Democrats Support Getting an Answer

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT: Jake Hamburg (907) 258-3077

 

Who’s going to control future Permanent Fund Dividends?

ANCHORAGE – Alaskans deserve to know who will control the future of Permanent Fund Dividends, the Alaska Democratic Party said today.

AS 37.13.145(b) requires the Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation (APFC) to transfer 50 percent of the income available for distribution from the earnings reserve account to the dividend fund. In violation of this statute, Governor Walker vetoed $665,350,000, an action that will result in the reduction of every Alaskan’s PFD.

“The law is clear,” said Casey Steinau, chair of the Alaska Democratic Party. “The Governor does not have the authority to single-handedly override an existing statute.”

The Governor unilaterally chose to cut in half every Alaskan’s Permanent Fund Dividend. The Republican-led Majorities subsequently decided not to overturn his decision by refusing to allow a vote to override the Governor’s veto.  At the same time, both the Governor and the Republicans have left Alaskans on the hook for hundreds of millions in oil tax subsidies to some of the wealthiest corporations in the world, an amount that this year alone is virtually equivalent to the cut to the PFD.

“We must fix the oil subsidies and put an end to the massive giveaways to the oil industry,” said Steinau. “The Permanent Fund needs to be the very last option we look to.”

Democrats exhausted other avenues before Sen. Bill Wielechowski filed a lawsuit last week calling for the APFC to comply with its statutory obligation. Senate Democrats sought to overturn the Governor’s veto, but Senate Majority Leader John Coghill ruled the motion out of order. Senator Wielechowski appealed the ruling, but the Republican majority voted to uphold the ruling blocking any opportunity to override the veto. Last month, Wielechowski wrote to the APFC requesting they comply with the law.

“Sen. Wielechowski has been left with no other choice but to bring this matter to court,” said Steinau. “Alaskans deserve to know if this or any future Governor can solely decide on whether to cut the amount of the PFD any time they choose.”

The cut to the PFD does nothing to close the $3.2 billion budget gap or address our fiscal crisis. Earlier this year, ISER reported that a cut to the PFD would take a significant amount of money out of the economy while reducing the bottom 10 percent of household incomes by approximately 23 percent.

“Right now, the Governor and Republican-led legislature are asking more from a child worried about where their next meal is coming from than nonresidents working in Alaska,” said Steinau. “This cut only serves to harm our economy as well as Alaska families for whom PFD payments are a very significant source of income.”

According to the Alaska Department of Labor, the percentage of nonresidents working in the oil and gas sector has grown over the last decade to 35 percent in 2014. Overall, Alaska’s nonresident hire rate has reached 20.8%, with nonresidents taking home $2.6 billion in wages.

 “If Republicans had cut back on frivolous spending when oil was $145 a barrel, we wouldn’t be in this fiscal mess,” said Steinau. “This do-nothing Republican-led legislature got us into a deep hole and now refuses to fix it.”

Republicans authorized shameful wasteful spending including: the extravagant remodel of the Anchorage Legislative Information Office, the frivolous Medicaid expansion lawsuit, the pocketing of thousands of dollars in per diem despite living in their own homes, overpriced junkets and mega-projects we can’t afford.

 

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Democrats to AK GOP: Stop Meddling in Our Primary

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT: Jake Hamburg (907) 258-3077

 

Democrats to AK GOP: Stop Meddling in Our Primary

Republicans seek to silence an entire community of rural Alaskans in Democratic Primary

ANCHORAGE: Alaska Democratic Party Chair Casey Steinau today released the following statement in response to Republican Party Chairman Tuckerman Babcock’s call for the State to invalidate the Democratic Primary election results for the HD 40 state representative.

“The Republican Party has taken inappropriate, though not unprecedented action, to stifle the voices of another rural Alaskan community. Republican Party Chairman Tuckerman Babcock has taken it upon himself to advocate for the dismissal of all votes from Shungnak in District 40. This attempt to meddle in a Democratic Primary and silence rural Alaska is a blatant overstep by Republican leadership, designed to undermine a result they don’t like. After arguing to defund rural public radio, threatening to shut down rural schools, and ignoring rural infrastructure needs, the Republican Party is once again disregarding the needs and voices of rural Alaskans.

“If the Republican Party wanted to have a candidate appear on the November ballot, then their candidate should have run as a Republican.

“It is unnecessary to invalidate the election or have another vote, as Republicans are advocating, because errors that have been identified didn’t change the outcome in any race.  

“The people of District 40 have spoken and we must respect that. If Mr. Babcock succeeds in undermining their voice, that would be the real failure of this election.”

The Alaska Democratic Party today sent the attached letter to the Director of the Division of Elections.

