In 1980 I was chair of the Reagan for President Committee in Alaska. Frank Murkowski and Native leader Roy Huhndorf were vying for the Republican nomination for U. S. Senate. I supported Huhndorf, because I thought he’d have a better chance against incumbent Senator Mike Gravel. Murkowski won the primary, and Gravel lost the Democratic primary to former state legislator Clark Gruening, grandson of Alaska political legend Ernest Gruening, one of Alaska’s original U. S. Senators back in 1959.
Bill McConkey had helped get Republican Governor Jay Hammond get reelected in 1978, and I had worked for him. He was now Murkowski’s campaign manager, and he asked me to be his deputy on the campaign. I got $4,000 a month, the only money I ever earned in politics. I had one assignment. Do a hit on Clark Gruening. At the time, Murkowski and Gruening were tied in the polls.
My hit worked like a charm, and Murkowski immediately jumped to a ten point lead in the polls, which was his margin on election day.
I thought I now had a friend in the U. S. Senate. I’d certainly earned it. I got the son of a bitch elected. But I was wrong. Murkowski quickly turned into Ted Stevens’ lap dog. And U. S. Senator Ted Stevens hated my guts, from an incident back in ’76, when I was district chairman for Reagan for President.
Frank appointed his daughter to serve out his term because Ted Stevens wanted her as his junior Senator. He sure as hell didn’t want me. Lisa wasn’t very bright, but she knew enough to do what Uncle Ted told her. So Stevens actually had two votes in the Senate.
Ted Stevens was corrupt. He was in bed with the gang of thieves who looted the North Slope Borough in the early 1980’s. The judge who presided at their trial, James Fitzgerald, told me confidentially that Stevens had hamstrung the prosecution.
The career people at the Department of Justice knew about this, and they wanted to nail Stevens. They wanted to get the corrupt bastard so bad that they abused their prosecutorial power. They got Stevens convicted, but it was a dirty conviction, and was overturned.
For those who doubt this story, how was it that George W. Bush allowed his Department of Justice to engage in prosecutorial misconduct in pursuing a powerful Republican Senator? Explain that. You can’t.
So now, thanks to Kai Binkley Sims, Stevens’ legacy Senator, Lisa Murkowski, will soon be put out to pasture. The Stevens era is finally over.
When I arrived in Alaska with my wife in 1974 Don Young had just been elected to the U. S. House of Representatives. I got to know Don, and I liked him. He’s a good man. He’s still in office, but the word is that this will be his last term. If so, whoever wins his seat is the automatic favorite to take out Murkowski in 2022.
I don’t know how tight Young is with John Binkley. Binkley donates $500 every cycle, and I’m sure Don is friends with the whole Binkley family, who have been prominent in Fairbanks for a very long time. It could be that John knows Young is retiring, and his daughter Kai will run for the House in 2020, in preparation for a Senate run in 2022.
John’s not returning my call. We were never friends. More like rivals.
I feel kind of badly for John. After Frank humiliated him in 2002 by appointing Lisa, Binkley decided to run against Frank when he went for a second term as Governor in 2006. Frank was an absolute disaster as Governor, and Binkley beat him in the primary. Frank only got 19% of the vote, which may be a record. But Binkley only got 30%. A perky little beauty from the MatSu got 51%. Sarah Palin beat Binkley 5-3. That’s got to be painful.
Kai Binkley Sims was a 25 year old petroleum geologist in Anchorage when her dad ran for governor. I’m sure she’s a loyal, loving daughter, and worked to get her father elected. Losing to Palin had to be hard for the whole family to take.
More motivation for KBS.