600 Tons of Cyanide

The "city" of Nome Alaska is best known as the finishing point of the Iditarod sled dog race.  The 1,000 plus mile race, of course, commemorates the heroic delivery of serum to Nome during a diptheria outbreak in the 1920's.  Nome has long been a mining town but fishing, hunting and other subsistence activities play a vital role in the lives of the small population of the area.

Just this Tuesday, Alaska voters turned out Frank Murkowski in a Republican primary where the current Governor (and four-term US Senator) finished an embarassing third.  At about the same time, Murkowski's bid for a new natural gas pipeline from the Arctic north seemed to have gotten a severe blow.  Voters were not only unhappy about the terms but the cozy relationship between Murkowski and the oil industry raised a lot more questions than voters seeemed prepared to accept.

A smaller deal did go down after the election.  Without the oversight of Nome officials or much public review, the State of Alaska approved the opening of a gold mine in Nome that would employ 100 plus people.  Rather than being happy, many of the locals looked askance because details of the plan revealed that 600 tons of cyanide (that's right, 600 tons of cyanide) would be used to process the spoils of the open pit mine.

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Alaska Primaries, etc.

With almost 90% of the votes counted in yesterday's Alaska primary, the winner was clearly the outsider candidate.  In the heavily watched Governor's race, incumbent (and former four-term US Senator) Frank Murkowski was trounced (as expected) in the Republican Primary finishing a poor third with about 19%.  The winner, Sarah Palin, got a surprising 51% of the vote while running as a) younger ("a new generation of leaders"), b) somewhat experienced/accomplished and c) "frugal" and "conservative."

Palin, in fact, had lost a run for Lt.-Governor four years ago.  her resume and commercials look extremely light and the state's largest paper, the Anchorage Daily News termed her  an "anti-politician." I think she will be a tough opponent for former two-term Alaska Governor and Anchorage Mayor Tony Knowles in the general election.  She hasn't been roughed up at all yet but holds a lead.

Knowles took 74% of the vote in the Democratic primary but Republicans cast a lot more votes than Democrats yesterday.  In the marquee contest for Democrats, the contest fort he state's lone congressional nomination came down to a battle between two candidates who have run as third party candidates in the past.  Former Green Diane Benson ran as an anti-Iraq war candidate and was leading by 1,900 votes over a former "moderate Republican party" leader Ray Metcalfe.  

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Let's talk about Mike Gravel for President in 2008.

You know, since nobody else seems to be. :)
I'm going to break my self imposed rule of not talking about 2008 until 2006 elections are over for a few moments here to get this post out and talk about Maurice Robert Gravel, aka former Senator Mike Gravel.

Who? Why?
Well, yeah, see that's most peoples reaction... Yet he's running and over and over again he's not included in straw polls, he is a declared candidate, fringe though he may be.

So who is Mike Gravel anyway?
More below.

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Bridge to Nowhere but Dirty Real Estate Deals?

The $223 million dollars bridge in Alaska to an island of fifty people makes me suspicious that a significant amount of real estate on the island may have traded hands in the last five years.  Property on the island without a bridge would be very inexpensive - with a bridge and hence capable of development would multiply the value by a factor of five or ten.  Could anyone on MYDD who is in Gateway county look into this? While it is clear enough that the bridge is pure pork barrel corruption, it seems likely the corruption runs deeper and, potentially, could be tied directly to Senator Young through the real estate transactions.  


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Murkowski Files for Reelection; Dem Pickup Imminent?

What does a governor with a staggeringly low approval rating of 23 percent do? Why run for reelection, of course.

Up in Alaska it sees that Republican Governor Frank Murkowski can do no right. In 2002 Murkowski successfully made the jump from the Senate to the Governor's mansion by picking up a very respectable 56 percent of the vote. But things turned sour soon thereafter as Murkowski appointed his daughter to succeed him in Washington amid cries of nepotism, and almost ever since Murkowski's approval ratings have been just awful. In fact, Murkowski's approval number has topped 30 percent in just three of the past 13 SurveyUSA polls dating back to May of 2005 while his disapproval rating now stands at an all-time high of 73 percent (including a whopping 61 percent of Republicans).

Amid these truly awful numbers Murkowski today announced that he would be seeking a second term. But his path to reelection will not be easy. Already, two other Republicans have lined up to run for the GOP gubernatorial nomination -- former state Sen. John Binkley and former Wasilla Mayor Sarah Palin -- and two Democrats are currently running as well (state Reps. Eric Croft and Ethan Berkowitz). Perhaps more worrisome for Murkowski is the much discussed possibility that the very popular former two-term Democratic Governor Tony Knowles will enter the governor's race.

In an even year, Knowles, who barely lost to Murkowski's daughter during a Senate contest in 2004, might be considered a narrow favorite. But this is not an even year, particularly in Alaska. Indeed, the anti-Republican and anti-Murkowski sentiment in the state is palpable. Even President Bush's approval rating in the state is well below 50 percent while a majority voices disapproval.

Don't get me wrong. Either Croft or Berkowitz would have a shot at victory this year whether or not Murkowski makes it out of the GOP primary (and it's not obvious that he will). But Knowles is clearly the Democrats' strongest candidate in the race and would certainly be considered the prohibitive favorite should he decide he wanted a third term in office. So given the announcement today by Governor Murkowski, I must diverge from the Cook Political Report (.pdf) and CQ and rate this race leans Democrat.

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