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Statement Regarding Rep. Munoz Letters on Behalf of Defendants

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT: Jake Hamburg (907) 258-3050

Statement from the Alaska Democratic Party

ANCHORAGE: Alaska Democratic Party Chair Casey Steinau released the following statement in response to revelations that Representative Cathy Munoz wrote letters on behalf of the defendants in two child sex abuse cases:

"Representative Munoz’s decision to ignore the victims of abuse while protecting those responsible is wholly unacceptable. It’s hard to imagine a greater evil than hurting a child. Sex crimes are especially heinous and haunt children for a lifetime. Elected officials like Munoz should never write letters like these during sentencing, regardless of the letterhead used or how close she is to the offenders. Alaska has a problem with child abuse and sexual assault. Her choice to dedicate energy and resources to protect someone convicted on eight felony counts of child endangerment and a dangerous child molester is a manifestation of the serious problem in Juneau today. Munoz had her chance to tell her side of the story and her defense indicates she does not understand the seriousness of the situation. Unfortunately, this is not the first time she exercised the wrong judgment."

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Democrats call on House to Stop Historic Cut to PFD

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT: Jake Hamburg (907) 258-3077

 

Democrats call on House to Stop Historic Cut to PFD

Republican Majority puts outside interests ahead of Alaskan interests

ANCHORAGE: Last night, after agreeing to continue paying out millions in subsidies to the oil industry, the Senate passed a Permanent Fund restructuring plan that cuts the Permanent Fund Dividend for every man, woman and Alaskan child.  

“Where are Republicans’ priorities? Reaching into the Permanent Fund should be the last option,” said Casey Steinau, Chair of the Alaska Democratic Party. “Why does the Republican majority think it is okay to pick the pockets of every Alaskan man, woman and child while preserving massive giveaways to the oil industry?”

Alaska’s oil tax credit system has become a substantial expense and is set to cost the State of Alaska hundreds of millions of dollars a year into the foreseeable future. In the next fiscal year, the State is expected to gift an estimated $825 million in refundable tax credits, while the state is forecasted to only recoup $54 million in production taxes. FY 2017 will be the third year in a row that production tax revenues are less than credit payments. The provisions passed by the Republican led Legislature requires the State of Alaska to cover a third of oil industry losses and increases the state’s fiscal liability to the oil industry to over a billion dollars.

“Democrats have been clear,” said Steinau. “We must work together to develop a fair and sustainable fiscal plan. The plan to cut the PFD while subsidizing the oil industry unfairly targets hardworking middle class families, seniors living on a fixed income who should never have to choose between food and heating their homes, and children who have yet to take their first steps.”

According to an Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development study non residents accounted for 35% of the oil industry workforce. Democrats offered amendments to incentivize local hire which were rejected by the Republican Majority in the House.

“Legislators were elected to serve Alaskans who proudly call our state home,” said Steinau. “Not only is the Republican Majority taking money out of our economy and sending it right to Houston and London, they’re taking away our families’ opportunities to save for a college education, find relief from high energy costs, and invest in local small businesses.”

The plan passed by the Senate ties the PFD to dwindling royalty revenue.

“Tying the PFD to royalties is a huge mistake and marks the beginning of the end for the dividend,” said Steinau. “We strongly urge Alaskans to contact their legislators and use their voices to tell them this is not okay.”

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Alaska Democrats Concluded Successful Convention

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT: Jake Hamburg (907) 258-3077

Sanders wins 13, Clinton 3 Alaska Delegates to National Convention

ANCHORAGE: The Alaska Democratic Party concluded its biennial state convention Sunday with the election of party officers, the adoption of changes to the party plan and the passage of a resolution aimed at ending the use Unpledged Delegates.

“The state convention was an exciting time for the Alaska Democratic Party. From new Democrats participating in the party for the first time to lifelong Democrats, the enthusiastic involvement and contribution of new ideas we saw was a win for Alaska,” said Casey Steinau, Chair of the Alaska Democratic Party. “The record turnout and great work conducted throughout the weekend shows Alaska Democrats are engaged and committed to building a better future for everyone.”

More than 550 Democrats from all 40 state house districts attended the state convention.

Larry Murakami of Fairbanks was elected as the party’s State Treasurer, Julianne Baltar of Dillingham was elected State Secretary, Sheila Selkregg of Anchorage was elected National Committeewoman, and Ed Wesley of Anchorage was elected National Committeman.

Attendees heard from DNC Chair Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Lieutenant Governor Byron Mallott, Vic Fischer, Democratic and Independent candidates running for office, party leaders and other distinguished guests.

Convention attendees also participated in a variety of committee meetings and workshops. Alaska Democrats took an important step toward expanding access and participation in the presidential nomination process with discussion about the caucus and possible reforms. The Party Plan Committee and Platform Committee worked for many hours Friday to update the party rules and shape its principles.

