Which Side Are You On? Joe Thomas v. John Coghill


Don’t scab for the bosses
Don’t listen to their lies
Poor folks ain’t got a chance
Unless they organize

Which side are you on boys?
Which side are you on?

“Which Side Are You On,” Florence Reece

On November 6, the Alaska voters will have to decide which side they are on in the fight over Governor Sean Parnell’s effort to give $2 billion a year to Big Oil. Which side are you on? WC will look first at the Alaska Republican’s party to oust Senate Coalition member Joe Thomas.

The race in Senate District A, as an intended consequence of redistricting, pits two incumbents against each other. Senator Joe Thomas (D) was an outspoken opponent of Governor Parnell’s proposed $2 billion giveaway to Big Oil, and a member of the majority coalition. Senator John Coghill (R) was and is an enthusiastic supporter of Parnell’s giveaway, and was a member of the Republican minority. It sure looks like a set-up by the Republican-dominated Redistricting Committee.

Both are lifelong Alaskans. Coghill, of course, comes with a famous name, the second son of one of the surviving authors of the Alaska Constitution. Thomas comes from the other side, a labor leader and a largely self-made man. But in his one and a half terms in the Senate, Thomas has accomplished as much or more than Coghill did in his 11 years in the House and two years in the Senate. Unlike Coghill, Thomas recognizes that the cost of energy, more than the supply of crude oil, is the critically important issue to Alaskans. It doesn’t matter how much oil flows through TAPS is no one can afford to live here.

But most of all, Thomas strongly opposes unilateral concessions to Big Oil. Coghill, so far as WC can tell, has bought Parnell’s gift to Big Oil. Let’s be clear about this. WC thinks a bargain with Big Oil for more oil would be fine. Say, a two-to-one credit for investment in new fields, or a reduced tax on the first five years of new oil. But simply giving Big Oil billions of dollars won’t get anyone anything except bigger dividends to Big Oil shareholders. It certainly won’t put more oil in TAPS. Hard fact, but true.

Add the fact that Coghill is categorically against abortion, even though Alaska’s privacy amendment makes a woman’s right to choose nobody’s business but her own, certainly no business of the State of Alaska’s. Thomas would keep the State out of personal decisions, including a woman’s right to choose.

One more thing: Thomas has a record of service in a dozen or more interior and statewide organizations, ranging from the Fairbanks Industrial Development Authority to the University of Alaska Board of Regents to the Alaska Worker’s Compensation Board. It’s important, critical work; tedious and grinding, but reliant upon people like Joe Thomas. Coghill? Since leaving the military in 1974, he has no record of service beyond his church and legislative activities.

This one looks dead simple to WC, who likes and respects Jack Coghill, an independent thinker if there ever was one. But Coghill peré? Not so much. He’s a decent man, charming in the way a church pastor is charming. But he’s had the opportunities and just hasn’t done that much with them.

Thomas, by a mile.

This blog post is solely the idea of Wickersham’s Conscience. No funds were expended in creating this post. The opinions expressed are solely those of WC. 

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