Monday, May 04, 2015

The Role Of Audio In Anchorage's Mayoral Race

First there was the audio of former assembly member Dan Coffey in the primaries.  It was a message left on assembly member Allan Tesche's answer machine.  Tesche's number was, apparently, accidentally dialed, while Coffey was talking to assembly member Starr about how buying votes from assembly members.  It had been highly publicized when Tesche discovered it on his answer machine back in 2008.  And Coffey, in a mea culpa page on this campaign website,  even linked to the transcript.  But when a TV station said they would put the audio online, Coffey's attorney threatened to sue.  Coffey, later said no, he wouldn't sue. 

And for the last week before the election a second very different kind of audio tape has been the focus of attention.  First Jerry Prevo said he'd heard about it from someone and told the nasty to his congregation.

Then Amy Demboski was asked about it on the air.  The conservative talk show host said he thought she would denounce the allegation as ridiculous.  Instead, she said she heard it and she didn't know that he (her opponent, Ethan Berkowitz) didn't mean it. 

But the station said the audio didn't exist.  They recycle them after a certain amount of time. 

The allegation?  That Ethan Berkowitz said he not only supported gay marriage, but also that a man could marry his own son. 

Once you have an allegation like that, and the tape is missing, there's no way you can totally undo the damage.  People who want to believe the worst will believe it. 

And now there's a post on Joe Miller's website with Bernadette Wilson mysteriously finding the tape and playing edited bits of what is a very hypothetical debate.  It's not clear what has been cut out, but Berkowitz is  clearly saying he's not talking about sex, but about a last resort to protect a child in areas like passing on property rights.   Here's Nat Herz' coverage of it:

"The recording showed the conversation between the two hosts started as a legal debate on the same-sex marriage issue in the appellate courts, with Berkowitz taking a libertarian position that consenting adults should be allowed to choose their own relationships. An unidentified caller took the issue further, asking Berkowitz whether a father and son 'should be allowed to marry if they’re both consenting adults.'
'If you're defining marriage as the bundle of rights and privileges that now accrue to people, yes,' Berkowitz said. In the show, he explained he was talking about financial and property rights, not incest, and on Monday, after the recording aired, said he had found himself 'frustrated' within a 'constrained hypothetical conversation.'”

I guess the Koch brothers' money that has been injected into this campaign and that paid for the commercial of their other Alaskan golden child Senator Dan Sullivan supporting Demboski, has bought a marketing team that has carefully built this up to release this tape the day before the election.

I can just say that while I've only had a few conversations with Berkowitz over the years, I know him well enough to know that he does not support incestuous marriages. As an academic, I can understand getting deep into hypotheticals,  But it's probably not something a politician should have let himself get baited into, even in a very hypothetical discussion.  We're talking about the only legislator to stand up on the floor of the house of representatives to protest Veco's interference with the legislative process on the oil tax vote. 

If I recall right, back in the early eighties, Tony Knowles stood up as an assembly member against, discrimination against gays, and was still elected mayor.  We're a long way beyond those days now.  By this time tomorrow night, we'll see whether Demboski is able to demagogue enough voters to win this election.  I'm guessing not.  The allegation may resonate with some, but for most, it will seem like what it is - a lame attempt to smear an opponent.   But if she does lose, she'll still be on the assembly, and now that she's tasted this much attention and power, she's not going to walk away from it. 

Early Voting Anchorage April 23,2015

And given early voting, a lot of folks will have already voted long before the tape was released.  When I voted almost two weeks ago, there was a longer line than when I voted early for the main election in April.

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