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Updated: 13 min 34 sec ago

‘Evil in your acts’: Florida airport shooter who lived in Anchorage sentenced to five life terms and 120 years in prison

18 min 51 sec ago

Fort Lauderdale airport shooter Esteban Santiago is transferred from Broward County Jail to United States Federal Court in Fort Lauderdale for a detention hearing on Tuesday, January 17, 2017. (Al Diaz / Miami Herald)

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Esteban Santiago is severely mentally ill and remorseful for killing five people and injuring six others in the January 2017 mass shooting at Fort Lauderdale's main airport, his defense team said Friday moments before he was sentenced to spend the rest of his life in federal prison.

But federal prosecutors, who agreed the punishment was appropriate, said the 28-year-old military veteran who flew from Anchorage before the shooting may have contributed to his psychiatric problems by abusing hallucinogenic drugs — including the street drug Spice — after he returned from serving in the Iraq War.

[As his life unraveled, Esteban Santiago slipped through all the cracks]

"It is difficult, if not impossible, for this court to separate the evil in your acts from the evil in the man," U.S. District Judge Beth Bloom told Santiago, who had pleaded guilty in May.

She sentenced him to five life terms plus 120 years in federal prison, with no chance he will ever be released.

[Esteban Santiago lied on Alaska security guard license, was fired over mental health issues, records show]

Santiago spoke only to respond "yes" or "no" to the judge's questions.

Several victims who spoke during the 90-minute court hearing told him he had senselessly robbed them of their loved ones. Survivors said he left them traumatized and fearful of leaving their homes and going into public places.

Santiago is diagnosed as schizophrenic but was found competent to understand legal proceedings. He initially told the FBI after the shooting he was under government mind control, then switched to unfounded claims he acted in support of the Islamic State extremist group.

Check back for updates.

The problem with the left’s attempts to redefine racism

44 min 54 sec ago

Organizer Jason Kessler at last weekend’s ‘Unite the Right’ rally in Washington, D.C. (Tribune Content Agency)

People are making this so complicated.

A couple of weeks ago, the New York Times editorial board hired a technology writer, Sarah Jeong. When it was revealed that she had tweeted barbs against white people, conservatives formed a Twitter mob to demand her dismissal. While a few on the right said -- or claimed -- that they were offended by the substance of her tweets, the overriding passion derived from an understandable outrage about liberal double standards.

The argument took a familiar form: "If a white or conservative person said something like this about any other group, her career would be over!"

Many liberals responded that conservatives just don't get it. There is no such thing as anti-white racism because racism is all about power. Whites -- or white men -- have it, other groups don't.

Perhaps because this theory defies lived experience, progressives offered a new defense: "We don't really mean it when we attack the pale patriarchy."

Vox's Ezra Klein recalled that he didn't enjoy the Twitter hashtag #KillAllMen, which apparently became popular in his progressive circle a while back. "I didn't like it. It made me feel defensive. It still makes me feel defensive."

"But," Klein added, "I also knew that wasn't what they were saying. They didn't want me put to death. They didn't want any men put to death." They just wanted things to be better for women.

Klein has a point, but he also misses one. I have no doubt that many of his female -- or male! -- compatriots aren't much interested in wholesale androcide. Nor do I think Jeong is interested in "canceling" white people. These are shibboleths of the Woke Establishment.

But what Klein and others miss is that they can't play Humpty Dumpty when it comes to the language they use. "When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty famously said, "it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less."

The notion that racism is solely about institutionalized white power simply doesn't compute for most Americans. In common parlance, racism means prejudice or bigotry on account of race or skin color. Period. The pathetic racists who marched on Washington this weekend don't have much cultural power. Surely that explains their racism more than it mitigates or absolves it.

If a neo-Nazi paints a swastika on a Jew's front door, no decent person withholds judgment pending an audit of the victim's social or institutional power. We just call it anti-Semitism. Would you wait for a clever explanation if someone launched the hash tag #KillAllJews or #CancelBlackPeople? It makes no sense to claim that Louis Farrakhan is not a racist when he says, "White people are potential humans -- they haven't evolved yet," but David Duke is a racist when he says something similar about blacks.

Even if we were to collectively accept that "racism" means structural oppression by whites, we'd still need a word for hating or degrading people solely on account of their race. Why reinvent the wheel? And why muddle the principle that this is bad?

Think of it this way: Would you want your kids to go to a school where the white kids were taught that the slightest racial insensitivity was a profound sin but all the non-white kids were free to say whatever they wanted about the white kids?

It is right and proper to teach kids that bigotry against blacks or other particular groups is especially evil for historical reasons. But it is morally daft to celebrate or condescendingly explain away bigotry against whites as some sort of historical comeuppance for the sins -- real or alleged -- of their ancestors. (It's also counterproductive: There's ample evidence that calling non-racist people racist actually makes them more racist.)

Double standards breed resentment and rage, regardless of ideological orientation. There's a reason white supremacists co-opt the language of the left, demanding identity politics for white people. "I consider myself a civil and human rights advocate focusing on the underrepresented Caucasian demographic," Jordan Kessler, the racist "Unite the Right" rally organizer, told NPR.

The double standard that says the left can say whatever it damn well pleases, but the right must constantly check its privilege, fuels hateful buffoons like Kessler.

Why are European leaders dragging their feet on migration crisis?

45 min 57 sec ago

Migrants and members of the crew of the Aquarius rescue ship wave as they enter the harbor of Senglea, Malta, Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2018. Malta agreed to let the private rescue ship dock on the island, with the 141 migrants it is carrying to be distributed among five European Union nations in what was described as a "responsibility-sharing exercise." The migrants were plucked to safety by the aid boat Aquarius in two separate operations in the Mediterranean Sea off Libya on Friday, Aug. 10. (AP Photo/Rene Rossignaud) (Rene Rossignaud/)

Here we go again. Earlier this week, a ship called Aquarius -- which has been ferrying primarily African asylum seekers across the Mediterranean to Europe -- once again was looking for a European port in which to dock. This time, the ship reported 141 people aboard. Earlier this summer, it was 629. Is this ever going to end?

For years, Aquarius and other humanitarian rescue ships have quietly snuck undocumented immigrants into Europe at ports such as the Italian island of Lampedusa. A Pew Research survey shows that 80 percent of Italians are unhappy with the way Europe has been handling the refugee issue. Italy's new interior minister, Matteo Salvini, has refused further shipments, closing Italian ports to rescue ships.

Spain and France have been white knights on mass migration. Spain opened its port of Valencia to the 629 migrants aboard the Aquarius in June. Barely a week later, a German nongovernmental organization, Lifeline, delivered 234 migrants to Malta. At least 52 of them disembarked at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris shortly thereafter, preferring France as their final destination.

The French government is now allowing asylum seekers to come by airplane from other "safe" Western European countries. Meanwhile, space is running out. "Illegal migrants in Paris suburb soar to 400,000 as hundreds of migrant children sleep on streets," blared a recent headline in Britain's Daily Telegraph.

The French government ended up in a spat with the city of Paris this spring when city hall neglected to clear out the eyesore migrant camps along the Canal Saint Martin right in the middle of the city. Paris, which is rife with socialists, also supported the bright idea proposed by the city's Communist Party politicians to sponsor a migrant camp right in the heart of the Bois de Boulogne, in the city's swankiest postal district.

Why stop there? How about knocking on some doors and asking those wealthy folks to take a few migrants into their homes? Since no one in Paris wants to be seen as a closed-minded bigot, I'm sure they wouldn't object.

What exactly is the breaking point? You'd think that having to scan a map of the city to find places where you can set up camps for the flood of immigrants would be the first hint that you're already full.

