Four years ago conservative Republican State Senator Cathy Giessel ran for reelection in south Anchorage. Her Democrat opponent was the President of the Alaska AFL-CIO, Vince Beltrami, and this election had the highest profile of any in the state. Beltrami accused Giessel of “name calling” and said “… she didn’t have a record to run on.” Giessel won with 52% of the vote, and it seemed significant at the time. But it wasn’t, not really.
A central issue in the race was the future of the Permanent Fund Dividend. Giessel ran a television commercial in which she pledged to the voters that she believed in the PFD, and would fight to protect it. Beltrami, like most Democrats, was ambivalent, at best. Alaska Democrats, generally, believe the government is better at spending this money than the public. Many low income Alaskans do not, in fact, spend their dividend money wisely. The government would do a better job, in Democrats’ minds.
Fast forward to today, and Vince Beltrami is one of Giessel’s strongest supporters. His union members are canvassing the district on her behalf. Union money helps fund her campaign. What has changed?
Cathy Giessel has changed. As Senate President, she led the fight against Governor Dunleavy’s spending vetoes. This meant that money that was intended for the dividend went to state spending instead. And this translated into a dividend of $992.
On Tuesday the voters of south Anchorage will decide if Giessel should be reelected. Her opponent in the Republican primary, Roger Holland, has promised to work to restore the full dividend.
Just like four years ago, it seems to be a very significant race. This time, if Giessel loses, it most certainly will be.