Given the current divide between the factions of the Senate Majority it is clear which of those factions has acted as the aggressor up to this point in time and that faction is the one being led by Senator Shelley Hughes of Palmer.
Senate President Cathy Giessel needs to begin planning for a way to fight back against Senator Hughes and her designs for power in the Senate. Given that Senator Hughes is attempting to recruit primary challengers against her colleagues, it falls on President Giessel to do the same. She should actively be working on finding primary challengers against Senator Hughes and Senator Mike Shower (R-Wasilla) and if necessary should look to target Senator David Wilson (R-Wasilla) as well.
The reason President Giessel should recruit primary challengers is to keep her Valley colleagues preoccupied so they cannot do any harm for the 2020 campaign cycle. The challengers she recruits will not win against them but if it forces them to devote time to their own races instead of other ones then that is a significant victory for President Giessel. She should start making phone calls now and begin putting word out there that she is looking for quality candidates and she will get them the support they need. If she does this she will find people who are fed up with their lack of representation in the Valley and who will make a good faith effort in a primary campaign.
The main issue for these challengers is going to be money and that is why donors must be lined up this year so that when campaign season comes they will already have the funding to go up against Hughes and Shower. Another aspect to next year that will be very important is to frame the unethical conduct of the Valley faction within the Senate and to make sure the public is aware of those transgressions.
In order for President Giessel’s faction to come out as winners in this war she and her colleagues must begin making the case for themselves and their conduct. The best place to begin is for President Giessel to start doing Facebook Live videos detailing what happened this session and during the special sessions and setting the record straight. This is also true of the recent vote regarding Representative Laddie Shaw’s appointment to the seat of the late Chris Birch. She should explain why he was voted down and push back against the false narrative that is out there about the questions she asked him during that closed door meeting of the Senate Republicans.
It is obvious that lies are being spread about the lead up to that vote and she needs to explain it in-depth so the public can make a judgement call on who is right based on the facts. The same has to be done for next year during the 2020 session so that voters know what is happening within the Senate Majority. President Giessel and her colleagues are going to be in some rough waters in the years ahead but they can outlast their enemies by being more strategic than them and not backing down. Next year will be a high water mark for President Giessel as she will need to marshal everything she has to protect her wing of the caucus and there is no question she can stand strong. It will just be critical for many of us outside the Alaska Legislature who value her leadership to support her during this time of crisis in Alaska politics.
Ceezar Martinson was the Republican candidate for the District 20 Legislative seat in the 2018 election and worked on the staff of Sen. Mike Shower (R-Wasilla) in the 2019 Legislative Session.