On Tuesday, Alaskan super voters will go to the polls to decide a few important contests. The two most important for the future of the state are the GOP three-way contest to oppose Sen. (D) Mark Begich’s US Senate seat in November, and a voters’ referendum on Alaska’s tax structure for the oil industry.
Unprecedented amounts of money are pouring into our state, which, after decades of GOP and Democratic Party neo-Liberal governance, may be about to enter a huge economic and financial tailspin. Briefly, however, this summer and fall, Alaska TV and radio stations are seeing windfall profits in the millions of dollars in ads against incumbent Begich, against GOP candidate Dan Sullivan, and against repeal of Alaska Senate Bill 21. This Outside level of spending, by Karl Rove’s PAC, by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, by British Petroleum, Conoco-Phillips and Exxon-Mobil, is enormous, with over $10 million being spent to influence less than 125,000 voters.
The three-way GOP U.S. Senate primary has seen former Alaska Attorney General and Commissioner of Natural Resources, Dan Sullivan (not to be confused with current Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan, who is running in the GOP primary for the Lieutenant Governor slot) raising far more money than his two opponents combined. They are former Lieutenant Governor Mead Treadwell and Tea Party favorite, Joe Miller. Miller, who beat incumbent U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski in the GOP primary in 2010, only to lose to her in the general election, is trailing both Sullivan and Treadwell in the polls, but his followers are ardent, and are notoriously difficult to poll accurately. Sen. Begich has no serious challengers in the Democratic primary.
The voters’ referendum on oil taxes pits the big oil companies against reformers who feel the tax system put in place by the 2013 Alaska Legislature gives far too much away to the giant corporations. The referendum is on the primary ballot instead of the general election slate because the oil companies managed to co-opt legislators into extending their 2014 session in such a way as to force other ballot initiatives onto the November ticket. As these initiatives (legalizing cannabis, raising the minimum wage, and protecting salmon stocks from mega mines such as Pebble) are popular with progressives, the oil companies wanted the vote on their taxes to be held in the primary, where voter turnout is more conservative, more hardened.
Here are two videos that focus on the GOP Senate primary, and on the oil tax referendum.
The first is one of the few debates when candidate Sullivan deigned to appear on stage with the other two. The debate was held on August 12th in Anchorage:
I am predicting that Joe Miller’s supporters will do far better than the polling indicates.
The second video item is a comparison between Alaska’s oil tax structure to those in several other areas. It purports to show that rather than over-taxed here, as the industry’s supporters stridently claim, the companies enjoy enormous profits here, compared to the rest of the U.S. or globally:
In spite of the oil companies outspending the pro-referendum supporters about 40 to one, the most recent polls show the vote to be too close to call.