Searching for a Senator

I try not to let incompetent fools irritate the crap out of me, but sometimes it’s really difficult.  It’s taken years. but I’ve learned to smile at checkstand personnel in stores who can’t figure out change for a $5 bill without the help of electronics.  But our Governor gets to me.

I don’t think that Sarah Palin is a fool.  A charge of incompetence however, is not beyond the realm of probability.  Sometimes she appears to just not get it.

Kim Elton, the local state senator (state legislature, not Congress), left his position for a job with the Obama administration about a month ago (March 2nd).  At the time, Governor Palin issued a terse and snide press release that caused her a few problems.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE No. 09-42

Governor Palin Comments on Senator Elton Appointment

March 2, 2009, Juneau, Alaska – Governor Sarah Palin today released the following statement on the appointment of Senator Kim Elton to Director of Alaska Affairs at the U.S. Department of the Interior:

“Senator Elton pledged his allegiance to President Obama last summer.  We wish him well as he moves on and hope that he uses this job for Alaska’s benefit – to advance the state’s oil and gas issues, including the natural gas pipeline, and to work diligently to remove the barriers imposed upon all states that want to open up their shores to off-shore drilling.  I hope he can represent Alaskans by opening ANWR, conveying the importance of responsible mining development, and building roads­ ­- all issues crucial to the future of our state.”

A pdf of the press release can be found on the Anchorage Daily News (here) but it has disappeared from the press archives on the Governor’s web site (it’s not here).  All trace of it has been scrubbed from the site, as if that will make it disappear.  Palin didn’t like Elton because he called her to task over failing to cooperate with the “troopergate” commission after she had promised in writing that she would.

Anyway, the Governor gets 30 days to appoint a replacement for vacant legislative seats, subject to approval of the party of the departing legislator (e.g., if the seat was held by a Democrat, the senate Democrats must approve the appointment).  It’s a simple checks and balances arrangement.  Traditionally, the affected party provides a short list of acceptable names to the Governor.  The Democrats put forward Beth Kertulla, the state house representative from the same district.  Sensible choice, but Palin doesn’t like Kertulla because Kertulla called her to task about some legislative numbers.  So Palin advertises for Democrats and draws up her own list, without meeting with the Democrats about who was on it or even sharing the list with them.  Seems kind of incompetent not to discuss your potential choices with the folks responsible for approving the choice.  I learned long ago to “get your ducks in a row” before presenting any potentially contentious idea/person.

So Palin waits 28 days (she has 30), then appoints Tim Grussendorf on a Sunday (March 29).  Grussendorf is an aide to Senator Lyman Hoffman, a high-ranking Democrat.  The following day the Democrats met in closed caucus and said no.  Palin throws a hissy fit and calls for an open vote, even though she was fine with her previous Republican senate appointment being confirmed by a closed Republican caucus.  Even the senate Republicans said no.  The Democrats draw up a short list of four acceptable candidates, with Kertulla at the top, and submit it to the Governor.

So a week later (April 6) Palin floats a second name, Joe Nelson.  Nelson was not on the Democrats list, but was on Palin’s.  Wouldn’t a competent manager at least compare the two lists to see if there was some common ground?  Nelson has no legislative background, and meets with several senators over the next several days, trying to develop some support among the Democrats.

In the meantime, Governor Palin issues another press release:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE No. 09-79

Governor Laments Ongoing Lack of Representation for Juneau

April 9, 2009, Juneau, Alaska – On the 80th day of the 90-day legislative session, Governor Sarah Palin today called on Senate Democrats to make haste in voting on her second designee to fill the vacant seat in District B, representing the City and Borough of Juneau.

“Juneau residents are lacking representation in the Senate as final decisions are made on the budget and other important matters,” Governor Palin said. “Democratic senators rejected my first pick for Senate District B. I urge them not to drag their feet on approving the new designee. Filling this seat is important to the residents of Southeast and all Alaskans.”

After two interviews with Joe Nelson, Governor Palin nominated him to fill the seat left open by the resignation of Kim Elton, who left to advise President Obama. Nelson is admissions director at the University of Alaska Southeast and a board member of Sealaska Corporation, the regional Native corporation in Juneau. He is married to former Bethel Rep. Mary Nelson.

“It is certainly my hope that this well-qualified designee, who clearly loves Alaska, will be accepted by the Senate Democrats in the very near future,” Governor Palin said. “But whatever their decision will be, they need to ensure Juneau residents that this seat will be filled in a timely manner.”

A longstanding legal opinion from the Department of Law holds that Senate Democrats should vote on the governor’s designee in an open and public manner.

Let’s do the math (don’t get me started on her wildly inaccurate “Mathematical Literacy and Pi Day” proclamation).  Juneau has been without a senator for 39 days.  Of those 39, the ball was in Palin’s court 34 days.  Is she lamenting her own incompetence?  Oh, and that last paragraph about “longstanding legal opinion”?  That’s the opinion of her new, yet to be confirmed attorney general.

Four days (April 10) after Palin appointed Nelson the Democrats went back into closed caucus and rejected the appointment.  I don’t wonder why.

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