Despite Italy's newfound willingness to turn off the tap, humanitarian groups have been relentless in pressuring European governments to abide by human rights law and the law of the sea, insisting that these rescue ships need a place to park and unload. What's wrong with the ports in Tunisia, Egypt or Algeria? Ocean rescue laws were meant for cases involving people in genuine and acute distress, not as loopholes for the no-borders crowd and human traffickers to exploit.

Europe is rapidly splitting into two over this issue. Countries such as Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic insist on prioritizing national sovereignty over European values of openness, which have been perverted to the point of facilitating human trafficking. The left actually needs these human traffickers as business partners, because if the traffickers don't abandon migrants in a precarious position offshore, then the charity-run ships wouldn't be able to rescue them at sea. The left's entire open-borders model depends on these criminals. It also depends on the governments of European countries to keep their ports and borders open in the name of human rights.

Perhaps it shouldn't come as a surprise that it's the countries formerly within the sphere of the Soviet Union that are fearlessly rejecting cultural Marxism while much of Western Europe has been completely lobotomized by it. These countries have seen the disastrous result of the undemocratic imposition of leftist ideals firsthand, and they don't seem keen to experience it again courtesy of a supranational European government.

European officials ranging from French President Emmanuel Macron to the European Union Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos have insisted on the need for European nations to remain in solidarity on this issue. In the long term, political will won’t be enough for citizens of Europe to buy into this vision of governance when they sense it working against their interests in their daily lives. Then what? Will they clamp down on those who refuse to buy into the “vision”? Ramp up the rhetoric and the virtue-signaling and hope that people are too brainwashed to defend their own interests? These anti-democratic tactics are already commonplace in Europe and may soon be used elsewhere to perpetuate the same model.

Free-speech conservatives, this is your call to arms

53 min 59 sec ago

To all those supposed constitutional conservatives out there, consider this your call to arms: The First Amendment is under direct attack, and this time from a much more powerful foe than misguided college freshmen.

By whom I mean: the ostensible leader of the free world.

Again and again, President Trump has used the weight of his office and the broader federal government to inflict financial damage upon critics, whistleblowers, journalists and peaceful protesters for exercising their rights to free speech.

Trump's most recent salvo involves former CIA director John Brennan. During his long career in intelligence, Brennan briefed Republican and Democratic presidents alike. Which makes his fierce criticism of Trump, and his characterization of Trump's Helsinki performance as "treasonous," all the more biting.

Such comments led Trump to revoke Brennan's security clearance Wednesday. The administration said Brennan no longer needed clearance because it didn't plan to call on him for consultations. But high-level clearances are valuable for private-sector work as well.

In other words, this was about shutting Brennan's mouth by going after his wallet.

Such actions appear unprecedented. More may be in the offing, however, given that the president is considering stripping clearances from at least nine other former high-level officials.

And that is but one way Trump has tried to silence critics just this week.

A day earlier, Trump's campaign said it had filed an arbitration action against Omarosa Manigault Newman alleging that the former White House aide broke a 2016 nondisclosure agreement by publishing her recent tell-all book.

One need not be a fan of the "Apprentice" villain to understand this as an attempt to visit financial injury upon yet another critic -- and, by extension, to intimidate other campaign and White House alumni, who also signed likely unenforceable confidentiality agreements.

That the party bringing the claim here is technically a campaign, rather than, say, the Justice Department, doesn't matter. The First Amendment is supposed to protect those critical of their government, including critics of its highest officeholder, from political retribution. And political retribution laundered through an election campaign at the president's instruction is retribution all the same.

Elsewhere -- again, in recent days -- the president and his minions have called the press the enemy of the people and the opposition party. Previously they have blacklisted reporters and entire news outlets (including The Post) whose questions Trump disliked. When unhappy with Post coverage in particular, Trump has threatened government action against Amazon in an apparent attempt to financially punish its chief executive, Jeffrey P. Bezos, who independently owns the paper.

Journalists and media owners are hardly the only ones whose job or financial security Trump has targeted from his bully pulpit. He called for the firing of National Football League players who kneel in protest during the national anthem. NFL owners, in a secretly recorded meeting in October, expressed concern about the president's impact on their bottom line.

Curiously, Republican politicians and conservative pundits who call themselves staunch defenders of the Constitution have allowed, and at times encouraged, the president to run roughshod over the First Amendment.

Republican Sens. Rand Paul (Ky.), John Neely Kennedy (La.) and Ron Johnson (Wis.) celebrated Trump's revocation of Brennan's security clearance.

Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), who as chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee oversaw a hearing titled "Free Speech 101: The Assault on the First Amendment on College Campuses," refused to condemn Trump's calls for the firing of NFL players engaged in peaceful protest. Instead, in September, he attacked the media for giving the "false impression" that Trump spent too much time attacking the NFL.

Republican lawmakers have likewise done precious little to push back against Trump's attacks on a free press. The toothless Senate resolution adopted by unanimous consent Thursday affirming that "the press is not the enemy of the people" did not mention Trump at all.

And who can blame these lawmakers?

Polls in the past couple of years have shown that pluralities and, quite often, majorities of Republicans say that they, too, consider the media the enemy of the people; believe that the president should have the authority to close news outlets that he believes behave badly; and favor firing NFL players who refuse to stand for the anthem and stripping citizenship from anyone who burns the flag.

Nonetheless: If Republican lawmakers actually give a damn about upholding our most cherished democratic values, now is the time to stand up and fight -- and not to be intimidated, whether by the president or his supporters, into silence.

The wrath of Omarosa

1 hour 16 min ago

Omarosa Manigault arrives for an event in Trump Tower in New York, U.S., on Monday, Jan. 16, 2017. Bloomberg photo by Anthony Behar (Anthony Behar/)

Omarosa Manigault Newman is as nationally famous today as that creepy porn lawyer what’s-his-name was just a few days ago.

President Donald Trump's former reality TV show villainess is hotter than a glass blower's furnace, so hot it hurts your face just to watch her speak.

She burns so bright that others are diminished. You can't even see the recently fired and disgraced FBI senior counterintelligence official Peter Strzok. Also left invisible is demoted Department of Justice lawyer Bruce Ohr, who'll testify soon before Congress about the infamous Steele dossier.

They are but tiny fireflies compared with Omarosa's media blaze.

And now it's all Omarosa all the time.

Trump hates her with Trumpian passion and idiotically calls her "that dog." And she hates him with Omarosian passion right back. He wants to wrestle in the mud, she'll oblige to sell her book full of deep thoughts. She knows how to fight him in the mud, the reality TV show way.

Journalists nod appreciatively at her words, though just a short time ago they treated Omarosa as Trump's foolish political window dressing, whom he hired at the White House after repeatedly firing her on his reality TV show "The Apprentice."

They still think she's foolish, but they'll use her like an ice pick, like a hammer, and so now she's in constant demand on TV news, driving panel discussions, accusing Trump of using the N-word.

Proof? Is that important anymore?

With just two months before the midterm elections, Democrats need to drive their numbers up and take the House so that Nancy Pelosi can return to power and rule once again and impeach Trump. So it's the accusation that counts.

White House officials deny he'd say such a thing, but they can't guarantee there's no tape, somewhere, and thus the headline, "White House Press Secretary: Can't offer 'guarantee' there is no N-word recording."

And there we are. Who said politics ain't beanbag?

The economy is doing just fine, people are finally working, most don't care what Washington politicians do or say just as long as Washington politicians leave them alone, but Omarosa is the story now.

Meanwhile, disgraced FBI counterintelligence official Strzok -- who ran both the investigations of Hillary Clinton (protected) and Trump ("we'll stop him") -- is definitely not hot. Though he was fired just a few days ago for political bias in all matters Trump, Strzok is all but forgotten, as is his former girlfriend, FBI counsel Lisa Page.

