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Mike Dunleavy “Live”/Facebook

In a sign of the times, former Alaska gubernatorial candidate Mike Dunleavy took to Facebook “Live” on Thursday to reveal he is once again in the Republican primary race for the office now occupied by Gov. Bill Walker.

His health problems resolved, Dunleavy sat on a white chair in front of a Christmas tree to announce he was re-entering the race with three issues at the top of his list of concerns: public safety, a balanced budget and protection of the Alaska Permanent Fund.

Live is a cheap and modern outlet for a political tactic first initiated by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1933 with the start of his so-called “fireside chats” on the radio.

In Alaska, too, Facebook’s reach likely exceeds that of any mainstream media. Rural Alaska, which is largely off the radar for the state’s urban media, is wired together by the high-tech answer to the old “tundra telegraph,” and most of the traditional media is tied to major cities.

The Facebook pitch allowed Dunleavy to sidestep pesky reporters and go straight to supporters in a down home, Matansuka-Susitna Valley style.

Maybe even a little too down home.

The presentation had all the hallmarks of Facebook, where everyone is friends. The production qualities of the video were low and the show started with the 56-year-old candidate tilted on his side. Dunleavy wore a fleece jacket, the modern-day version of the plaid flannel shirts sported by iconic and late Gov. Jay Hammond.

Staff quickly righted the state Senator from Wasilla so he could make a pitch for an end to sexual harassment of women in the work place, a trending issue, and ask for campaign help.

“Go to our website,” Dunleavy said. “Like the Facebook. Let us know how we can help.”

And, of course, send money.

Dunleavy and fellow Republican candidates Charlie Huggins and Scott Hawkins are up against an incumbent governor already active building a big war chest.

Formidable opponent

Walker attracted a good turnout of Anchorage’s monied class earlier this week for a fundraiser at the home of former Gov. Bill Sheffield. Anchorage Daily News/ADN columnist Charles Wohlforth, a former Anchorage politician, has described Sheffield as the state’s top political money man.

“Sheffield gives to conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats. Mainly, he supports winners. And when he picks wrong, he sometimes switches,” Wohlforth wrote in 2015. “Sheffield…switched after supporting Gov. Sean Parnell for re-election in 2014. He laughed about the long line at a card table for donors at his fundraiser for Gov. Bill Walker. People came who he normally doesn’t see. ‘They wanted to be on record that they supported him,’ he said.”

Wohlforth said Sheffield’s 2014 Walker fundraiser brought in $80,000. Walker might have done better this time. Among those in attendance Monday at Sheffield’s home were Wohlforth’s former boss, one-time Alaska Dispatch News/ADN owner and publisher, Alice Rogoff.

Newly divorced from David Rubenstein, one of the countries richest men, Rogoff is expected to now be independently wealthy. As the state’s largest newspaper was imploding into bankruptcy in late summer, Rogoff told friends she planned to get out of the journalism business and devote her attention to Walker’s re-election.

Dunleavy said in a post-announcement telephone interview that he expects the 2108 campaign to be costly,  but believes Walker can be beat.

“He’s so way off on the issues,” the Republican said.

Walker has proposed an income tax and using funds from the Permanent Fund earnings to close a state fiscal gap caused by falling oil prices compounded by falling oil production. Neither new taxes nor spending Permanent Fund earnings are popular with voters and the latter might become even less popular with Permanent Fund consultants warning earnings could decline with inflation on the horizon. 

Fund advisers last week told the Permanent Fund board that a proposed plan to use Permanent Funds earning to “close the state’s Alaska’s multibillion-dollar budget deficit has a 50-50 chance of failing and taking a portion of the fund with it,” James Brooks reported in the Juneau Empire last week. 

Dunleavy backs a conservative approach to the use of the Permanent Fund. He said he was getting back into the governor’s race out of a sense of obligation.

He added that his mention of sexual harassment was not a grab for attention on a hot-button political topic, but the view of the father of three daughters. Women now speaking out about workplace abuse deserve public support, he said.

“We’re going to work on the things that have been broken in our great state,” he said on Live. “We want to stay here.”


