Saturday, May 22, 2010

Anchorage Assemblywoman Jennifer Johnston Under Fire For Running For State Senate Right After Re-Election To Assembly

Anchorage Assemblywoman Jennifer Johnston is taking criticism for announcing a run for the Senate District P seat soon to be vacated by incumbent Con Bunde. Many think Johnston is opportunistic for launching her run a mere three weeks after being re-elected to her South Anchorage Assembly seat; they're thinking that she had planned it all along, although evidence presented later in this post suggests Johnston didn't think about it until well into her Assembly campaign.

But what motivated me to jump into this issue is the redundancy of her legislative candidacy. Johnston is a Republican, and there are already TWO Republicans running for the District P seat. So it seems absolutely illogical and redundant for her to be entering this particular race. I previously profiled this race HERE.

In her initial announcement, Jennifer Johnston explained that although she personally likes both Republicans, Cathy Giessel and Dr. Mark Moronell, who are already in the race, she thinks she has more experience and is more capable of defeating the Democratic challenger, Janet Reiser. She's also running because she thinks the legislature is spending too much money. She brought up the fact that production of the North Slope oil that accounts for most state revenue continues its steady decline, making the present level of spending unsustainable. As chair of the Assembly's Budget and Finance Committee, she has acquired considerable budgetary expertise. You will find Johnston's official campaign website HERE.

But Cathy Giessel isn't a complete political neophyte. Giessel was a part of Governor Sarah Palin's transition team after her election in 2006, overseeing the Department of Health and Social Services during the changeover. But both Giessel and Moronell also appear to be fiscal conservatives concerned about the economy and resource development. Both favor diversifying Alaska's economy further and providing more incentives for the free market to take the lead. Giessel brings one additional advantage to the table; she's an explicitly pro-life social conservative. In contrast, Johnston voted for the controversial Ordinance 64 which would have conferred "non-discrimination" protection upon gays last year, so she cannot be considered a social conservative.

So in the final analysis, I don't see what Jennifer Johnston brings to the District P race that isn't already there with Cathy Giessel and Mark Moronell. Consequently, Johnston's presence in the race merely muddies up the works, opening her up to charges of opportunism. Her former Assembly opponent, Keli Booher, criticized her in this LTE published May 22nd by ADN:

...During the campaign, Assemblywoman Jennifer Johnston also made several promises. She committed herself to working on behalf of our district. Yet, just a week after Mrs. Johnston was sworn in for her second term she filed to run for State Senate District P.

What Mrs. Johnston did was dishonest. I hope that Republicans in that district take pause as they decide whom to vote for this August. I hope that they decide to put forward someone who is honest, someone whose primary concern is going to be our interests and concerns, someone who can be counted to do the people's work and not someone whose primary concern is their own political career.

Well, it wasn't exactly "dishonest", since it is legal to do it. But it certainly sounds opportunistic and unethical. However, in this March 21st LTE to ADN, Colin Palmer, an official campaign volunteer for Johnston, insists that Johnston had no plans to run for the seat until Con Bunde announced his intention not to seek re-election. Bunde didn't make that announcement until March 11th, well into the Assembly campaign:

...Jennifer is running for the seat vacated by Sen. Con Bunde. She didn't want to run against Bunde because they both agree on the most important issue: stopping out-of-control spending. Had Jennifer dropped out of the Assembly race when Con announced he would not seek re-election, Keli Booher would have been running unopposed.

According to the APOC reports, labor unions have already pumped tens of thousands of dollars into this race. Democrats could likely win this election. I'm sure Jennifer would have preferred to jump into the Senate race before being reelected to the Assembly, but that simply wasn't possible. I agree with her decision to enter the race, because the alternative, reckless spending, is far worse.

Jennifer Johnston could continue to serve her part of town better by remaining on the Assembly rather than going to the State Senate. Consequently, I recommend that District P Republican voters restrict their choices to the two already in the race, Cathy Giessel or Mark Moronell. Giessel would seem to have the edge, since she's also an explicit social conservative.

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