Strzok and Page are like an old magazine cover about somebody called Brangelina.

And Ohr, the demoted Department of Justice lawyer scheduled to testify soon before Congress about whether he carried water for Clinton and Obama in their alleged behind-the-scenes war against Trump, isn't mentioned much either.

Ohr was the No. 4 at the Obama Justice Department. His wife, Nellie Ohr, worked for Fusion GPS, which was the oppo-research firm hired by the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee to dig up sleaze on Trump. Fusion GPS hired Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence agent. Steele went to Russia and, with Russian help, put together the salacious Trump dossier that so far has been unproved.

Ohr carried that dossier to the FBI.

Both the Hillary Clinton and Trump campaigns were investigated the FBI and the Department of Justice in 2016.

"When it came to the Clinton campaign, she got a pass," former never-Trumper Sen. Lindsey Graham was quoted as saying the other day. "The criminal investigation of the Clinton campaign was a joke. When it came to the Trump campaign, it (the investigation) was biased and I think unethical. Mr. Ohr should not have had any role in investigating the Trump campaign because his wife worked at Fusion GPS. The FBI agent in charge of the Clinton investigation (Strozk) hated Trump, liked Clinton and also started the counterintelligence investigation against Trump."

But in media terms, Strozk and his fat GoFundMe account is fading. Ohr is a stone in a river. Who wants to talk about them when Omarosa is erupting?

Several top FBI officials involved in the Clinton and Trump investigations have either been fired or forced to resign. The FBI inspector general is preparing a report on how the FBI mishandled the Clinton email investigation. Congressional Republicans are itchy to get at Ohr.

Real questions are still unanswered. Is what we're seeing a crude pro-Trump political purge to damage the credibility of witnesses and to protect him from special counsel Robert Mueller? Or is America on the verge of understanding the so-called deep state and its intelligence community puppet masters?

Who gives two figs when we've got Omarosa?

Trump and his White House are doing everything they can to make Omarosa a bigger story. Attacking her, calling her a "dog" is just pouring gasoline on the story.

Trump and his White House are trying to make her the evil one in all this, portraying her as ungrateful, a user. But really, it's all Trump's fault.

He's the one who hired her and fired her and hired her again on his reality TV show "The Apprentice." He's brought her to the White House. He's responsible for the people he hired at the White House, like the Mooch and his other broken toys.

So, this one's all on you Mr. Trump. You hired a reality-show villainess for your White House reality show. And now you're complaining?

What did you expect? The Bachelorette?

Revoke my security clearance, too, Mr. President

1 hour 56 min ago

Filer photo: Navy Vice Adm. William H. McRaven, center, listens to Marine Lt. Gen. John Allen, right, in 2011. At left is Gen. James D. Thurman. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) (J. Scott Applewhite/)

William H. McRaven, a retired Navy admiral, was commander of the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command from 2011 to 2014. He oversaw the 2011 Navy SEAL raid in Pakistan that killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

Dear Mr. President:

Former CIA director John Brennan, whose security clearance you revoked on Wednesday, is one of the finest public servants I have ever known. Few Americans have done more to protect this country than John. He is a man of unparalleled integrity, whose honesty and character have never been in question, except by those who don't know him.

Therefore, I would consider it an honor if you would revoke my security clearance as well, so I can add my name to the list of men and women who have spoken up against your presidency.

Like most Americans, I had hoped that when you became president, you would rise to the occasion and become the leader this great nation needs.

A good leader tries to embody the best qualities of his or her organization. A good leader sets the example for others to follow. A good leader always puts the welfare of others before himself or herself.

Your leadership, however, has shown little of these qualities. Through your actions, you have embarrassed us in the eyes of our children, humiliated us on the world stage and, worst of all, divided us as a nation.

If you think for a moment that your McCarthy-era tactics will suppress the voices of criticism, you are sadly mistaken. The criticism will continue until you become the leader we prayed you would be.

D.C. mayor hits back after Trump claims he ‘canceled’ military parade and blamed local officials

2 hours 27 min ago

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump on Friday blamed local officials for his decision to postpone a grand military parade in Washington this fall, alleging without evidence that they had unreasonably inflated the price.

"The local politicians who run Washington, D.C. (poorly) know a windfall when they see it," Trump wrote on Twitter. "When asked to give us a price for holding a great celebratory military parade, they wanted a number so ridiculously high that I cancelled it."

Trump said it was possible the parade could be staged next year if the cost "comes WAY DOWN" and added that with the savings "we can buy some more jet fighters!"

His tweets, which did not elaborate on his allegations about the city government, came a day after the Pentagon said the parade might be postponed amid questions about the event's increasing costs.

About an hour after the president's tweet, District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser, a Democrat, delivered her own caustic response on Twitter, indicating the desired parade would have cost $21.6 million to organize in the nation's capital. The federal government typically reimburses the District for a large share of the security and logistical costs for such events.

"Yup, I'm Muriel Bowser, mayor of Washington DC, the local politician who finally got thru to the reality star in the White House with the realities ($21.6M) of parades/events/demonstrations in Trump America (sad)," Bowser tweeted.


Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser on July 6, 2017. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

A city official said the planning process for the parade had been difficult to coordinate with White House officials, who had been slow to communicate details of the event, including plans for a specific date.

There are no Republican elected officials in the District. All members of the city council are Democrats or independents.

In a statement, a Pentagon spokesman on Thursday provided no reason for the apparent postponement, which came amid a spate of news reports that the event, which is expected to include aircraft, vehicles, period uniforms and symbols of U.S. power, could cost up to $92 million, far more than originally estimated.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis later told reporters he "had received no such estimate" and said he would "discount that."

Officials have been planning the event since earlier this year, when the president, apparently inspired by a similar display he observed last year in France, discussed the parade in a meeting with senior officials at the Pentagon.

In his tweets, Trump said he would go to a parade in Paris on Nov. 11 and also attend a "big parade" already scheduled at Joint Base Andrews this fall.

Such large parades have been rare in recent U.S. history, though the George H.W. Bush administration staged a military parade in Washington in 1991 after the conclusion of the Persian Gulf War.

Earlier this year, a senior official said the parade would probably cost between $10 million and $30 million. Some share of the higher cost of close to $100 million is expected to be paid by other government agencies that would take part in organizing or securing the event.

The Washington Post's Missy Ryan and Dan Lamothe contributed to this report.

Letter: Treadwell the right choice for governor

6 hours 46 min ago

I am a 69-year resident of Alaska. I and all 50-some of my children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren still live here. I founded Penair more than 60 years ago and am now retired, with my future secure for the rest of my life. I want to see our children have the best future possible here, which requires stable, conservative government.

So I urge you to support Mead Treadwell for governor in the upcoming election. Mead has the political experience and background to do the job, preserving your full dividend, as well as balancing our budget and paying our bills.

In the past three years, more than $14 billion has been wasted by past administrations. The Legislature has been much to blame, particularly the Senate Republican Majority caucus, which has adamantly refused to consider forms of new revenue, while cutting essential services.

My life has revolved around commercial fisheries. Mead helped Sen. Ted Stevens create the Magnuson-Stevens act, which created the 200-mile limit to aid our fishermen. He helped draw up the Stevens federal CDQ program, which guarantees many Western Alaska communities a share of the Bering Sea bottom-fish production, a direct financial benefit to so many.

Mead's opponent in the Aug. 21 primary is Mike Dunleavy. Mike has a history of leaving a job to benefit himself — he resigned from the Northwest Arctic Borough school district eight months into a three-year contract, and resigned from the state Senate early to run for governor. Does this remind you of a recent governor who resigned halfway through her term? We don't need more people who are only looking out for personal gain!