Election of Delegates to Democratic National Convention

Sen. Sanders won 13 of Alaska’s Delegates to the Democratic National Convention that were elected Saturday. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton received 3 delegates. When combined with the state’s four unpledged delegates selected earlier, the state’s 20 delegates to the national convention are currently 14 for Sanders, 4 for Clinton, and 2 remain uncommitted.

“We are pleased to have a diverse group of Alaskans representing our state in Philadelphia this summer,” said Steinau. “Alaskans will join other Democrats from across the nation, and we will unite behind our Democratic nominee and help them defeat presumptive Republican Nominee Donald Trump this November.”

Abiding by the rules set by the Democratic National Committee and Alaska’s Delegate Selection Plan, the award of delegates was based on a presidential fan out in which 523 state convention delegates participated. Sanders received 426 (81.5%) and Clinton received 97 of the state convention delegates (18.5%).

The Pledged Delegates are:

·       Mikki King Barker of Fairbanks

·       Katrina Domnick of Bethel

·       Olivia Garrett of Fairbanks

·       Traci George of Eagle River

·       Edward Alexander of Fort Yukon

·       Gregory Jones of Wasilla

·       Nathan Sidell of Palmer

·       George Wesley Sookiayak of Anchorage

·       Jill Yordy of Fairbanks

·       Taz Tally of Homer

·       Genevieve Mina of Anchorage

·       Peter Andrew of Dillingham

·       Diana Carbonell of Fritz Creek

·       Rep. Andy Josephson of Anchorage

·       Tamara Kleiner of Anchorage

·       W. James Smallwood of Anchorage

Alternates are:

·       Gavin Hudson of Metlakatla

·       D’Arcy Hutchings of Anchorage

·       Charles Degnan of Unalakleet

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Alaska Republican Lawmaker to Seniors: Pack Your Bags

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT: Jake Hamburg (907) 258-3077

ANCHORAGE: In response to Rep. Lynn Gattis’s defense of drastic budget cuts to low-income senior benefits, Casey Steinau, Chair of the Alaska Democratic Party issued the following statement:

“Representative Lynn Gattis says those seniors living on a fixed income should just move. What’s next? Ask seniors to pay for a wall to keep them from returning to Alaska?

“Her remarks show Republicans have the wrong priorities. Gattis is on record supporting the closing of rural schools which will lead to the destruction of many of Alaska’s villages. Now she wants to simply kick senior Alaskans to the curb and send them packing.

“We should honor our seniors who continue to contribute to our state. Alaska seniors add $2.4 billion to the state’s economy annually. Democrats understand that cuts need to be made in order to fix our multibillion dollar deficit. But we cannot cut the budget on the backs of seniors, many of whom came here seeking opportunity and a better future for themselves and their families. Their hard work helped build Alaska and we have a duty to honor their commitment to Alaska.

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HD 16 Democrats Nominate Candidates to Fill State Rep. Vacancy

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

February 26, 2016

CONTACT: Jake Hamburg (907) 258-3077

 

ANCHORAGE: Today the House District 16 Nominating Committee released the names of three applicants it will forward to Governor Walker to fill the State House vacancy following Representative Max Gruenberg’s passing.

“The passing of Representative Gruenberg has been a great loss to our community and the state,” said Manuel Macedo, Chair of the House District 16 Democrats. “We are grateful to have received applications from very capable Alaskans who will do his memory justice.”

Local Democrats from House District 16 formed a five-member Nominating Committee to conduct the application and selection process. The committee reviewed applications Monday evening and interviewed qualified candidates Wednesday and Thursday. After deliberation Friday, the committee nominated the following candidates:

Taylor Brelsford works as an environmental scientist with experience in tribal, federal and private sector positions.

Kendra Kloster serves as Senior Staff to Chris Tuck, Leader of the Independent Democratic Coalition in the State House, and previously worked for the late U.S. Senator Ted Stevens, and Senator Bill Wielechowski.

Ivy Spohnholz currently works as the Development Director for the Salvation Army.

The committee also considered applications from: Ron Fuhrer, Edward King, Greg Protasel, and Clarence Thompson.

Per state law, all applicants must reside in House District 16 for at least one year and be registered as a Democrat to be considered. Applications from Mark Manni, Joshua Wright and Ian Sharrock were not considered because they did not meet the Constitutional requirements.  Kayla Epstein, wife of the late Rep. Gruenberg, withdrew her application.  Two additional candidates asked that their names not be released.

The Governor has 30 days from the day of the vacancy to make an appointment. The appointee is subject to confirmation by a majority of Democrats serving in the State House.