Like most Alaskans, Dunleavy moved north from elsewhere. He arrived from Pennsylvania in 1983 and became the superintendent of the Northwest Arctic Borough School District in Kotzebue.  His wife, Rose, is an Alaska Native from Noorvik, a small village in the Northwest Borough.

Dunleavy entered politics late with a successful 2009 run for the Matanuska-Susitna School Board and then rose fast. He was elected to the state Senate three years later.

He was considered a main contender for the 2018 Republican nomination until suddenly and unexpectedly  dropping out of the race in September, citing health reasons.

He said Thursday that he has long dealt with a troublesome atrial fibrillation, something commonly called simply an A-fib.

A-fibs are caused by messed up electrical signals to the heart that tell it to beat irregularly, often rapidly. The bad signals can be the result of all sorts of other problems from a heart attack to stress.

“I had A-fib for decades,” Dunleavy said, but he was always able to control it with medication.

“This July,” he said, “the medicine began to fail.”

By fall, Dunleavy said, the A-fib episodes were becoming so frequent “I had to start canceling fundraisers. I had to start canceling events.”

He sought medical treatment and underwent an ablation, “which works by scarring or destroying tissue in your heart to disrupt faulty electrical signals causing the arrhythmia,” according to the Mayo Clinic.

“Atrial fibrillation ablation may be used if medications or other interventions to control an irregular heart rhythm don’t work. Rarely, it’s the first choice of treatment for atrial fibrillation.”

After the surgery, Dunleavy said, doctors told him it went well, and they expected full recovery.

That didn’t happen. Dunleavy again started having episodes where he felt weak and lightheaded, and went back to the hospital. An MRI showed he had a new problem with his lower heart, the a-Fib having been in his upper heart.

Doctors blamed the new problem on a virus and put Dunleavy on anti-inflammatories. He almost immediately began to get better. That happened in November. He said he now feels great.

“All the issue were taken care of, and we’re 100 percent,” he said, adding that his wife and daughters encouraged him to get back in the governor’s race.

“They’re well suited for this,” Dunleavy said. “Nothing bothers them.”

Dunleavy said he expects Rose and his connections to Northwest Alaska to be major assets in campaigning in rural Alaska.

Walker, a one-time Republican party member, announced back in August that he’d  stand for re-election as an independent with Democrat Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott again at his side. An Alaska Native from Southeast Alaska, Mallott was the Democrat pick to run for governor in 2014.

He abandoned the party to team up with Walker on what the duo called a “Unity Ticket.” Once Walker dropped the “R” after his name and changed his voter registration to “undeclared,” Democrats embraced him.

Mallott is the former chairman of Sealaska, the regional Native corporation for Southeast Alaska, former president of the Alaska Federation of Natives, and former president of the First Alaskans Institute.

A multimillionaire, Mallot’s net worth is estimated at $9 million, he is an old friend of Rogoff.

Mallott played a key role in Walker’s topping Parnell. In an election decided by just over 6,000 votes, Parnell carried urban Alaska, but the over-whelming support for the Walker-Mallott ticket in rural Alaska carried the day.



11 replies »

  1. So the bottom line is – nobody worth a shit will be running for governor next year. In a fiscal crisis you need someone that understands economics, financing, restructuring, downsizing and cost reduction. And you want someone that will focus on and and actually do those things (instead of wasting years on pet projects to nowhere). You need someone like a former ruthless CEO of a mega-corporation that went through hard times. And who can take that experience and reshape Alaskan state government. Not some small-town yahoos like Walker or Dunleavy. Since the crash in oil prices, Alaska hasn’t had a rudder. Looks like Alaska will continue to float in circles, as it slowly goes down the toilet.

