Rift Continues Within Alaska Republican Party
FAIRBANKS — Outgoing Alaska Republican Party Chairman Randy Ruedrich told Fairbanks Republicans at a weekly luncheon Friday to “go fishing” instead of returning to the party’s reconvened state convention in June.
The move could thwart an expected bid by a coalition of Tea Partiers and Ron Paul supporters to dramatically rewrite party rules in order to award the state’s 24 Republican delegates to Paul, a change Ruedrich said would undermine the Republican Presidential Preference Poll held earlier this year.
Ron Paul supporters and Tea Party members scored a sweeping victory against what they called “establishment Republicans” at the state convention in April. In a rowdy three-day meeting, which included the booing of U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski, dissatisfied state delegates elected new party leaders, including political newcomer Russ Millette to replace Ruedrich, who didn’t seek re-election.
Ruedrich said he believes the new leadership won’t necessarily spell doom for the party as long as the newcomers take their time to learn the ropes of campaigning and fundraising and stay focused on winning state elections and defeating Democrats.
But he said that’s not the plan that Tea Party and Ron Paul supporters have for the second part of the convention, which is scheduled for June 6.
Instead, Ruedrich believes they’ll attempt to rewrite party rules in hopes of snatching the presidential nomination for Ron Paul at the National Republican Convention in Tampa, Florida.
“The Ron Paul people have a defined plan. They want to send 24 delegates and 24 alternates to Tampa,” he said. “Alaska Republicans voted on March 6 to send eight Romney delegates, eight Santorum delegates, six Ron Paul delegates — not 24 — and three Gingrich delegates. The reconvene has a very narrow purpose and we don’t need to revisit something that we’ve done in a proper session. I view it as an inappropriate process.”
By telling delegates to stay home, there won’t be quorum and nothing could be passed.
“I would encourage all of you to make that day useful because I understand that many people are not planning to be there,” Ruedrich said. “I would encourage you to work on things that are family related or go fishing.”
In addition, there has been talk of rewriting rules so Millette will take over the reigns of the Alaska GOP immediately, instead of early in 2013. Ruedrich said that would be a poor choice for the future of the party because it would leave leadership scrambling to support candidates in the upcoming statewide elections, where all but one seat will be on the ballot.
The move has many state delegates up in arms over what they see as an intentional attempt to deny Paul a shot at the Republican presidential ticket. The Ron Paul national committee wrote a letter before the April convention accusing the Alaska Republican Party and Ruedrich of intentionally closing the doors on any non-Romney supporters.
Millette visited the Interior Republican’s luncheon last week and said it was necessary for the party to reconvene. He said there’s lots of party and platform work that was left unfinished when the convention abruptly ended in April.
Millette did not answer calls or emails for comment on Friday.
Despite the smoldering conflict between the outgoing and incoming leadership, Millette seemed to strike a conciliatory tone in his meeting with Fairbanks Republicans last week. He said he recognized the institutional knowledge and abilities of Ruedrich and was working to make sure the transition went smoothly.
Ruedrich said he believes the conflict will blow over and that the party will come together over the next few months.
“After the Moral Majority events of the 1980s, there were limited impacts within a matter of months,” he said. “Things heal. Look at the tremendous numbers Romney has today after the primary. He’s now competitive instead of being 15 points down 45 days ago. I want to see a Republican Party with one identified opposition, and that’s the Democrats.”