Sunday, March 20, 2011

Former Campaign Manager Dumps All Over South Anchorage Assembly Candidate Mike Kenny On Live Journal; Chris Birch A Trusted Conservative

The race between incumbent Chris Birch and challenger Mike Kenny acquired an interesting twist when it was disclosed in a comment to an Anchorage Daily News story on March 20th, 2011 that Kenny's former campaign manager has dumped all over him on her Live Journal blog.

While I do not know the person's real name, she posts as Eskimopie, and she's from Austin, Texas. According to this December 19th post, Eskimopie was hired by Kenny to be his campaign manager effective from December 15th, 2010 through April 15th, 2011. She made another passing reference to it on this January 3rd post.

But it was on this February 22nd post that Eskimopie dropped the bomb, reporting that Kenny had fired her (emphasis mine):

...when I was talking to Tom [Begich] about the whole thing and the Mike Kenny thing (hired me, was a whiny shit the entire time, sounded more like he was interested in writing a fabulouso concession speech than seriously running, was an ageist fuck to me, fired me because I was interested in running a good goddamn campaign and not in being his chauffeur or assisting him in building an alter to George Lakoff and then only paid me a third of what he owed me and yes, I hope this comes up on a Google search for him, ah ha ha), he was pissed because he's been so supportive of all these guys and feels like they were giving him the run around just as much as they were giving it to me.

There has been no confirmation of this from any other source. Obviously, Eskimopie's post smacks of sour grapes more than anything else. Apparently this snotty young Texan thought she was going to come up here and wrap Mike Kenny around her little finger, and Kenny caught wind of it and laid the smack down on her. Good on Mike Kenny -- although I'm curious as to why, in a state of over 710,000 people, he decided to hire a Texan to manage his campaign instead of an Alaskan.

But despite the sour grapes, there are other more legitimate concerns about Mike Kenny. First and foremost, Kenny, being a former official of Teamsters Local 959, remains an unreconstructed and unapologetic union shill, although he states that as a Teamster official, he negotiated with the mayor and helped lower employee costs when the city was facing a $40 million deficit in 2003. As expected, Mike Kenny was one of five Assembly candidates endorsed by the Anchorage Education Association; all five are of the liberal persuasion. Kenny does not support a municipal sales tax, even if it would effect a dollar-for-dollar reduction in property taxes. The primary message one gets from Mike Kenny's campaign is that he thinks Chris Birch is too passive and takes too much of a hands-off approach to representing the district.

In contrast, Chris Birch is the explicit conservative alternative. He's sought to keep the budget balanced and to eliminate redundancies. He believes Mayor Dan Sullivan has done a credible job of managing the city in the face of guaranteed cost increases in the city operating budget. Birch did take some heat over the closure of the Dimond-Samson Branch Library in his district; he was perceived as having acted too passively and not keeping constituents fully informed, but Birch says that he was making efforts to replace the 13,000 square foot Dimond Library with a 3,500 square foot Express facility. Those efforts proved unsuccessful, but Birch also notes that Anchorage still enjoys high marks from for literacy due in part to the number of libraries we already support. At least the Girdwood Branch Library, 40 miles away but also in his district, remains open; it would have been a real burden for Girdwood residents had their branch library been axed. Birch does support a public vote on a municipal sales tax as a direct offset to property taxes, but suggests the public will not support a sales tax until they are confident that the taxes will not simply be additive to the city budget.

The Anchorage Daily News has published a Q & A on both Chris Birch and Mike Kenny HERE. The Anchorage Press also published a profile of this race which is slightly tilted in favor of Kenny. The Anchorage Education Association has now published responses to their candidate survey (must have Excel-compatible spreadsheet to read). Other election references:

-- Anchorage 2011 Municipal Election List of Candidates HERE
-- Anchorage 2011 Municipal Election List of Ballot Propositions HERE
-- Anchorage 2011 Municipal Election List of Candidate Forums HERE

The Bottom Line: I would be inclined to disregard the account from Mike Kenny's former campaign manager; Kenny's successful track record as a union negotiator and a community council president tends to show an ability to play well with others. However, his excessively close relationship with organized labor raises legitimate concern as to whether he can fairly evaluate union contracts with the city in the future.

In contrast, Chris Birch, although a bit passive at times, has a proven track record of trying to deliver a bigger bang for the buck. His willingness to consider diversifying and stabilizing Anchorage's revenue stream through a sales tax shows concern about Anchorage's excessive property tax burden, and makes him the better choice.

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