Alaska Democrats Finalize Presidential Caucus Locations

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

February 24, 2015

CONTACT: Jake Hamburg (907) 258-3077

ANCHORAGE: Today the Alaska Democratic Party announced they will host 34 Caucus locations throughout the state where Alaska Democrats will meet to help select their party’s nominee for President of the United States on March 26th. A list of Caucus locations and pre-registration to participate in the Caucuses are available at www.akdems.org/caucus-locations.

“We are excited for Democrats to come together and make history by helping select our party’s nominee for President of the United States,” said Casey Steinau, chair of the Alaska Democratic Party. “Caucusing is a fun way to get involved in grassroots activities with the Alaska Democratic Party.”

Democratic Caucuses are scheduled in all the major communities and in a number of villages and smaller communities. At least one Caucus will be held in each State House District. Caucus locations, pre-registration, and other useful information is available online at www.akdems.org.

“Alaskans intending to participate in the Caucuses can save themselves time in line by registering to vote or re-registering as a Democrat before March 8th,” said Steinau. “Democrats can also pre-register online to help ensure a fun and well-organized event.”

Caucuses will begin at 10:00am at all locations on Saturday, March 26, 2016. Voters must be present and registered as a Democrat to vote for their preferred Presidential nominee at the Caucus. Anyone not registered as a Democrat by March 8th will not appear on the sign-in list resulting in longer wait times. However, Alaskans will be able to change their party affiliation or register to vote at the Caucus.

After voting for the party’s nominee for President at the House District Caucuses on March 26th, Alaska Democrats will elect delegates to the State Convention in proportion to the votes each candidate received. The State Convention will be held May 13-15 in Anchorage. Those interested in becoming a delegate are encouraged to attend the Alaska Democratic Party’s fourth delegate training workshop in person or via videoconference at noon Saturday, March 19th.

“We want to encourage greater involvement in our political process,” Steinau said. “This workshop is an opportunity for Democrats to learn how they can run and serve as delegates to the party’s state and national conventions.”

The Alaska Democratic Party is also looking for volunteers to help the process run smoothly at all 34 locations.  

“These Caucuses are successfully held with the help of wonderful volunteers,” said Steinau. “We are always grateful for any help with ensuring the Caucuses run smoothly during this historic nomination process.”

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Alaska Democrats Challenge State’s Denial to Allow Independents Access to Primary Ballot

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

February 23, 2016

CONTACT: Jake Hamburg (907) 258-3077

ANCHORAGE: The Alaska Democratic Party filed a lawsuit challenging the state’s recent decision to deny independent candidates access to the party’s Primary ballot. In January, the Party adopted a rule change that allows candidates not affiliated with a political party to run in the 2016 Democratic Primary. In a letter last week declining to implement the party’s rule change, the Lieutenant Governor deemed this matter “something for a court to decide.”

“It’s disappointing the State declined to support our Constitutional right to determine our own internal processes and participants in our Primary,” said Casey Steinau, chair of the Alaska Democratic Party. “It’s clear we have a Constitutional right to allow independents, who can already vote in our Primary, to compete for our endorsement in the Democratic Primary, and to give voters more choices.”

The party’s suit was filed late Monday in Superior Court in Juneau seeking to declare unconstitutional a state statute requiring that a candidate be registered as a member of the political party whose nomination is being sought in a Primary.

Article I of the Alaska Constitution and the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution guarantee the right of freedom of association for the advancement of political objectives.

A US Supreme Court ruling established a political party’s Constitutional right to freedom of association. In the 1986 Tashjian v. Republican Party case, the high Court said that a state law prohibiting a Party from nominating non-members would infringe on the members’ right, under the First Amendment, to organize with like-minded citizens in support of common political goals.

Currently, those candidates unaffiliated with a political party may only run by petition in the General Election and do not have the option to appear on a Primary ballot. The Alaska Democratic Party bylaws have historically allowed any registered voter, regardless of party affiliation, to vote in the party’s open primary ballot unlike the Republican Party, which has a closed Primary. This change invites more people to participate and could provide more choices for voters. It is with the support of independents that Alaska Democrats and progressive-backed Independents have won elections from the municipal to the statewide level.

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Democrats Announce Process to Fill Vacancy in House District 16

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

February 15, 2016

CONTACT: Jake Hamburg (907) 258-3077

ANCHORAGE: Today the House District 16 Democrats and Alaska Democratic Party announced the process and timeline to fill the State House vacancy resulting from Representative Max Gruenberg’s passing.

“Representative Gruenberg served his district and the people of Alaska well for many years,” said Kay Brown, Executive Director for the Alaska Democratic Party. “He will be dearly missed and his successor will have big shoes to fill at this critical time in our state.”

“The district needs to advance the most qualified candidates to the Governor,” said Manuel Macedo, Chair of the House District 16 Democrats. “We have established a process to insure that House District 16 Democrats have an opportunity to express their interest in being considered for an appointment to the State House.”