Dunleavy says he will cut the budget more, thus depriving us of more needed government services, and find new revenue sources. Not once has he ever said specifically where those cuts or revenue increases would come from. In 2016, he did sponsor SB 198, which would have imposed a 12.5 percent royalty on all commercial fish operations. Is that his answer to solve our problem — just put it on the backs of commercial fishermen?
Please support Mead Treadwell for governor.
— Orin Seybert
Anchorage

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Letter: Galvin a champion for Alaskans

6 hours 54 min ago

I have had a few campaigns of my own — I understand that politics can get heated. What I can't understand is why supporters of a candidate misrepresent an opponent's position when the claims have been proven false.

I support Alyse Galvin for Congress in the Democratic primary. One of the reasons she has my vote is her strong commitment to making health care work for everyone. The system needs to be fixed. People are losing everything due to medical bills. They are avoiding the doctor or the hospital because it costs too much. Meanwhile, President Donald Trump, Rep. Don Young and Republicans are making things even worse.

I can tell you from experience that Medicare has its limitations, especially here in Alaska. I want a congresswoman who will fight on many fronts to make our health care system better. Alyse has said many times that she is open to "Medicare for All" but also doesn't want to limit herself or Alaskans to one approach that may not ultimately be the best.

I encourage everyone do their research on candidates, not misrepresent opponents and make the choice they believe has the best chance to finally defeat Don Young in November and improve the lives of Alaskans. Alyse Galvin is my choice.
— Pat Abney
Anchorage

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Letter: Vote for Groh

7 hours 6 min ago

Among the three outstanding Democratic House candidates for the downtown area, Cliff Groh stands out for the intensity of his engagement in issues vital to Alaska. He has devoted countless hours in public education efforts on the issue of the state's fiscal gap. He has organized public forums, where he explained fiscal issues in easily understandable terms.

Last year, he organized and led a major public effort with speakers in an effort to explain issues relating to our very high cost of medical care, which serves as a brake on the economic development in the state. No one running in any legislative race can match Cliff for the breadth of his knowledge and the strength of his engagement in these important issues. He deserves your vote in the primary on Aug. 21.
— Eric Wohlforth
Anchorage

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Letter: Fields is best for Anchorage

7 hours 12 min ago

I've lived in South Addition for many years and am glad we have a strong candidate to follow in Rep. Les Gara's footsteps. Zack Fields has a long record of work on issues of importance to this district: civil rights for all Alaskans, fair oil taxes, conservation and local efforts on parks and trails. He has also worked hard to elect other Democrats to the Legislature.

This is an important election for voters in our district, and Zack Fields' experience in government and campaigns demonstrate he would represent our values effectively.
— Eleanor Andrews
Anchorage

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Letter: Groh best candidate for District 20

7 hours 22 min ago

Downtown Anchorage has been well served by Les Gara, and I thank him for his service. With Gara's retirement, we must now select a new representative for House District 20. Cliff Groh was born and raised in the district and graduated from West High School. He got a degree in government from Harvard and worked for the Legislature where he helped establish the PFD. After getting a law degree from the University of California Berkeley, he joined the board of Alaska Common Ground, where he advocated for Alaska's future, eventually rising to board chairman.

As a fourth-generation Alaskan, I have often been disappointed by the lack of a multi-generational perspective in Alaska's leaders. Many past leaders left Alaska shortly after leaving state service. It doesn't seem wise to me to trust the future of our state to people who don't consider Alaska their permanent home. I want leaders who will build a future for my kids and theirs.

I grew up a few blocks from Cliff, and we shared many classes from elementary school on. He was always the smartest kid in class. Alaska needs courageous leaders like him. We can count on him to do what is right for our children's future. With Cliff's history, education, experience and commitment to Alaska, we could not ask for a better candidate for the Legislature. Please join me in voting for Cliff Groh for State House.
— John Farleigh
Anchorage

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Letter: Walker an honest leader

7 hours 25 min ago

In the recently-released compilation of Nelson Mandela's prison letters, he muses about one day having "on our side the genuine and firm support of an upright and straightforward man, holding high office, who will consider it improper to shirk his duty."

On the scoreline of honest leadership under fire, consider: does any other candidate for governor come a close second to Bill Walker?
— D.P. O'Tierney
Rabbit Creek

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Letter: No to Kavanaugh

7 hours 31 min ago

President Trump pledged to appoint Supreme Court justices who will overturn Roe v. Wade and turn millions of our mothers, sisters, daughters, and nieces into criminals for exercising their constitutional rights. That is why Sen. Lisa Murkowski should vote no on nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh.
Polls consistently confirm that nearly two-thirds of Alaskans support safe and legal abortion. Polling from July 2018 indicates only 32 percent want Roe overturned.

Alaska is perceived as a "red" state. But conventional partisan politics don't apply here. Republican, Democrat or Independent, we Alaskans respect one another's privacy and autonomy. Our "live and let live" ethos is one of the things that make this state great.

Sen. Murkowski has a strong record of exercising independence. She consistently shows great courage and ignores what she's told to do by big shots in Washington.

In this instance, Senator Murkowski should stay true to her values and do what is best for our state: Listen to Alaskans' clear and strong preference that abortion remain safe and legal and vote no on Judge Kavanaugh.
— Ryan Jager
Anchorage

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Leading Republican candidates for Alaska governor face off in debate ahead of Tuesday primary

Thu, 2018-08-16 23:57

Mead Treadwell, left, and Mike Dunleavy

The front-runners in Alaska's Republican primary race for governor faced off Thursday night in a KTVA-Channel 11 debate where they discussed their would-be plans for the Permanent Fund dividend, abortion access, their positions on the Trump administration and more.

Mead Treadwell, a former Alaska lieutenant governor, and Mike Dunleavy, a former state senator, agree on many things. They both said they would vote no on Alaska's Stand for Salmon initiative, aimed at enhancing protections for fish. Both of them are pro-life, and they both said they want to protect Alaskans' annual PFD checks.

Treadwell and Dunleavy have also both made tough-on-crime positions central to their campaigns, but on Thursday described different approaches. Treadwell said he would plan to sign a "series of executive orders" related to crime his first day in office if he becomes governor, and would call for more coordination between local, state and federal governments.

Dunleavy said there needs to be a five- and 10-year plan to "regain Alaska from the criminals." Later in the debate, on the subject of the opioid crisis, Dunleavy said as governor he would introduce legislation to "deal with drug dealers harshly" here.

"If you're going to deal drugs in the state of Alaska, you're not going to get a slap on the wrist, you're not going to be given a second chance," he said.

[In high-stakes GOP primary, Dunleavy and Treadwell battle for spot in three-way governor's race]

Treadwell mentioned using money from the state's general fund and cutting money from other programs to fund a response to the opioid crisis.

"This is not a left-right thing, this is a human thing," he said.

Both candidates said they want to restore the PFD, the annual payout to state residents from Alaska's oil wealth fund, to its full amount. Gov. Bill Walker reduced the PFD in 2016.

One moment of tension in the debate came when Treadwell criticized Dunleavy for a Senate vote in July 2016. According to an Anchorage Daily News article at the time, Sen. Bill Wielechowski, D-Anchorage, had asked for the Senate to ask the House to join it in a special session "to override Walker's budget-bill vetoes, including one that reduced the dividend payout."

But then-majority leader Republican John Coghill of North Pole ruled the request out of order. He told Wielechowski that it was tradition for the House to invite the Senate, according to video footage of the Senate floor session. Coghill was sitting in for the absent Senate president, Kevin Meyer, R-Anchorage.

The Senate voted on whether to uphold Coghill's ruling. Fourteen senators, including Dunleavy, voted to uphold the ruling and three senators opposed it.

"I think my opponent's on thin ice," Treadwell said in the part of Thursday's debate about the PFD. "He was part of a Senate that balked."

