Alaska Governor denies allegations of threatening Republicans before veto vote, as claimed by Anchorage Democrat

The Alaska State Capitol, captured in a photograph by James Brooks of Alaska Beacon, showcases its grandeur on a serene Wednesday, March 7, 2024.

The repercussions of the Alaska Legislature’s inability to overturn Governor Mike Dunleavy’s veto of a comprehensive education bill were still being felt throughout the state two days later.

In a recent newsletter, Rep. Zack Fields, a Democrat from Anchorage, revealed that the governor had issued a threat to campaign against any Republicans who voted to override the veto. According to Fields, the governor even pledged to spend $70,000 per race in order to ensure the defeat of these Republicans.

The claim made by Fields in his newsletter was echoed by the president of the Fairbanks school board at a subsequent meeting. The board, citing insufficient state funding, voted to close a high school.

During the meeting, board president Brandy Harty expressed her disappointment in three Fairbanks-area legislators who voted to sustain the veto. She mentioned that she had heard rumors about the possibility of them accepting a $70,000 campaign donation in exchange for their vote. However, she emphasized that these were just rumors and requested the newspapers in the audience not to quote her on it. Harty concluded her statement by expressing her hope that whatever the reason may be, it was worth it for the legislators involved.

Must Read Alaska, the preferred in-state website of the Alaska Republican Party, echoed Harty’s remark on Wednesday morning, interpreting it as an implicit accusation of bribery.

Sen. Robert Myers, R-North Pole, along with Reps. Mike Cronk, R-Tok, and Frank Tomaszewski, R-Fairbanks, were greatly angered by that portrayal as Harty specifically singled them out by name.

When asked if he was offered money for his vote, Tomaszewski stated, “Nobody contacted me in any way, shape, or form.”

Cronk and Myers both confirmed that they had not been given any incentives to vote. Myers pointed out that the accusation doesn’t make sense in his situation since he is not up for election this year.

“I am deeply troubled by the mere suggestion of me accepting a bribe,” expressed Cronk with utmost concern. “Accusing someone of such misconduct is an incredibly serious matter. I am unsure whether it can be classified as slander or defamation of character. It is essential to understand that this does not align with my values and principles.”

Harty’s comments about threatened spending against legislators were widely discussed in the Capitol. However, Fields clarified that his statement did not involve any cash payment to them.

Fields made a claim without presenting any evidence to support it. According to him, the claim was sourced from one or more members of the House Majority.

In a text message, he mentioned, “Obviously, I’m not revealing which one(s), but I can confirm that there were reliable sources who received such threats.”

When asked in person, he chose not to provide further details.

The governor’s office declined to respond when asked about the occurrence of such threats.

Four Republican members of the House majority caucus, namely Representatives Justin Ruffridge of Soldotna, Will Stapp of Fairbanks, Jesse Sumner of Wasilla, and Stanley Wright of Anchorage, decided to vote in favor of overriding the veto on Monday.

Ruffridge, Stapp, and Wright denied receiving any threats of that nature.

Sumner remained tight-lipped when questioned about whether he had experienced a threat similar to the one Fields had recounted.

Harty, in Fairbanks, expressed her trust in Fields’ account.

According to her, the publication of such information in a newsletter by an elected official in Juneau is considered to be a trustworthy source.

She expressed her distress over the phone, tearfully revealing that the board is forced to make difficult choices due to insufficient state funding to meet their requirements.

“Fairbanks is slashing essential resources that greatly improved my childhood experience here. We are shutting down schools and contemplating reducing activity budgets. These drastic cuts are having a detrimental impact on our children,” she expressed with concern. “I pursued a career in teaching, and it pains me to witness our state consistently failing our students and schools. This compelled me to take action and run for the school board, hoping to bring about positive change. However, the issue extends far beyond our local districts. The problem lies in Juneau, and it is imperative that we address it.”

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