Opinion: In a field of 48, one candidate stands out —and not in a good way

By Larry Persily

Just when we thought Alaska politics couldn’t get any sillier, we now have so many candidates running for Congress that debate organizers will need to borrow microphones from all the karaoke bars in the state to accommodate everyone on the stage.

Just imagine harmonizing 48 voices in “Don’t Stop Believin’.”

Almost twice as many candidates have filed to run in the June primary for the late Don Young’s seat in the U.S. House than lost to the congressman in his unbroken streak of 25 consecutive election victories. If you believe in heaven, no doubt the departed congressman is upset that he can’t be here to take on all 48 challengers at the same time. Young always enjoyed a good election fight.

As if the ridiculously large number hasn’t attracted enough national attention — why stop at being the state with the tallest mountain and longest coastline when you can also boast the most people who think they belong in Congress — the notoriety of one name stands out like a beacon on a lighthouse.

Only instead of directing Alaskans to safety, this beacon could lead the state right into the rocks.

Former Gov. Sarah Palin has come out of political hibernation after apparently deciding the highest and best use of her TV and social media talents is to serve in the U.S. Congress. Quite a step up for someone who quit as governor in 2009.

Palin’s attention span and interest in policy work while governor was notoriously short, dismissing homework much like a high school student who would rather go hang out with friends. Instead of spending her 13 post-governor years learning about important issues like public finance, inflation, world affairs, global warming, the facts about the nation’s power grid, the U.S. Postal Service deficit or obsolete IRS computer system — or much of anything — Palin has focused on witty snippets of snideness that fill the smartphone screens of millions of Americans. Substance is not her middle name.

Just what Alaska needs in Congress: Another set of Twitter thumbs to hitch a ride to likes and followers and trending.

Just what Congress needs, an Alaskan who draws more laughs and controversy than respect.

Thankfully, there are 47 other candidates for Alaskans to choose from in the June primary. Most unknown, some a little known, and one very well known. A North Pole city council member, whose legal name really is Santa Claus, also believes he belongs in Congress. At the rate Congress is handing out gifts from the U.S. Treasury these days, maybe Santa would be a good fit.

At least Santa had a purpose for changing his name from Thomas O’Connor in 2005 — to bring attention to children’s issues. Palin’s only purpose has been to bring attention to herself.

All Palin has offered so far in her campaign postings is to blame the far left and radical left — as if one left wasn’t enough to fill her campaign speech — and talk about freedom (good), heroes (even better), and the importance of public service (quitting, notwithstanding). Details? Nah, too much for a tweet.

Admittedly, she certainly knows how to punch the hot-button issues. Not fix anything, just hit the button, stand back, enjoy the cheers and count the supporters on a website. But does that deserve a seat in Congress?

Claus is not likely to win, though he will do well based on his namesake’s name recognition. Palin could win, and that would be about as welcome as a lump of coal on Christmas morning.

•Larry Persily is a longtime Alaska journalist, with breaks for federal, state and municipal service in oil and gas, taxes and fiscal policy work. He is currently owner and editor of the weekly Wrangell Sentinel newspaper. Columns, My Turns and Letters to the Editor represent the view of the author, not the view of the Juneau Empire. Have something to say? Here’s how to submit a My Turn or letter.

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