In a previous interview this week, Dunleavy responded to earlier criticism of that vote.

"All I did was agree to support the ruling of the chair, believing in the future we would have another opportunity to have a vote to see if, in fact, both bodies would come to joint session to override vetoes," he said. "That never happened."

Asked about their positions on President Donald Trump during the debate, Dunleavy said he looks forward to working with him should he become governor.

"I think President Trump has been great for Alaska and great for this country, to be honest with you, and I'm talking about his policies," Dunleavy said.

Treadwell served on Trump's policy platform committee.

"We have to work with this president. And we can work with this president," Treadwell said. "And what scares me to death is that if we get another Obama presidency of sorts, they'd want to reverse these things that are real economic gains that we've fought for a long time."

Trump's pick for the U.S. Supreme Court seat recently vacated by retired Justice Anthony Kennedy is conservative Brett Kavanaugh, a shift in the court that would likely threaten Roe v. Wade.

Asked by a panelist if he would move to restrict access to abortion in Alaska if the landmark ruling was overturned or weakened, Dunleavy said: "I'd have to see what the law that is being proposed or the – whatever the proposal is, I'd have to take a look at it and see if, in fact, that's what would happen."

No matter what the law is, Treadwell said, people will find access to abortion.

"I have no illusions, though, abortion will be available," he said. "So what I want to do is help people find a way to keep their child, have the baby, and support adoption. … I don't know what the Supreme Court's going to deal up for us. I will move to protect life."

Treadwell and Dunleavy also had to give quick answers in a lightning round. The candidates were asked about various state agencies or programs, and then had to answer simply "yes" or "no" as to whether they would make cuts to those departments' budgets.

Here's what they said:

Alaska State Troopers

Treadwell: No

Dunleavy: No

Alaska Court System

Dunleavy: No

Treadwell: No

Public education

Treadwell: No

Dunleavy: Not at this time

Medicaid

Treadwell: Yes

Dunleavy: Yes, make it more efficient.

Power Cost Equalization

Dunleavy: No

Treadwell: No

Prisons

Dunleavy: No

Treadwell: No for now

Alaska Pioneer Homes

Dunleavy: No for now

Treadwell: No for now

University of Alaska

Dunleavy: No for now

Treadwell: We have to actually endow the University of Alaska with the land that Abraham Lincoln promised —

Moderator: Yes or no?

Treadwell: No.

Reporter Tegan Hanlon contributed reporting to this story.

West, Chugiak take home tennis victories

Thu, 2018-08-16 22:05

Griffin Marson of Eagle River High, returns the ball against Jack Perkins of South during a high school tennis match Thursday at Begich Middle School. Perkins defeated Marson 10-7 in a tiebreaker. (Bob Hallinen / ADN)

West 9, Bartlett 0

The student became the master Thursday on the Bartlett tennis courts, where West High's Athena Clendaniel helped her team beat a Bartlett team coached by her dad, Allen Clendaniel.

Athena Clendaniel and Aieleen Kim won their girls double match in straight sets in West's 9-0 defeat of the Golden Bears.

The match of the day was in boys singles, where West's Robbie Sedwick trailed Bartlett's Thane Hatcher 3-2 in the first set and was down 40-love in the sixth game but rebounded to win 6-3, 6-0.

Boys #1 Singles: Robbie Sedwick (W) def Thane Hatcher (B) 6-3, 6-0.

Boys #2 Singles: Kelly Hase (W) def Yeleng Thao (B) 6-0, 6-1.

Girls #1 Singles: Sharon Kim (W) def Abby Walosin (B) 6-3, 6-0.

Girls #2 Singles: Ella Hanson (W) def Lyndzee Thatcher (B) 6-1, 6-2.

Boys #1 Doubles: Charlie Rush/Teddy Bahr (W) def Trey Suber/Ben Roberts (B) 6-0, 6-0.

Boys #2 Doubles: Alex Murray/Jack Coulter (W) def James Braun/Hueche Lor (B) 6-0, 6-0.

Girls #1 Doubles: Athena Clendaniel/Aieleen Kim (W) Choua Her/Madison Reese (B) 6-1, 6-3.

Girls #2 Doubles: Taylor Lilly/Jessie Zimmer (W) def Anna Shipman/Emily Bodek (B) 6-2, 6-1.

Mixed Doubles: Andre Lief/Kristina Yu (W) def Ryan Pogue/Diana Moua (B) 6-1, 6-0.

Chugiak 5, Service 4

Chugiak defeated Service 5-4 in a meet at Service High that featured two matches decided by tiebreakers.

Service singles players Tom Flores and Bella Pretlow both won tiebreakers after splitting the first two sets with their Chugiak opponents.

Boys Singles #1: Riley Fugere (C) d. Kelly Wages (S) 6-2, 6-0.

Boys Singles #2: Tom Flores (S) d. Ian Judd (C) 6-6 (7-5), 5-7, 10-8.

Boys Doubles #1: Harrison McLain/Max Garnett (S) d. Eric Rueb/Tyler Winborg (C) 6-1, 6-4.

Boys Doubles #2: Francis Wanek/Ben Nisonger (C) d. Toby Lochner/Quinn Guyer (S) 6-4, 6-2.

Girls Singles #1: Bella Pretlow (S) d. Emilee Groth (C) 6-3, 4-6, 10-8.

Girls Singles #2: Hanah DeKay (C) d. Ashley Shen (S) 6-4, 6-3.

Girls Doubles #1: Claudine Mock/Lia Moon (S) d. Tyanna Malak/Megan Anshutz (C) 6-3, 6-4.

Girls Doubles #2: Jordyn Bailey/Bethany Kesler (C) d. Ta'Mariah/Alina Shen (S) 6-0, 6-0.

Mixed Doubles: Jared Elison/Clair Mahoney (C) d. Isaac Kim/Tiffany Ferguson (S) 6-0, 6-1.


Griffin Marson of Eagle River, left, shakes hands with Jack Perkins of South after their match Thursday. (Bob Hallinen / ADN)

Iron Dog to decide next week whether to hold 2019 race

Thu, 2018-08-16 21:10

Racers leave Big Lake at the start of the 2018 Iron Dog. (Bill Roth / ADN archive)

The Iron Dog board of directors will meet Tuesday to decide whether the 2,000-mile snowmachine race across Alaska will be held this winter.

According to an announcement posted Thursday on Facebook, the race is "running on empty" when it comes to both finances and leadership.

"The coffers are dry to the point where we can neither pursue new leadership through pay, nor maintain basic staffing levels," board member Lee Butterfield said in the post.

The Iron Dog, billed as the world's longest, toughest snowmachine race, was first held in 1984. It took a big financial hit in 2016 when it lost its title sponsor, the Alaska National Guard, which had been with the race since 2009.

Another big hit came last summer when executive director Kevin Kastner resigned after seven years.

"The amount of investment from (the National Guard) was a key component to keep the race running at the world class level that it has grown to over the years," Butterfield wrote. "After losing said sponsor, and the innovative and energetic personality of Kevin Kastner, the Iron Dog has un-successfully (sic) struggled to fill both of these losses this year."

Butterfield's announcement, titled "The Future of the Iron Dog," is the latest piece of bad news for the race.

Kastner's replacement, Susan Duck, didn't last three months in the job. She announced her exit in late December last year around the same time the race canceled its ceremonial start in Anchorage, citing financial concerns.

More recently, according to the Facebook post, two board members have resigned — Jim Wilke, the president of board, and Skip Boomershine.

The Iron Dog began as a 1,000-mile race from Big Lake to Nome and eventually expanded to 2,000 miles, making Nome the midway point and Fairbanks the finish line.