  2. I am sure if elected we will see a continuation of the frivolous spending and unbalanced budget that we are seeing currently out of Juneau.
    For example in South Central, Mike was instrumental in providing matching state grants to the Mat/Su borough for building new fire houses across the borough. (Never mind that the state was crying poverty to the residents and garnishing our PFD’s to keep the bloated budget a float)
    In willow alone Vern Halter and Mike Dunleavy built 3 new firehouses at over 1 million dollar expense to Alaskans….never mind there is only about 12 volunteers in the whole community and we get about 1 call a week….
    Never mind they had no plan to “staff” those firehouses or purchase new apparatus to fill the bays.
    No, they went ahead with their plan, drained our savings in the community fire account, then raised our local taxes so Mike’s collages at the School District can get their pensions paid and continue to take 89% of the borough taxes for the Mat/Su school district.
    Mike might give us back our PFD’s, but I am sure if that is the case, the state would quickly pass an income tax and take the money out of our paychecks.
    It will be “business as usual” in AK if Mike is elected governor, that I am sure of.

  3. How discouraging that the Sheffield Deep State is still operating. The R’s and the I’s need to unite to stop this corruption. I am also not encouraged that Dunleavy is seeking to Enshrine the Dividend in the Constitution. This is a needless pointless distraction, and completely incorrect goal. Both the R’s and D’s use the Dividend like Bread and Circuses to keep the masses propagandized. The very best thing we could do as I have suggested, is a “bonus” FINAL Dividend of say $3000. This will close the future budget gap by $800 million per year. This will reduce the amount required from PF Earnings to balance the budget allowing the PF to retain its value and grow at a faster rate. The one-time bonus Dividend will provide a buffer as we transition to a more sane budget. Once the Dividend is ended, I would not oppose a very low income and head tax. If we really want to help those less fortunate, the Dividend is a lousy way to do it.

    • Of course, an income tax would also allow the “PF to retain its value and grow at a faster rate.”
      More than one way to skin that cat!

      • Sure. At the expense of working Alaskans to take their hard earned money so it can then be handed out to everyone else. Makes no sense at all. And NOTICE I said I am not against the income and head tax once the Dividend is ENDED. DIVIDendIT!

      • Well chris, the taking of the pfds were at the expense of all Alaskans, including children, and that tax rate was approximately 50%. Frankly, such a taking at the expense of lower income Alaskans doesn’t make any sense without an income tax to get the better off Alaskans paying their fair share. It will also tax those out of state individuals that pay no tax on their Alaskan earnings. And those individuals haven’t paid anything, as yet, since they don’t get a pfd.

      • You have identified the problem. Such a socialistic viewpoint is the error in your thinking. First it is not a fundamental purpose of government. Second it is a highly inefficient way to help those less fortunate. Wouldn’t you rather take some or all of the Dividend funding to boost social services? Or reduce the deficit?

      • I did identify the problem, chris. Namely the taking of half the pfds, took from all Alaskans (including children) yet didn’t take a dime from those working in Alaska and living elsewhere (without an income tax).
        It also failed to take, from those more fortunate Alaskans, a more fair share to provide for an economy that provides for their good fortune.

  4. Facebook is a powerful tool but good production is still important. Dunleavy’s video could have used some expert help on the presentation. It’s interesting to compare this to Walker’s hiring of Joe Biden’s former photographer. Yes, the governor has a full-time photographer on the payroll, a guy from out of state, making over $80,000. That will come up in the campaign, probably with the photographer right up there in front so Walker’s opponents can point directly at him.

    • You have identified the problem. Such a socialistic viewpoint is the error in your thinking. First it is not a fundamental purpose of government. Second it is a highly inefficient way to help those less fortunate. Wouldn’t you rather take some or all of the Dividend funding to boost social services? Or reduce the deficit?

  5. While it’s not mentioned here, ablation only stops the electrical signal at the scar tissue made by it-it does not stop the signal from starting. I did have a friend whose signal did stop (after his ablation) when he had his teeth cleaned. While mouth health has always been close to heart health, it could have been from some other reason.
    Dunleavy’s signals could have stopped due to his other medications, he doesn’t say, but his ablation would have certainly helped his well-being IMO.
    My own A-fib (after heart surgery for failing mitral valve) was corrected by a cardio-version (this is the shock treatment seen on TV where the paddles are placed on the patients chest and electric current sometimes gets the heart beating properly). Dunleavy may have tried this procedure before his ablation.

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