The Alaska Republican Central Committee voted over the weekend to remove one of its members due to his decision to back newly-minted Libertarian U.S. senate candidate Joe Miller instead of the state’s moderate GOP incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski, while other members chose to resign to support the insurgent candidacy.
As reported by Western Journalism, Miller was the 2010 GOP nominee who defeated Murkowski in perhaps the biggest upset in the 2010 federal election cycle, running as “Alaska’s True Conservative Choice.”
Then, as now, Murkowski had the most liberal voting record of any Republican up for re-election. During the last session of Congress, the senator voted with President Obama and the Democrats 72 percent of time, second only to Sen. Susan Collins of Maine.
As in 2010, incredulously Murkowski branded herself as a conservative (“The Conservative Voice For Alaska”) during this year’s Republican primary in which she faced no challenger with statewide name identification. She easily prevailed in an election with the lowest voter turnout in recent history.
The senator looked like she was on her way to an easy re-election in the red state until last week, when Miller accepted the Alaska Libertarian’s Party’s invitation to replace its candidate, who had chosen to end her bid.
Alaska GOP party chair Tuckerman Babcock knew Miller’s entry into the race was going to draw support from members of his party’s top leadership and called on any who wanted to back Miller to do the “honorable” thing and resign.
Dave Bronson, one of Anchorage’s district chairs, did not believe he should have to step down just because he wanted to support Miller — whose positions align with the state party’s pro-life, pro-family, pro-limited constitutional government platform — instead of getting behind a “Republican” senator whose votes do not.
Rather than resign, he put the issue up for vote at a central committee meeting last Saturday. Speaking before the body, he said “I am standing here before you because I am done with turning a blind eye to a Republican senator from Alaska who rejects our values and then expects our support every six years.”
Bronson, who serves as a board member of the Alaska Family Council, highlighted Murkowski’s claim to support traditional marriage during the 2010 election, then coming out not long afterwards in support of same-sex marriage. He also noted her vote to fund Planned Parenthood, even after the undercover videos revealed the organization was apparently guilty of selling aborted babies’ body parts.
He stated, based on Murkowski’s voting record and decision to run as an independent in 2010 against the Republican Party nominee, he does not doubt she would switch to being Democrat, if she calculated it would keep her in office.
“Disciplining me is the right thing to do,” Bronson conceded though wanting to keep his seat. “I openly supported that candidate for the US Senate who best reflected the principles of the Alaska Republican Party. It just happened to not be Lisa Murkowski.”
Reportedly, Bronson received hearty applause when he concluded his remarks from a significant portion of the audience with many rising to their feet to show their approval. However, the members of the Central Committee present voted 36 to 23 to remove him.”
Four other district chairs and one member of the Rules Committee, to date, chose to resign their positions to openly back Miller, while others reputedly plan to do so privately because they do not want to lose their seats.
Shannon Connelly of Palmer (about 40 miles north of Anchorage), who was vice president of the Mat-Su Valley Republican Women until this weekend and a district chair, is another who decided to step down. She told Alaska Public Radio that, in Miller, she has a candidate, “who is pro-life, which is a major thing for me,” adding, “I thought I can’t just sit back. I have to stand for what I believe in.”
The Alaska Right to Life endorsed Miller two days after he announced his candidacy.
In a release earlier this week, the group shot down the notion that Murkowski is “pro-life” as a campaign spokesman claimed and then was forced to walk back, noting Murkowsk received an 80 percent NARAL Pro-Choice America score in 2014, in contrast to most GOP senators (like Ted Cruz, Mike Lee and even John McCain), who received a score of zero.
In an unprecedented move, the Alaska Republican Assembly (which has described itself as the Ronald Reagan wing of the GOP) endorsed Miller this week.
Like Connelly, Ron Johnson, a member of the assembly, chose to resign as a Mat-Su Valley district chair this past weekend to back Miller.
He told Western Journalism, “This allows me to work for a candidate that holds Republican values. I’m a Republican because of the party platform, not because of the party. Many of us are.”
Johnson explained one of the reasons he decided to run for district chair was in response to how the Republican party failed to get behind Miller’s candidacy in 2010 after he defeated Murkowski.
The senator waged a write-in campaign narrowly defeating Miller in a three-way race, 39 to 35 percent, with the Democrat garnering 23 percent of the vote. Between her and her father, a Murkowski has held the seat since 1981. This year’s contest pits four candidates against each other: Murkowski, Miller, a left-leaning independent, and a Democrat.
Amy Demboski, a district secretary in Anchorage, is supporting Miller. She said party Vice Chair Rick Whitbeck threatened to remove her until she pointed out the Alaska GOP rules specifically state that only those who hold district chair positions or above are prohibited from publicly supporting anyone other than the nominee.
“Like many Alaskans, I don’t do well with intimidation and threats,” she said, and the GOP leadership backed off.
Demboski, who is a radio talk show host in the Anchorage/Mat-Su Valley area and was the Republican nominee for mayor of the city last year, affirmed Johnson’s observation that the state party did not appear to back Miller in 2010. Further, it was her sense that then-chairman Randy Ruedrich and others in leadership actively worked against him behind the scenes, while supporting Murkowski.
Demboski could not help but note the irony of the GOP’s loyalty test for Murkowski in 2016 in light of 2010, and pointed out the senator’s co-chair in that race was current Democrat Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott.
“Nobody is talking about and the party is pretending it did not happen,” she said.
Miller enjoys the support of not only Demboski, who is Donald Trump’s co-chair in Alaska, but also Bill Keller of the Kenai Peninsula, who was Sen Ted Cruz’s co-chair (along with Demboski and others) during the Republican presidential primary. Cruz won the primary with 36 percent of the vote to Trump’s 33.5 percent.
Keller said people “have been really grumbling about Murkowski” since the 2010 race. Like other prominent GOP members in the Last Frontier backing Miller, he cites Murkowski’s liberal voting record as the main reason he will not support her.
Alaskans appear in for a spirited contest to see who will represent them in the U.S. senate in January. A district chair, who voted against Bronson’s removal, told Western Journalism that Miller’s entry in the race creates the rematch people have waited six years to see. (For more from the author of “Top Alaska GOP Officials Resign Rather Than Back Liberal Murkowski Over Libertarian Joe Miller” please click HERE)