House District 16 Democrats will be accepting applications from district Democrats interested in filling the remainder of the term, which ends in January, 2017. District residents willing to serve and interested in being considered for an appointment must submit a cover letter of intent describing why they are interested in serving in the State House, a resume and an application which can be found at www.akdems.org.

Per state law, all applicants must reside in House District 16 and be registered as a Democrat to be considered.

The deadline to submit applications is 5:00 pm Monday, February 22nd. Interviews will be conducted on Wednesday, February 24th and Thursday February 25th. Three nominees will be forwarded to the Governor.

According to state law, the Governor has 30 days from the day of the vacancy to make an appointment. State statute also requires applicants to be from the same political party as the person they succeed. The appointee is subject to confirmation by a majority of Democrats serving in the State House.

Applicants seeking more information may call (907) 258-3050 or email info@akdems.org.

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Alaska Democrats Take Step to Welcome Independent Candidates in Primary

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

January 23, 2016

CONTACT: Jake Hamburg (907) 258-3077

 

Alaska Democrats Take Step to Welcome Independent Candidates in Primary

JUNEAU: Today the Alaska Democratic Party State Central Committee adopted a pilot proposal to allow the majority of Alaskans not affiliated with a political party to run in their 2016 primary.

“We want our party to be as inclusive as possible,” said Casey Steinau, Chair of the Alaska Democratic Party. “We are excited for the opportunity to let more people participate and give voters more choices in the primary.”

Currently, those unaffiliated with a political party may only run by petition in the General Election and do not have the option to appear on a Primary ballot. The Alaska Democratic Party bylaws have historically allowed any registered voter, regardless of party affiliation, to vote in the party’s open primary ballot unlike the closed Republican ballot.

“We are at an unprecedented time in Alaska’s history and must put an end to politics as usual by continuing to welcome independent thinkers,” said Steinau. “Alaskans want to debate ideas, not political labels.”

Alaska Democrats have a right to consider supporting candidates, regardless of party affiliation. This change to the party’s bylaws will enable Alaskans unaffiliated with a party to run as candidates in the 2016 Democratic primary and compete for the party’s nomination. Those unaffiliated with any political party would still have the choice to run by petition and not seek the Alaska Democratic Party’s nomination. The party will ask the state to implement this change for the upcoming election.

“We want to reach out to and include the majority of Alaskans not affiliated with a political party,” said Steinau, “and this is one way to do that.”

The majority of Alaskans are not affiliated with a political party. It is with the support of Independents that Alaska Democrats and progressive-backed Independents have won elections from the municipal to the statewide level.

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Alaska Democrats Announce Presidential Caucus Locations

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT: Jake Hamburg (907) 258-3077

ANCHORAGE: Today, the Alaska Democratic Party announced Caucus locations throughout the state where Alaska Democrats will meet on March 26th to help select their party’s nominee for President of the United States. Pre-registration to participate in the caucuses is now available at www.akdems.org/caucus-locations.

“We are excited for Democrats to come together and help select our party’s nominee for President of the United States,” said Casey Steinau, chair of the Alaska Democratic Party. “We encourage every Alaska Democrat to participate in this example of grassroots democracy.”

Democratic Caucuses are scheduled in all the major communities and in a number of villages and smaller communities with more locations expected to be added. At least one Caucus will be held in each State House District. Democrats will caucus together in one location in Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau, and the Mat-Su. A current list of Caucus locations, pre-registration, and other useful information is available online at www.akdems.org.

“We ask that Democrats let us know if they plan to participate in their House District Caucus by pre-registering online,” said Steinau. “This will help us better predict turnout and ensure a fun and well-organized event.”

Caucuses will begin at 10:00am at all locations on Saturday, March 26, 2016. Participants must be present to vote. Voters must be registered Democrats to vote for the party’s Presidential nominee.  Alaskans not registered as Democrats will be able to change their party affiliation or register to vote at the Caucus.

After voting for the party’s nominee for President at the House District Caucuses on March 26th, Alaska Democrats will elect delegates to the State Convention in proportion to the the votes each candidate received. The State Convention will be May 13-15 in Anchorage. Those interested in becoming a delegate are invited to attend the Alaska Democratic Party’s next delegate training workshop at 5:30pm on Tuesday, January 12th. The public is invited to attend the workshop in person or via videoconference.

“We want to expand access and participation,” Steinau said. “This workshop will help Democrats learn how they can be a part of history by serving as delegates to the party’s state and national conventions.”

Alaska Democrats can pre-register to participate in the House District Caucuses and register for the next delegate training workshop online at www.akdems.org or by calling (907) 258-3050.

