Alaska GOP Aims To Block Party Coups

The Alaska Republican Party has taken measures to prevent a political takeover, like one that was instigated by Tea Party activists in 2012.

The new rules say a person has to be registered as a Republican for at least four years before seeking a top leadership position, and they require all candidates for the party’s statewide offices to be vetted by a special committee before they can run. The rules were adopted on Saturday, at the Alaska Republican Party’s biannual convention. They come in response to a coup staged by a group of Ron Paul supporters at the 2012 convention.

“Two years ago, people that were not Republicans were registering to become Republicans on the day of their district conventions and participating,” says Goldberg. “That’s really not appropriate.”

The insurgents elected a libertarian-leaning chair and vice chair, but the Alaska Republican Party’s old guard removed them from office last year.

Very few of those insurgents were present at this year’s convention, which was held in Juneau. But the 2016 convention will happen in Fairbanks, making an influx of dissidents more likely.

If that happens, Goldberg says the new rules will make it harder for party outsiders to seize control.

“That’s all it is — just to make sure that the people that participate as Republicans really, in their hearts, are Republicans, and they’re not just showing up to try and change the course of the party,” says Goldberg.

Goldberg added in a later e-mail that a delegate’s status on the ideological spectrum will not be a consideration for leadership positions.

“The committee would first verify Republican history in accordance with the Rules, and then look at such things as (depending on the position) leadership and communications skills, ability and willingness to raise money, managerial history, comfort with computers and social media and any other factors that help to determine if the candidate can do the job,” writes Goldberg.

The convention delegates adopted the changes with significant support, but not without protest.

Lance Roberts, a delegate from Fairbanks, was part of the 2012 takeover, and he repeatedly tried to amend the new rules. He believes Republican moderates are trying to shut out the rightwing.

“I think it’s completely the wrong direction,” says Roberts. “We should be more open, more honest, and we should be inviting of these people.”

In addition to changing party rules, the convention delegates condensed the Alaska Republican platform. Sections on education and crime were streamlined, and specific provisions on school vouchers, embryonic stem cell research, assisted suicide, and the teaching of creation science were removed.

There was also a failed effort to strike language opposing the expansion of gay rights, with a third of the party delegates voting to take those sections out of the platform.

The Alaska Republican Party also passed a resolution opposing a ballot initiative to regulate marijuana like alcohol, with support from 75 percent of the delegates.

This story has been updated to include further comment from Alaska Republican Party Chair Peter Goldberg.

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