Monday, March 17, 2008

Judge William Morse Rules Incumbent Anchorage Midtown Assemblyman Dick Traini Ineligible To Run For Re-Election Based On Term Limits

Update: On March 27th, 2008, the Alaska Supreme Court overruled Judge Morse, deciding that Dick Traini is eligible to run. Details HERE.

In an absolutely inexplicable ruling and a strike against democracy, Judge William Morse ruled on March 17th, 2008 that incumbent Anchorage Midtown Assemblyman Dick Traini is ineligible to run for re-election based upon the questionable contention that Traini has reached "term limits". In effect, this leaves Midtown voters with only one official choice on the ballot, Elvi Gray-Jackson, who's running for the seat for a second time. Full story just published in the Anchorage Daily News and also aired on KTUU Channel 2. Additional updates posted on ADN's Alaska Politics blog. See my previous post on this issue for more background.

This is the end result of a lawsuit filed by a disgruntled Midtown constituent, Dr. Peter Mjos, who "coincidentally" contributed $150 to Gray-Jackson's campaign back on January 25th, 2008. Mjos was assisted by activist lawyer Bruce Bookman, who just as "coincidentally" agreed to press the suit pro bono. It is my belief, now confirmed, that it was Dr. Mjos' intent to deliberately stack the deck against Traini by getting him knocked off the ballot in order to hand the seat to Gray-Jackson without a fight. Click HERE to read a copy of the brief filed with the court. However, it has now been confirmed that Elvi Gray-Jackson was NOT aware of NOR actively aided and abetted such an effort.

Under the provisions of the Anchorage Municipal Charter, Assembly members cannot seek re-election after serving three consecutive terms; they must sit out one term before trying again. Traini was aware of this situation, and sought a ruling from the Municipality of Anchorage before launching his campaign. After consulting with an attorney, the Municipal Clerk ruled that Traini was eligible to run for re-election based upon the intepretation of the Municipal Charter that "term limits" means full three-year terms. Click here to read that ruling. Dick Traini was appointed to the Assembly in 2001 to fill an unexpired term, then was elected in his own right in 2002 and 2005.

Unfortunately, the guidance in the Municipal Charter is a bit ambiguous. Here's the applicable provision from Section 4.02.(e):

"A person who has served on the assembly for three consecutive terms may not be reelected to the assembly until one full term has intervened".

Since "consecutive term" is not further defined, the judge decided to ignore the intent of the Municipal Clerk's earlier ruling, which drew from the language of the Twenty-Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution regarding Presidential terms, and decided to interpret the language literally. To prevent this problem from recurring, the Charter should be amended to read "three consecutive full terms" to eliminate the ambiguity.

In reaction, Traini said the decision disenfranchised Midtown voters and that the lawsuit was timed to sink his candidacy. "Forever more this ballot is going to have a little asterisk after it," he said. City officials have now announced their intent to appeal to the Alaska Supreme Court.

Dr. Mjos disingenuously claimed the suit wasn't meant to torpedo Traini's run. "Absolutely not ... the intent is to clarify the statute," he said. However, either Mjos is either a fool or a liar, because if he's intelligent enough to be a doctor, he's intelligent enough to have realized in advance that sinking Traini's candidacy was a possible outcome. And if Mjos is a fool, I don't want him anywhere near me with a stethoscope.

Traini does have another fallback strategy; he's discussed running his 21-year-old daughter RoseAnna as a write-in candidate. However, this may be foolish because the public would perceive that RoseAnna would be nothing more than a front for her father. So this strategy lacks credibility. Better to find someone else to declare a write-in candidacy. A new update indicates that Traini's wife, Sandy, may also consider a write-in candidacy. This would have some more credibility, since Sandy is perceived to be more of an independent adult.

Judge William Morse was appointed to the bench by then-Governor Tony Knowles in 2002. He successfully won his first retention election in 2006. His next retention election is in 2012. His scorecard can be viewed HERE; he is generally not highly-regarded by attorneys and judicial observers.

Note that the real issue here is choice for Midtown voters. If I lived in Midtown, I'd probably vote for Traini, primarily because I distrust Elvi Gray-Jackson, questioning her motives for running for the Assembly in the first place. I believe she is running primarily to exact revenge for the fact that they fired her as an Assembly staffer back in 2005 for engaging in partisan political activity as a staffer, in violation of the rules of engagement (Mike Gutierrez, who's running against Paul Bauer, also falls into that category). But Traini's no day at the beach, either; he's a neocon who's promoted intrusive, invasive measures such as anti-smoking terrorism, asset forfeiture laws, and bicycle helmet laws. But Traini is less toxic than Gray-Jackson.


  1. I love your posts.

    Love Labriyut

  2. Love your blog. Come to ADN forums.


  3. I have seen your posts on ADN blog, Labriyut. You don't mince words.:-D

  4. Yeah, labriyut tells it like it is on the adn comment section. The name Carl Loerbs has been repeated over there more than once.
    Come on over Anchorage_Activist and tell everyone what you are all about.