Amid a firestorm of gasps, giggles, and moral outrage, Alaska's Governor Bill Walker (I) has withdrawn from consideration an appointee to the Alaska Commission on Judicial Conduct.
Jeff Landfield's own conduct came under scrutiny after several Facebook photos came to light, which the governor's spokesperson Grace Jang said were "disrespectful" and "misogynistic," a characterization Landfield disputes. No specific images were cited, but Landfield's personal Facebook page is a cornucopia of party pics, poolside Las Vegas romps, and boozy musings.
The position Landfield hoped to take for the Walker administration handles complaints filed against state judges -- an unpaid appointment which would have required legislative confirmation. Landfield currently chairs the Anchorage Federation of Community Councils and is a former candidate for the Alaska State Senate. He ran a primary challenge against Republican incumbent Lesil McGuire in 2012. She still occupies her seat, currently chairs the Judiciary Committee, and would have overseen Landfield's confirmation, requiring a vote of the full legislative body.
The awkwardness was noted by Alexandra Guttierez, a reporter from Alaska Public Radio who tweeted on February 4:
So, who's making popcorn for Jeff Landfield's judicial conduct commission hearing before judiciary chair Lesil McGuire? #akleg
Several of Landfield's Facebook photos circulated around the Capitol building in Juneau to raised eyebrows. The images showed him clad in a leopard-skin-patterned Speedo and a cowboy hat, surrounded by women in bikinis at a Las Vegas swimming pool. Another showed him grabbing a woman's breasts in a bar. Landfield said he thought better of sharing that particular image and quickly deleted it after posting -- about a year ago. Other pictures showed him at a bachelorette party making a crude and suggestive gesture with a party favor, and hiking an Alaskan trail drinking whiskey from the bottle.
Landfield is known to his 1,300 Facebook friends (which include many local and state politicians) for posting photos of himself and others in revealing attire and drunken revelry. "This is not something I hide," he said. "I'm kind of an open book."
Alaska isn't the only place where Speedos have become controversial. A Republican lawmaker, Rep. David Moore (R-Montana), put forward a bill on Tuesday which would tighten the definition of "indecent exposure" to include tight fitting clothes, including Speedos and yoga pants.
Craig Fleener, Walker's adviser on Arctic Issues, recommended Landfield to support the administration's attempt to get more young Alaskans involved in the process, said Jang. The 30-year-old Landfield submitted his resume and expressed interest in boards and commissions.
Despite co-hosting a fundraiser for Walker during his recent gubernatorial run, Landfield says he doesn't hold a grudge against the governor for whom he says he has "the utmost respect."
"To be clear, I hold no ill will towards Governor Walker or his administration," he said. "I understand they have to make decisions that they think are best for Alaska. What probably happened was a person or persons who don't like me or don't want to see me do anything, used the Facebook stuff to try and make me look bad."
Landfield agrees with the importance of getting young Alaskans involved in politics, but sees problems ahead for those who grew up during the era of social media. He posted a response to the controversy on his Facebook page Wednesday.
Personally, I think this is a generational issue. I am 30 and grew up in the age of digital cameras, smart phones and social media. Many of my generation have told me that the potential for publicity such as this is the exact reason they do not want to get involved in public service. I anticipate this sort of reaction to social media will wear off as more of my generation become involved and view it for what it is - being young in the digital age...
But I want to be clear that I remain committed to doing what I can to ensure Alaska remains a prosperous place to live and work... My commitment to public service has never been stronger and I am not changing how I live my life.
Anyone who knows me, and lots of people do, knows I like to have a good time, don't hide anything, and do my best to enjoy life to the fullest. At the same time I focus my full attention on serious issues when it's time to address them. I will continue to do that going forward.
Landfield says that he plans to run for the same State Senate seat in 2016, but no plans to ditch the Speedo. "I am what I am."