In advance of Tuesday's meeting, Butterfield said organizers are seeking input from the public. There's a survey on the race's Facebook page for racers, fans or volunteers to submit comments.

"Tell us your ideas for saving it, and tell us how you are willing to make those ideas a reality," Butterfield said. "We have only one goal. That is to race in 2019. Beyond that we want to reintroduce a stronger, better, and more inclusive race in 2020 through participation and transparency that puts everyone involved into a position to be heard, and to help guide this most amazing event."

Butterfield was not immediately available for further comment. Read his entire post here.

In Week 2 of Alaska football, an Arizona team escapes the heat and weekly polls take some heat

Thu, 2018-08-16 20:00

A dinner buffet of salmon, halibut, caribou and moose. Photos of moose racks on trucks and players standing shoulder-to-broad-shoulder in a giant crab pot. Pizza on the Homer Spit.

The Champions aren't in Phoenix any more.

The Cesar Chavez Champions football team may as well be spending this week in Oz. That's how foreign Alaska must seem to high school kids who until this week had seldom ventured beyond Phoenix, Arizona.

The Champions are in Alaska to play the East T-birds on Friday night, but the 6 p.m. football game is just part of the team's itinerary.

The five-day trip began Tuesday with a milestone for most of the team's 35 players: boarding an airplane.

"Twenty-eight or twenty-nine of the kids have never been on an airplane," athletic director Lenny Doerfler said Thursday while enjoying an afternoon on the Homer Spit. "Eighteen haven't been out of the greater Phoenix area."

Now they've seen Anchorage, Soldotna and Homer, with stops along the way to take in sights like the Kenai River.

"Their eyes are everywhere," Doerfler said. "They're taking pictures of everything."

And they're relishing the chance to go outside in sweatpants and sweatshirts without melting in the August heat, which is what happens down in Arizona.

"It's 105 (degrees) in Phoenix," Doerfler said. "Every time they go outside they moan and say, 'This is awesome.' The oceans, the mountains."

Friday's game is the first in a home-and-home series between East and Cesar Chavez, a pair of high schools with significant similarities. East will travel to Phoenix next year.

Cesar Chavez has an enrollment of 2,506 to East's 2,033. Both schools have large minority population enrollments — Cesar Chavez is 72.3 percent Hispanic, 14.4 percent black and 5.3 percent Native American; East last year was nearly 83 percent minority, including 22.6 percent Asian, 12.5 percent Hispanic, 11 percent Pacific Islander/Native Hawaiian; 10.5 percent Alaska Native and 9 percent black.

"Their school mirrors East," said T-bird coach Jeff Trotter. "Big schools, very diverse, low income."

Trotter said Doerfler's longtime connection with Alaska high school football is the reason for the home-and-home series. For the last 20 years, Doerfler, a former high school and college coach, has coached at the annual All-Alaska Football Camp in Palmer, where he established long-lasting contacts.

Those contacts helped smoothed the way when the Champions started planning their trip to Alaska. Cesar Chavez sometimes play games in Tucson, Doerfler said, but for most road trips "we maybe go 15, 20 miles."

"When I first brought it up, a lot of people laughed," he said of the Alaska trip. "They thought I was joking."

The trip cost about $30,000, he said, most of it for airfare. Players held fundraisers and businesses made donations to make it  happen, he said.

The team spent Tuesday night in Anchorage before heading to the Kenai Peninsula. The Champions slept in the Soldotna High School weight room Wednesday and Thursday nights — a benefit of Doerfler's longtime friendship with Stars coach Galen Brantley Jr.

It's an experience of a lifetime for many of the players, Doerfler said. Teams from more affluent parts of Phoenix travel to California or other nearby states nearly every season, he said, and he was determined to make an out-of-state trip happen for the Champions when he became the school's athletic director last year.

"Why can't our kids go on trips like that?" Doerfler said. "And if you're gonna do it, why go to California? If we're gonna do it, let's go big."

Who’s No. 1? And why?

If rankings and polls exist to generate buzz, consider the Alaska Sports Broadcasting Network's high school football poll a raging success this week.

If rankings and polls exist to provide a credible pecking order of the state's top teams, consider it a dismal failure.

"We've taken some heat," ASBN's Kelly Thompson said Thursday after three days of blowback from this week's polls.

In both polls, the previously top-ranked team tumbled from the No. 1 spot. In Division I, Bartlett dropped to No. 2 despite a 19-point victory. In Division II/III, Soldotna disappeared entirely after losing by five  points to a ranked Division I team.

Soldotna was punished for losing to the powerhouse West Eagles on the final play of last Friday's season-opening game in Soldotna.

The 18-13 loss, the result of a West touchdown as time expired, snapped Soldotna's state-record 59-game winning streak. It also knocked the Stars out of the rankings for the first time since Aug. 15, 2012.

Granted, giving the No. 1 spot to an 0-1 team might not sit well with some ASBN poll-voters. But to vanquish the Stars from the rankings altogether?

Seven Division II and Division III teams posted big victories last week, Thompson said, and it was hard to ignore teams that are 1-0 by virtue of decisive victories.

And, he said, voters were looking at the present, not the past. "What voters really came down to was, it was based on this year's team not last year's team," Thompson said.

That's generally smart thinking, but one game into the season is far too early to think Soldotna's time has passed.

The Stars have a system that perpetuates success year after year (after year after year), and a last-second loss to a team ASBN deems the third best in Division I isn't enough to keep Soldotna out of the rankings.

Just as baffling as Soldotna's disappearance is the flip-flopping of Bartlett and East in the Division I poll.

Bartlett was ranked No. 1 going into its season opener in Maui against H.P. Baldwin High School. The Golden Bears won the Saturday night game 74-55, and two days later it dropped to No. 2.

Ascending from No. 2 to No. 1 was East, which opened with a 47-0 victory over Chugiak.

"They gave up 55 points, that was the big deal. They gave up 55 points," Thompson said. "For East to go in and annihilate Chugiak, that was just too much."

Thompson didn't identify the people who vote on the rankings, but said it's a group of 10 to 13 people including sportscasters, sportswriters and coaches (the Daily News does not vote in the poll).

He said he's been putting out football polls for nearly 20 years, "and I can tell you, it was the hardest poll we've ever had to do," he said.

A new poll will come out on Monday, giving Bartlett and Soldotna a chance to reassert themselves and the ASBN voters a chance to redeem themselves.

Week 2 schedule

Friday

Cesar Chavez at East, 6 p.m. RADIO: FM-93.7
Kenai at Homer, 6 p.m.
North Pole at Soldotna, 6:30 p.m.
South at Bartlett, 7 p.m.
Juneau at West, 7 p.m.
Colony at Palmer, 7 p.m.
Kodiak at Wasilla, 7 p.m.
Seward at Redington, 7 p.m.

Saturday's games

Houston at Monroe, 1 p.m.
Barrow at Eagle River, 2 p.m.
Valdez at Nikiski, 2 p.m.
Dimond at Lathrop, 5 p.m.
Chugiak at Service, 6 p.m.
West Valley at Eielson, 6 p.m.

Week 1 scores

Friday

Colony 27, South 26
Eagle River 42, Houston 14
East 47, Chugiak 0
Ketchikan 49, Redington 14
Kodiak 56, Homer 15
West 18, Soldotna 13
West Valley 40, Service 35

Saturday

Barrow 40, Nikiski 7
Bartlett 74, Baldwin (Maui) 55
Dimond 35 Wasilla 21
Eielson 55, North Pole 34
Lathrop 49, Kenai 21
Monroe 27, Seward 12
Palmer 31, Juneau 8

ASBN weekly rankings

Division I

1) East
2) Bartlett
3) West
4) Colony
5) Dimond

Division II/III

1) Palmer
2) Eielson
3) Barrow
4) Lathrop
5) West Valley

Races to watch in Anchorage-area primary elections for House and Senate next week

Thu, 2018-08-16 19:28

It's been relatively quiet leading up to Tuesday's primary election in Alaska, but a number of contested races for seats in the state legislature have been marked by political sparring, big money and a bit of mud-slinging.