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Alaska Democrats Announce New Party Chair

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT: Jake Hamburg (907) 258-3077

Vice Chair Casey Steinau to succeed Mike Wenstrup

ANCHORAGE: Today, Mike Wenstrup announced he will be stepping down to make way for his successor, Casey Steinau of the Mat-Su, as Chair of the Alaska Democratic Party ahead of the 2016 election cycle.

Wenstrup, a Fairbanks resident, was elected party Chair in 2012. His departure follows the election of Independent Governor Walker and Democrat Lieutenant Governor Mallott who formed a “Unity Ticket.” At the local level, five progressive-backed mayors were elected to serve the Municipality of Anchorage, Fairbanks-North Star Borough, City and Borough of Juneau, Matanuska-Susitna Borough, and Kenai Peninsula Borough.

“This is really bittersweet for me,” Wenstrup told the Executive Committee. “I’m proud of what this party has accomplished and am confident the party is well-positioned for victory in 2016.”

Wenstrup had put in motion plans to step down as Chair several months ago. The gavel will be passed to the new Party Chair, Casey Steinau of Big Lake, who currently serves as Vice Chair for the Alaska Democratic Party and Regional Vice Chair for the Mat-Su Democrats. Steinau has had a successful 20-year career in real estate sales and investing. She also brings to the party valuable experience as a small business owner, former field representative for former Senator Mark Begich, and long-time community volunteer for a variety of causes from garbage clean-up to the fight against homelessness.

Steinau praised Wenstrup for his service.

“Mike Wenstrup has done an outstanding job as party Chair,” she said. “I look forward to building upon the good work he has done in helping to elect Democrats at all levels of government.”

Steinau plans to focus efforts on grass roots organizing, community outreach, and voter protection as party Chair.

“We will continue to build a diverse and inclusive party,” Steinau said. “I look forward to engaging hardworking Alaskans in the political process to ensure everyone’s voice has an opportunity to be heard.”

Steinau will begin serving as Chair of the Alaska Democratic Party in January.

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Statement from the Alaska Democratic Party Following Oral Arguments in Evenwel vs Abbott

What does representation mean in our democracy?

WASHINGTON: Today, the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Evenwel vs Abbott. This Texas redistricting case challenges the democratic principle of ‘one person, one vote.’ For decades this principle has ensured that everyone in America, regardless of who they are or where they live, is entitled to equal representation. The Evenwel decision could force states to leave out large segments of their populations when drawing legislative districts, simply because they are not voters, including children under 18 and legal permanent residents.

Alaska has joined 20 other states in filing a brief against Evenwel’s suit, stating “In Alaska, rural legislative districts often have substantially higher percentages of children than most urban districts—e.g., the population in two rural house districts is approximately 37% children compared with less than 20% in several urban districts—because the Native Alaskan communities living in rural districts often have large families and experience an exodus of voting-age adults moving to cities for educational and employment opportunities.”

According to an analysis by the Pew Research Center, using American Survey Data, Alaska has about 15,000 undocumented immigrants. This accounts for approximately 1.8 percent of the state’s total population. However, legal permanent residents and over 185,000 young people under 18 could be disenfranchised. Population counts and subsequent redistricting occurs every ten years.

 

Kay Brown, Executive Director of the Alaska Democratic Party, issued the following statement following oral argument:

“Representation is the distinguishing characteristic of modern democracy. Every American should have representation, whether they choose to vote or not. Total population is the only measure that is consistent with the Constitution’s promise of equal representation.

“This is another coordinated attempt by Conservatives to rig the democratic process in an attempt to win more elections. Two years ago, the Voting Rights Act was effectively gutted. Now, the same organization that led that legal fight is at it again.

“If Sue Evenwel has her way, this case could pose a serious threat to Alaska and the long standing principle of equal representation. Rural and minority communities stand to lose the most representation. Already enormous rural districts would have to be redrawn and expanded to include as much as 18% more citizens of voting age.  

“Make no mistake, this is an egregious and fundamental challenge to our democracy. It is troubling that Conservatives seem determined to erode the progress of the Civil Rights movement in a cynical attempt to win more elections.”

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Legislative office contract under new scrutiny

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

November 2, 2015

CONTACT: Jake Hamburg (907) 258-3077

Republicans fail to hold Rep. Hawker accountable

ANCHORAGE: Private emails and internal documents reveal Rep. Mike Hawker may have broken the law when he secretly worked with developer Mark Pfeffer on a controversial contract to rebuild and lease back the Anchorage Legislative Information Office (LIO).

State law allows the Legislative Council, which Hawker formerly chaired, to extend a real property lease for up to 10 years if a minimum cost savings of at least 10 percent below the market rental value at the time of the extension would be achieved (AS 36.30.083). Another provision of the procurement statutes provides: “a person who intentionally or knowingly contracts for or purchases supplies, equipment for the state fleet, services, professional services, or construction under a scheme or artifice to avoid the requirements of this chapter is guilty of a class C felony” (AS 36.30.930).

