The Central Committee of the Alaska Republican Party voted to remove one of its members over the weekend, and several other party officers resigned, all so they can publicly support Joe Miller.
Miller is trying again to unseat Republican U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski.
He jumped into the U.S. Senate race last week, as the Libertarian nominee.
Six years ago, the Miller-Murkowski race divided the party. This time Republicans describe their differences as a friendly separation.
Shannon Connelly of Palmer was, until this weekend, vice president of the Valley Republican Women, and she was chair of the District 11 Republicans.
Opposing abortion is big for her, and Connelly said she was never comfortable with Murkowski’s moderate voting record on the issue.
But Murkowski won the Republican nomination in August, and Connelly figured it was enough for her to just stay silent on the U.S. Senate race.
“Then as Joe came into the race, I realized it wasn’t enough. I had a candidate that I did believe in, who is pro-life, which is a major thing for me,” she said. “And I thought I can’t just sit back. I have to stand for what I believe in.”
Connelly knew Republican rules don’t allow a party officer to support a candidate from another party, and Miller is running under the Libertarian banner this time.
“I realized I could not openly support him due to my positions,” she said.
State Party Chairman Tuckerman Babcock knew this would be an issue.
“As soon as Miller got in the race I sent all the Central Committee (members) a memo reminding them of the rule, and suggesting the honorable thing to do is to resign, if that’s what you’re going to focus on,” he said.
Babcock said the party couldn’t just look the other way and let its officers campaign against a Republican.
“There are a lot of individuals in the Republican Party and we respect that. But we do have a line,” he said. “You cannot publicly support the non-Republican candidate. That’s a line you can’t cross.”
So Connelly did resign, as did four others on the 80-member Central Committee. Another, Dave Bronson of Anchorage, put it to a vote of the Central Committee, which decided 36-23 to remove him.
A party Rules Committee member also resigned to support Miller.
Babcock made it clear there’d be no hard feelings.
“What I told them was: Go with my blessing as the chairman. And if your local district re-elects you or re-appoints you, then you’d be welcome back,” he said.
As for him, Babcock said he’s with Murkowski: “I think that 72 percent of the Republican Primary voters picked Lisa Murkowski and I’m going to do everything I can to get her re-elected to the U.S. Senate.”
Connelly said she plans to volunteer for Miller, but she also says she’ll continue to support her local Republican candidates in the Mat-Su.