That includes in Chugiak and Eagle River, where the decision of Sen. Anna MacKinnon, R-Eagle River, to step down from the Senate triggered a chain reaction that's led to some of the more contested battles of the summer.

Tuesday is primary election day, which sets the stage for the November general election. Absentee and early voting has been underway since Aug. 6. About 1 percent of the state's registered voters have returned ballots so far, according to the latest data from the state Division of Elections.

A reminder to Anchorage voters: The state primary is a poll-based election, not vote-by-mail as in the city election. Find your polling place here.

Here's our roundup of some of the contested races underway in the Anchorage and Mat-Su region. Check here for a full list of races and candidates.

In Saddler-Reinbold matchup, the gloves come off

When MacKinnon decided not to run for re-election in District G, Republican state House members Dan Saddler, R-Eagle River, and Lora Reinbold, R-Eagle River, both decided to try to step up.

It's been an acrimonious race. The duo has clashed throughout the campaign season, with attacks lobbed in campaign ads and public events.

One of the most visible signs of the candidates' acrimony came during Eagle River's annual Bear Paw Festival, where a verbal altercation erupted between Saddler and Eric Reinbold, Lora's husband. In later interviews, both men blamed the other for "trash talking," and neither contacted police.

Like many Republican candidates, Reinbold is running on a platform that attacks Senate Bill 91, Alaska's sweeping attempt at criminal justice reform in 2016. She accuses Saddler of being soft on crime because he voted for the bill initially. In one campaign ad that appeared in the ECHO magazine, Reinbold called Saddler "The Straddler."

Saddler has since reversed course. He now says he'd vote to repeal the controversial reform measure. In the ECHO, Saddler ran an ad directly beneath Reinbold's that said simply, "Dan doesn't call people names — he gets things done."

Both have promised to cut the budget, restore a full Permanent Fund dividend and repeal the crime bill.

As of a week before the election, Reinbold had outraised Saddler. She reported $55,872 in campaign income and $46,542 in expenses, while Saddler raised $47,071 and spent about $38,000. But Reinbold has been her campaign's biggest donor, pumping more than $30,000 of her own money into her campaign.

The winner faces Democrat Oliver Schiess of Eagle River.

House District 13, Eagle River: Experienced candidates vie for Republican nomination

A former state legislator, a retired Air Force colonel and a local attorney are vying for the Republican nomination in Saddler's district, which includes parts of Eagle River, Chugiak and Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.

Craig Christenson, Nancy Dahlstrom and Bill Cook are all running on platforms that center on crime and the PFD. Christenson is a retired physician who served as deputy commissioner of the Alaska Department of Health and Human Services under Gov. Sean Parnell. He said he'd like to see SB 91 repealed and replaced with tougher laws, and the legislative session moved to Anchorage.

Nancy Dahlstrom served in the state House between 2003 and 2010. She said she wants to see the crime laws re-examined. Bill Cook is a former prosecutor and judge who has promised to work for a full SB 91 repeal. All say they want PFD funding returned to the formula that was used before the Legislature voted to cap it.

The most recent campaign finance reports show Dahlstrom was leading the spending race by a nearly 2-to-1 margin over each of her opponents, with nearly $19,000 raised and $12,400 spent as of Aug. 11. Her campaign has been bolstered by $5,000 she had left over from a previous campaign, as well as $5,000 from various Alaska unions. Christenson had raised a little over $10,000 and spent more than $9,000, while Cook reported a deficit — he'd spent $9,812 compared to $4,900 raised.

Nonpartisan Danyelle Kimp is on the ballot in November.

House District 14, Eagle River: Newcomers bid to replace Reinbold

Meanwhile, the race to replace Reinbold is shaping up as one of the most expensive for the House. First-time candidate Kelly Merrick has brought in a flood of donations for her campaign.

Merrick — wife of Alaska union leader Joey Merrick and a former aide to U.S. Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska — has raised more than $50,000, with $8,000 coming from unions and another $5,000 from herself. She's campaigning on a law-and-order platform and has said she believes the state needs infrastructure improvements to grow its economy.

Merrick's opponents, Jamie Allard and Eugene Harnett, are also new to politics and have been far outspent in the race. Allard has Reinbold's endorsement for the seat and has raised more than $11,000 while spending more than $9,000. She's an Army veteran who has said she'll work to repeal SB 91, restore the PFD and roll back government regulations.

Harnett has served as a legislative aide. He is campaigning on a socially conservative platform emphasizing family values, as well as the repeal of SB 91.

The winner faces nonpartisan Joe Hackenmueller.

South Anchorage, Senator M: Criminal charges shake up two-way Republican race

When Sen. Kevin Meyer, R-South Anchorage, decided to step down from his South Anchorage seat to run for lieutenant governor, two Republicans jumped in to take his place: state Rep. Chris Birch, R-South Anchorage, and a newcomer, Rebecca "Bekah" Halat.

Birch has long been active in Anchorage politics, serving on the Anchorage Assembly before he ran for the Legislature. Halat, a 33-year-old mother of two, had branded herself as a rising voice in the Republican Party.

But last week, Halat and her husband were charged last week with felony theft over accusations of food stamp fraud. Halat has called the charges "false allegations" but will not appear in court until three days after the primary.

The charges came as Birch already had a lopsided fundraising advantage over Halat, raising more than $50,000 to her $9,800.

The winner of the Birch-Halat race will face Democrat Janice Park in the general election.

House District 9, Mat-Su: A rematch for Rauscher and Colver

The race to represent House District 9 in Mat-Su is being closely watched as one that could help tip the balance of the House.

It pits incumbent Rep. George Rauscher, from Sutton, against Jim Colver — who held the seat for a term until Rauscher unseated him two years ago. Pamela Goode, of Delta Junction, is also running in the Republican primary.

Rauscher, at the time a political newcomer, beat Colver in the primary, the only one in the state where the Alaska Republican Party supported a challenger over the incumbent.

Colver, a surveyor and former Mat-Su Assembly member from the Hatcher Pass area, lost his re-election bid amid criticism from the Republican Party that he wasn't Republican enough.

In early 2015, Colver joined five other members of the Republican-led majority who wrote a letter to House Speaker Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, refusing to join his plan to use a Permanent Fund savings account to help cover the state's deficit.

The party is backing Rauscher again this election cycle.

Colver is championing himself as the tough-on-crime candidate and criticizing Rauscher for votes related to SB 91, Alaska's sweeping criminal justice reform. Rauscher voted against an effort to roll back elements of SB 91. He said that bill, SB-54, cost too much and didn't do enough to fix SB 91's problems.

Rauscher has raised about $28,000, while Colver had raised $25,000, including about $18,500 from various labor unions.

House District 25, Tudor area: Millett defends seat against well-funded challenger in contentious primary

Rep. Charisse Millett, a Republican, won a close race in 2016 against Democrat Pat Higgins.

In this year's general election, Millett will again face Higgins — if she can survive a well-funded primary challenge against a Republican newcomer.

Josh Revak, 37, is an Army combat veteran and former aide to Sen. Dan Sullivan on military affairs. His platform includes a state spending cap and more oil development.

Revak is backed by a super PAC, "Let's Back Revak," spearheaded by political blogger Jeff Landfield. The PAC had raised more than $32,000, and its spending includes Facebook videos, radio ads and yard signs, according to campaign finance reports. Super PACs can raise unlimited amounts of money but can't coordinate directly with the candidate.