New documents and emails pertaining to the lawsuit challenging the Alaska Legislature’s Anchorage office lease were released and reported in the Alaska Dispatch News.

Internal documents reveal the Legislature’s staff and attorney objected to the legality of the agreement based, in large part, upon a thorough analysis of alternative office spaces leasing for much less money. Pam Varni, Executive Director of the Legislative Affairs Agency, noted in an email to Hawker that the proposed Anchorage lease would “be the most expensive Anchorage lease for the State of Alaska” over a 30-year period. She further questioned the justification for the unusual space calculations.

“What is the Republican Majority doing about this appalling abuse of power and violation of the public’s trust?” asked Kay Brown, Executive Director of the Alaska Democratic Party. “The failure of the Republican Majority to stop this crooked behavior is indicative of a larger problem. The Republican Majority should cancel the agreement and hold Rep. Hawker accountable.”

Although leaders of the House Republican Majority have remained silent, conservative talk-radio host Bernadette Wilson today called for Hawker to step down. Hawker chairs the Legislative Budget and Audit Committee, is Vice Chair of the House Resources Committee and a member of the Rules committee that decides which bills make it to the House floor for a vote.

Democratic lawmakers have repeatedly raised questions about the cost of the Anchorage LIO lease and the process used in adopting the lease.  However, the Republican Majority continues to support the lease despite evidence that the agreement was too expensive and did not comply with procurement laws.

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Murkowski Changes Position on Women's Rights...Again

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

September 24th, 2015

CONTACT: Travis Smith (907) 258-3077

Less than two months ago Lisa Murkowski voted to defund Planned Parenthood

ANCHORAGE: It was less than two months ago that Sen. Murkowski voted to defund Planned Parenthood. After her vote, Murkowski’s explanation fell completely flat across the board as APRN reported, “Murkowski’s Planned Parenthood Vote Has Left Seething, Right Unmoved.” After facing heat from both sides, today Murkowski voted along side Democrats and supported funding for Planned Parenthood.

Murkowski has been very inconsistent with her support of women's health. She infamously supported the Blunt Amendment in 2012 and after the vote she ended up apologizing.

Fast-forward to the summer of 2015 and Murkowski voted to defund Planned Parenthood, which delivers healthcare services to thousands of Alaska women. The Senator was also absent on Tuesday and failed to stand up for women’s rights. According to KTUU, Murkowski’s office said that the Senator had “prior travel commitments.”

“Alaska women deserve strong, solid, and unwavering support,” said Kay Brown, Executive Director of the Alaska Democratic Party. “I hope that Murkowski will be effective in convincing her Republican colleagues to stop their constant attacks on women’s rights.”

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Murkowski Fails to Stand for Women’s Rights

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

September 22, 2015

CONTACT: Travis Smith (907) 258-3077

After massive backlash from her vote to defund Planned Parenthood, Murkowski was a no show on 20-week abortion ban bill

 ANCHORAGE: Today, Sen. Lisa Murkowski was a no show on anti-choice legislation that was fast tracked by her party. Amidst massive backlash that resulted from her recent vote to defund Planned Parenthood, Murkowski had been silent leading up to the vote today.

The anti-choice group Susan B Anthony List ran television ads pressuring Murkowski to support the 20-week ban. With her no show, the anti-choice organization succeeded in pressuring Murkowski.

“It was sad to see Alaska’s senior Senator cave to hyper rightwing interests and fail to stand up for women’s rights,” said Kay Brown, Executive Director of the Alaska Democratic Party.

“First it was her vote on the Blunt Amendment, then it was her vote to defund Planned Parenthood, and now it’s her failure to stand for a woman’s right to choose. Once again Murkowski has let Alaska women down.”

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Another Planned Parenthood Vote and an Abortion bill wait before Murkowski

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

September 21, 2015

CONTACT: Travis Smith (907) 258-3077

Senate leadership is charting a path to avoid a shutdown, but it will be difficult for Sen. Murkowski to navigate.

ANCHORAGE: Earlier this summer, Sen. Lisa Murkowski voted to defund Planned Parenthood. Murkowski’s explanation and follow up didn’t sit well with Alaska women.

After the vote, APRN reported that, “Murkowski’s Planned Parenthood Vote Has Left Seething, Right Unmoved.” Several Alaska women opined in their local papers about Murkowski’s vote, one in Anchorage and the other in Juneau. In late August, Planned Parenthood and their supporters marched to Sen. Murkowski’s Anchorage office and hand delivered a letters speaking out against her vote.

