Alaska GOP aims to block party coups

Peter Goldberg (Photo courtesy gop.com)

Peter Goldberg (Photo courtesy gop.com)

The Alaska Republican Party has taken measures to prevent a takeover by libertarian and Tea Party activists.

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. Party Chair Peter Goldberg says the changes are a reaction 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 kicked them out of 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.

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.