state twice. Accidents spiked. People suffered. Thankfully, eventually, Sen. Peter Micciche got Dunleavy to relent and reopen the station. That never had to happen and Babcock could have easily prevented it.

Ol’ Tuckerman is a longtime political operative who I’ve watched for a long time. Our paths frequently crossed. Dirty politics, win at all costs, negative and false attacks on his enemies. These are the traits that define Babcock’s destructive trail of ineptitude. I’m sure he’d say something similar about me. A big difference is that his missteps, law-breaking, and otherwise shady behavior left a lot of foot prints. Google it. There’s a litany on him. Nothing on me.

Even Dunleavy’s now public relations guy, Andrew Jensen, had previously taken aim at Babcock when Jensen was editor at the Alaska Journal of Commerce.

In lamenting how Dunleavy’s efforts with the Legislature had failed and how he primarily hewed to the wishes of his hometown base in the Mat-Su, Jensen wrote: “This outcome is what many who supported Dunleavy feared when he hired former Republican Party Chairman Tuckerman Babcock as COS cum wartime consigliere,” using a telling “Godfather” analogy Jensen continued, “ … he has not governed like the cool-headed and savvy Michael Corleone but as a combination of Sonny and Fredo mixing vindictiveness with incompetence.” Oddly enough Babcock disappeared as COS, and Jensen joined the Dunleavy administration soon thereafter. Weird.

If conservative peninsula voters want to see Republicans have the best chance of controlling the Senate in Juneau then voting for Babcock is just plain dumb. Why? For one because Babcock engineered negative ad campaigns against fellow Republican legislators who wouldn’t agree to the agenda Babcock devised as Dunleavy’s chief of staff. Just like Mitch McConnell’s attacks on Kelly Tshibaka, Babcock put hits out on some pretty darn conservative lawmakers with nasty attack ads on Facebook.

Charisse Millett, former Anchorage Republican representative and House Majority Leader had this to say regarding Mitch McConnell’s attacks on Kelly Tshibaka: “It is no different then (sic) the attacks Tuckerman orchestrated in Alaska against Republicans. Tuckerman decimated and tore the Republican Party in half with his Republican purity test. The Alaskan Republican Party has a long way to go before it is unified …”

A number of those Republicans targeted by Babcock are still in the Senate and another who he targeted is likely to get reelected. After getting a four-year timeout voters on the Anchorage Hillside have apparently seen the light and are likely to reelect that very conservative senator. And I’m pretty certain she has a number of Republican allies in the Senate who are vomiting in their own mouths at the thought of being in a caucus with Babcock.

Me talking about this angers some of my Democratic friends, because they believe Tuckerman is so reviled by enough Republican senators that those senators would much rather suffer the consequences of joining a bipartisan Senate coalition with Democrats than be in a caucus with Babcock. It’s happened before. Democrats also know that if instead Jesse Bjorkman is elected to the Senate seat, there is a better chance of an all Republican majority caucus in the Senate. This is exactly analogous to the “Eastman Effect,” whereby enough Republicans in the state House objected so strenuously to being part of an all Republican organization that was dependent on Valley representative David Eastman, that a handful of moderate Republicans formed a majority with all of the House Democrats.

Finally, Jesse Bjorkman looks a helluva lot more like the Kenai Peninsula. A young family guy. A hunter and fisherman. Well respected. He teaches kids how to butcher big game. And he’s got serious conservative credentials. He’s not a washed-up toxic played-out failed politician.

The peninsula deserves better than Toxic Tuckerman.

Vince Beltrami is past President of the Alaska AFL-CIO. He has lived in Cooper Landing full time for the past three years and has owned property there for 25 years.

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