The fight over Planned Parenthood is not over. The women’s health organization has long been target by right-wing politicians, and Tea Party darling Ted Cruz is leading the latest charge. Sen. Cruz and members of the House are insisting on shutting down the federal government over the funding of Planned Parenthood.

According to Politico, a possible pathway is being laid by the Senate to avoid a government shutdown, however, it will still likely include a vote on Planned Parenthood funding. There will be two votes, one without Planned Parenthood funding, and one with funding.

The question for Alaska women is can Murkowski stand up to hyper rightwing, anti-women interests during this election cycle?  

The Planned Parenthood vote won’t be the only test of Murkowski’s stance on women health issues. Along with the budget vote, the Senate leadership has also fast tracked a bill that would put in place a 20-week ban on abortions, according to The Hill.

The Anti-Choice group, Susan B Anthony List, has targeted Sen. Murkowski and run television ads asking her to support the ban on abortions. Sen. Murkowski was questioned about the upcoming vote back in August. According to the Washington Examiner, a spokesperson refused to answer the question and pivoted to President Obama’s then upcoming visit to Alaska. Murkowski was also silent preceding her vote to defund Planned Parenthood vote.

“Sen. Murkowski has some soul searching to do,” said Kay Brown Executive Director of the Alaska Democratic Party. “Alaska women shouldn’t be left in the dark, Murkowski needs to make it known where she stands on these issues.”

Yet Another Republican Government Shutdown Looms

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

September 15, 2015

CONTACT: Travis Smith (907) 258-3077

Despite holding a majority in both chambers of Congress, congressional Republicans look to be heading towards another federal government shutdown

ANCHORAGE: Talk of yet another government shutdown has taken hold of congressional Republicans. An inter party struggle has the potential to cost the rest of the country dearly. Senator Ted Cruz and a handful of Republican reps have decided to force agovernment shutdown over the funding of Planned Parenthood.

Politico reported that more than 7 out of 10 people prefer not to shutdown the government. This is likely due to the very sour taste the past Republican shutdown left. Republicans’ 2013 shutdown wreaked havoc on the country. According to ABC, the shutdown cost the economy $24 billion and even delayed healthcare to veterans. 

The Washington Post lists 6 issues that could cause a federal government shutdown. Though Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell has said he doesn't want a shutdown to happen, the GOP’s intra-party dysfunction has the make up to lead Congress towards a shutdown, according to The Hill.

Here in Alaska, the ability for Congress to pass a budget is of great importance. Earlier this summer the Department of Defense announced that Alaska would see a significant reduction in troop levels. This reduction is a direct result of sequestration, the result of another Republican induced showdown

After the troop reductions were announced, the Alaska Dispatch News reported that if a budget were to be passed, then the troop reductions could be reversed. The ADN also reported that Sen. Murkowski told a constituent that she would not let a government shutdown occur.

“Sen. Murkowski and Sen. Sullivan need to lead their Republican allies away from a shutdown, and actually work towards passing a budget,” said Kay Brown, Executive Director of the Alaska Democratic Party. “Alaskans have a lot to gain from a bipartisan budget.”

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Oil and Gas Production Tax Credits Need Reform

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

September 8, 2015

CONTACT: Travis Smith (907) 258-3077

AK Legislative working group starts discussion

ANCHORAGE: Earlier today, members of the Alaska legislature, Commissioner of Revenue Hoffbeck, Department of Revenue Tax Division Director Ken Alper, and industry stakeholders held a roundtable discussion on Alaska’s oil and gas production tax credits.

Throughout the legislative session, lawmakers had many opportunities to have a legitimate conversation around the state’s oil production tax credits. Back in April, theADN reported that Alaska’s oil production tax revenues were at the lowest point since the beginning of the pipeline. 

The Republican Majorities have stifled much of the debate over oil and gas production tax credits. The discussion over the state’s tax credit policy nearly reached a boiling point late in the session when Pete Kelly called the discussion over credits “disingenuous.”

Members of the Senate Democrats and the House Independent-Democratic Coalition championed oil production tax credit reform as a potential major cost saver during these hard fiscal times. Members of the minority even offered “emergency” legislation to help Alaska save money and address Alaska’s flawed production tax system.

However, during the legislative session, the Majority was “uninterested” in discussing reform of the oil production tax credits.

Back in 2013, close ties between Majority members and the oil industry raised eyebrows. Sen. Micciche and Sen. Meyer are ConocoPhillips employees.

During today’s roundtable discussion, Sen. Micciche defended tax credits used in Cook Inlet; his employer ConcoPhillips is a producer in Cook Inlet.

“Holding a September round table discussion on Alaska’s oil production tax credits is a good step,” said Kay Brown, Executive Director of the Alaska Democratic Party. “On January 19th 2016, Alaskans will find out whether lawmakers are truly serious about oil production tax credit reform, and for our sake, I hope they are.”