GOP unites behind Trump after weekend defections

Donald Trump in Trump Tower, 2015. Photo: Michael Vadon
Donald Trump in Trump Tower. 2015 file photo: Michael Vadon

Both of Alaska’s U.S. senators said over the weekend they won’t support Republican Donald Trump for president, not after seeing him brag on a 2005 videotape that being a star meant he was free to grab women by the private parts. Rep. Charisse Millett, an Anchorage Republican and the state House majority leader, also announced Sunday she’s no longer supporting Trump. But as of today, the Republican party in Alaska was officially sticking with Trump.

Listen Now

Republican state party chairman Tuckerman Babcock says he sent out an email Sunday night reminding party officers they can’t publicly support anyone but Trump for president. And, he says, speaking negatively about Trump, is, in effect, supporting a rival.

“Well, you can be neutral or you can be supportive,” he said, “but you can’t be in opposition to a Republican candidate and stay on the Central Committee and be an officer of the party.”

Tuckerman Babcock, left, and Jerry Ward at the 2016 GOP National Convention. Photo by Lawrence Ostrovsky)
Tuckerman Babcock, left, and Jerry Ward at the 2016 GOP National Convention. Photo by Lawrence Ostrovsky)

Babcock reminded party officers of that same rule when Fairbanks attorney Joe Miller entered the U.S. Senate race last month, as a Libertarian. A few party officials did resign then, to publicly support Miller over incumbent Republican Lisa Murkowski. Babcock says he doesn’t know of anyone resigning their party office now to they can renounce Trump, other than the two U.S. senators. (The senators are, by virtue of their elected office, automatic members of the State Central Committee of the party, but Babcock says they agreed to resign until after the election.) He says the calls he’s fielded and the comments on the party’s Facebook page show something else.

“The main thing that I heard was distress over whether or not expression of these opinions would cause Hillary Clinton to be elected,” he said.

Murkowski announced Saturday she can’t support Trump. She said the offensive comments he made in 2005 reveal his true character. Babcock says as a candidate, she’s free to speak her mind. But the Republican Party of Alaska re-posted her statement and the blowback has been fierce. At least, that’s how it looks on Facebook. Dozens of people have called Murkowski out for turning against the party’s nominee.

The campaign coordinator for Trump Alaska 2016, Jerry Ward, wouldn’t acknowledge any Republican distress by Trump’s comments on the 2005 video.

“Alaska absolutely is going to vote for Trump-Pence,” said the former state senator. “We’re a Republican state and our presidential candidate has said that he is going to develop our resources.”

Ward wasn’t budging off that point. His response to a direct question about fallout from the video — “What do you say to folks who were upset by the video and who think that person shouldn’t be president?” – yielded the same message: “People in Alaska are going to vote overwhelmingly for Donald Trump. They want to have a bright future,” he said.

For his part, Trump posted on Twitter that Republicans who abandon him are “self-righteous hypocrites” and he says they’ll lose their elections.

Previous articleGrant issued to hospitals for offering legal aid to patients
Next articleCommissioner turns down challenge of predator control rules
Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent for Alaska Public Media. She reports from the U.S. Capitol and from Anchorage. Reach her at lruskin@alaskapublic.org.