Revak and his supporters have critiqued Millett's record on SB 91 and other issues. Earlier this month, the Millett campaign went on the defensive, sending out a mailer where Millett's three adult children accused the Revak campaign of "spreading falsehoods." The mailer said Millett had voted against cuts to the PFD and also voted against SB 91. Millett sponsored the original House version of SB 91, but ultimately voted against it on the floor and later became a vocal advocate for repeal.

House District 26, South Anchorage: A three-way Republican race is up for grabs

Three Republicans are locked in a close primary race to succeed Rep. Chris Birch in a South Anchorage House district. Birch is stepping down from his House seat to run for Senate.

Albert Fogle, 38, is an employee benefits consultant and former Army soldier; Joe Riggs, 46, is a health care consultant and a member of the city's Budget Advisory Commission; and Laddie Shaw, 69, is a former Navy SEAL who once served as state director of veterans affairs in Anchorage.

All three are running anti-crime and anti-SB 91 platforms that also focus on the economy and small government.

At $33,316, Riggs is leading the fundraising race, including $10,000 of his own money. Fogle and Shaw were virtually tied at the last fundraising report, at about $26,000. Fogle had also invested about $10,000 in his campaign, records show. Shaw's donations include some money from political action committees affiliated with unions.

The winner of the primary will face Democrat Hunter Dunn in the general election.

House District 20, downtown Anchorage: Trio of Democrats battle for open seat

In downtown Anchorage, three Democrats are duking it out to replace retiring state legislator Les Gara, who represented the district for 15 years. The downtown district includes Government Hill, South Addition and Fairview and has a long track record of electing Democrats.

So far, the candidates have been trying to one-up one another on progressive credentials on issues like labor, welfare, education spending and equality. Each favors a graduated income tax as part of a state fiscal plan.

Cliff Groh, 64, is an attorney and writer who is a longtime board member of Alaska Common Ground; Zack Fields, 37, is a union organizer with Laborers' Local 341 who previously worked in the Department of Labor and as the communications director for the Alaska Democratic Party.

Elias Rojas, 45, runs a small advertising agency and has led the nonprofit Alaskans Together for Equality, which advocates for LGBTQ rights.

Groh topped overall fundraising at about $76,000, including about $50,000 of his own money, the most recent campaign finance reports show. Fields, who has been endorsed by Gara, raised about $41,600 but collected the most individual donations of any candidate.

Whoever wins will face off against Republican Ceezar Martinson and Libertarian Warren West in the general election.

House District 22, West Anchorage: Vazquez vies against newcomer to reclaim seat

Former state house representative Liz Vazquez, who lost her bid for re-election to Rep. Jason Grenn in 2016, is trying to reclaim her old seat in West Anchorage.

Vazquez, a former prosecutor, is running on a platform centered on repealing SB 91. She is competing against political newcomer Sara Rasmussen, a 28-year-old residential appraiser who is also running on an anti-SB 91 platform. Vazquez has raised about $19,000, while Rasmussen has raised about $13,000.

The winner will face Grenn, an independent, in the general election, as well as Democrat Dustin Darden. In his first term, Grenn spearheaded an overhaul of legislative ethics laws. On his campaign website, Grenn, who was not a legislator when SB 91 passed, called it a "well-intended but flawed bill" that has parts worth keeping.

Grenn has raised more than $50,000 toward his re-election bid.

House District 31, Homer: Republicans square off to challenge Seaton

Rep. Paul Seaton, R-Homer, who has represented the Kenai Peninsula since 2003, drew Republican ire for forming a majority with House Democrats last year.

This primary, Seaton is running as a nonpartisan.

Three Republican candidates, meanwhile, are jockeying for a spot to challenge him in the general election.

Those candidates are Sarah Vance, the spokeswoman behind a high-profile city recall effort in Homer last year; John Cox, an Anchor Point business owner; and commercial fisherman and political activist Hank Kroll. The most recent reports show Vance in the fundraising lead, raising about $8,300 to Cox's $5,350. Kroll had not reported raising any money

We must return to engaged American leadership

Thu, 2018-08-16 19:21

When asked in a press conference last month about the next steps in combating the rising threat of ISIS, President Obama astoundingly said "we don't have a strategy yet." Unfortunately, that statement still rings true.

I am glad to see that the Obama Administration has finally awakened to the serious threat of ISIS. I support the current airstrikes, and I would have voted in favor of the continuing resolution offering aid to the Syrian rebels already opposing ISIS. But these preliminary efforts do not constitute a comprehensive, cohesive strategy. We must leverage all instruments of American power -- diplomatic, financial, military, and most importantly, economic -- to defeat and destroy ISIS. President Obama owes the American people a detailed explanation of how he plans to bring the full weight of American power to bear on the violent oppressors who would do us harm.

Congress should have the opportunity to carefully consider and vigorously debate our nation's long-term strategy to address the disturbing threat in the Middle East. Instead, the White House hastily proposed a first step, the Senate voted, and then Washington's leaders put American foreign policy on hold while they sent their colleagues home to campaign.

Sadly, this typifies the Obama Administration's foreign policy. President Obama shrugs off the mantle of American leadership, only to be reluctantly dragged into the global challenges of our day. He spent his first term in office apologizing for America's actions abroad as part of a foreign policy that even his own advisers described as "leading from behind." This has led to a situation where our friends no longer trust us and our adversaries no longer fear us.

Moreover, this tepid approach to global leadership diminishes America's standing in the world and signals weakness, and weakness is provocative. The last six years of failed leadership have emboldened nations that would like to fill the void of American global leadership. We're seeing it in Russia's mounting aggression, including bombers once again buzzing Alaska; Iran's efforts to destabilize the Middle East and obtain nuclear weapons; and China's aggressive actions in the South China Sea. All of this undermines the security of Alaska and America.

Unfortunately, Mark Begich has been enabling this weak approach to American foreign policy during his time in the U.S. Senate. In a recent op-ed on ISIS, he focuses almost exclusively on what we won't do. But saying no to everything isn't foreign policy. As we've seen with the rise of ISIS, inaction has its own consequences.

In his op-ed, Begich insists that the United States cannot and should not use combat troops to eradicate the threat of ISIS. But what he fails to realize is that we already have combat troops engaged daily in Iraq and Syria -- our brave pilots conducting dangerous airstrikes. Moreover, there are certainly search and rescue ground troops in the region ready at a moment's notice to rescue a downed pilot or other American personnel in peril. Should we forego deploying such troops as we tragically did in Benghazi? Mark Begich's answer is yes, mine is no.

Begich justifies his "all options off the table" approach to national security as somehow driven by his desire to take care of the troops. As someone who has commanded a Marine Corps search and rescue task force and currently commands a Marine Corps Reserve unit whose mission is to call in supporting arms fire, I disagree. The best way to take care of our troops is to provide them with a clearly-defined mission to defend America's national security interests and then enable them to pursue that mission relentlessly with full backing at the highest levels of the U.S. government, including the U.S. Senate.

As your U.S. senator, I will demand that we provide our troops with a clear, fully funded mission to address the threat of ISIS that is part of a broader comprehensive strategy that emphasizes all elements of American power. I won't broadcast to our enemies what we won't do. This only encourages them.

I will also champion America's strong global leadership and stand up for an ideal Alaskans and Americans know to be true -- that America has been an unparalleled force for good and a beacon of freedom and optimism in an often dangerous world. We need leaders who truly believe in American Exceptionalism and pursue foreign policy strategies that reflect this ideal, not run from it. With your vote in November, I will be one of those leaders.

Dan Sullivan is a lieutenant colonel in the USMC Reserve, former assistant secretary of state, and current candidate for U.S. Senate.

The views expressed here are the writer’s own and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary(at)alaskadispatch.com.

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