Home Politics John Aronno: On Politics Tracking Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan’s ANWR Rhetoric

Tracking Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan’s ANWR Rhetoric

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During an Anchorage Chamber forum earlier this month, Anchorage mayor and current candidate for lieutenant governor on the GOP ticket, Dan Sullivan, reflected back on his time serving as an assembly member:

“When I served on the Anchorage Assembly for nine years, when I was chair of the Assembly, I got the nickname ‘the voice of reason.’ on the Anchorage Assembly. I think our state could use more voices of reason as well.”

It mostly went unnoticed, for good reason. In the short couple of months since campaign efforts have ramped up, in anticipation of the August 19 primary, “The Voice of Reason” has managed to capture a lot of headlines, very few of which have been positive.

There was the whole comparing unions to slavery gaffe (made minutes later), which — though consistent with his record — didn’t look good. Because it wasn’t. Then there was the follow up non-apology, where he said he actually meant “economic slavery,” which plenty of Bangladeshi garment workers would quickly corroborate as so much better.

And over the past couple of weeks, Sullivan has been on his heels defending another poor choice of words. This time, in an appearance before the local Chamber of Commerce in Ketchikan, the governor lite candidate announced plans to personally invade ANWR, adding: “What are they going to do, shoot you? Well, they might. But martyrdom goes a long way sometimes.”

(One should probably note that he volunteered “you” to get shot, not “me” — the “me,” in this case, being Sullivan.)

The “long way” has translated to another broken seal of headlines. Talking Points Memo flashed my favorite: “Alaska Candidate Goes Bundy,” referring to Cliven Bundy, the Nevada rancher and tea party cause celebre who staged a standoff with the feds over his objection to owing 20 years of back taxes. (Bundy has thoughts on slavery, too.)

Daily Kos, snarked their moral indignation on Tuesday:

All Republican candidates anywhere running for anything are batshit insane. Republican and current Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan is running to become the lootenant governor of Alaska, and apparently there’s some quota where you have to say a certain amount of batshit crazy things to even be considered for the job.

At least within the confines of recent Alaska Republican primaries, that doesn’t seem like such an outlandish generalization.

Moderator Dave Stieren
Moderator Dave Stieren

But, possibly more concerning is the rate at which Sullivan is escalating the situation in his own head.

Just three weeks ago, when asked by conservative Anchorage radio talk show host Dave Stieren about Alaska’s future, Sullivan was quick to bring up ANWR. Peering into his crystal ball — not a hypothetical one, a real one, which he brought to an Anchorage Chamber of Commerce candidate forum — he said that by his third year as lieutenant governor: “President Rand Paul opens ANWR, armed with a Republican senate and a Republican house so we can finally get that done.”

The line caught Stieren off guard, forcing him to take a moment before shaking his head and responding: “Good luck.”

Less than a week later, he’s apparently abandoned the Paul administration entirely and embraced domestic terrorism — with a possible side of martyrdom. I’m more than a little bit concerned that, given the current trajectory, by November he’ll have decided to just nuke the reserve altogether. Just to stick it to the man. Who he is.

The scary thing? The slavery flub, ANWR gaffe, and resulting local and national attention have resulted in a big bump for the outgoing Anchorage mayor. In the latest round of Public Policy Polling, Sullivan is trouncing his opponent, State Senator Lesil McGuire, 53-27 (buried on page 25). If those numbers prove true, even if the entire 21 percent who listed themselves as undecided went for McGuire, she’d lose. Badly. If you were wondering why independent (Republican) gubernatorial candidate Bill Walker skipped the primary, there’s your answer. Alaska GOP primary voters have taken to rewarding bad behavior. Their “voice of reason” has fallen off the script of a Saturday Night Live sketch, tumbled off the stage, rolled down the aisle, with the Republican base hooting approval all the way.

It looks like, despite all appeals to logic and sanity, Sullivan’s crystal ball may be legit.

Jane, stop this crazy thing.