Alaska GOP votes to block 3 House representatives from primaries

Rep. Paul Seaton. R-Homer, works at his desk in the House Chambers during the hours-long deliberations on HB 111, an oil tax bill, April 10 , 2017. (Photo by Skip Gray/360 North)

Rep. Paul Seaton. R-Homer, works at his desk in the House Chambers during the hours-long deliberations on HB 111, an oil tax bill, April 10, 2017. (Photo by Skip Gray/360 North)

Alaska Republican Party leaders voted Saturday to block Homer Rep. Paul Seaton, Anchorage Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux and Rep. Louise Stutes of Kodiak from running in the party’s 2018 primaries.

All three representatives joined Democrats and independents last fall to form a bipartisan coalition, taking control of the House away from Republicans.

The Republican Party’s state central committee said that violated a party rule about caucusing with other political parties and that the legislators misled voters when the joined the coalition.

“The two penalties for that at the time are no financial support, access to our database and also granting the Republican Party the freedom to recruit a challenger,” Alaska Republican Party Chairman Tuckerman Babcock said.

Babcock said Saturday’s vote is an expansion of last year’s decision to deny the House members support.

He said a court ruling in October, which determined that independents are allowed to run in Democratic primaries, also allows the Republican Party to block individuals from running as its nominee if they violate that party rule.

Seaton said he hasn’t officially heard from the party about its decision and wasn’t made aware of Saturday’s vote.

“I just don’t think this actually comports with state law,” Seaton said, “that people can excise people from their party or they can say, ‘Yes, you’re in the party, but we’re disallowing you personally from being able to run.’”

Babcock wrote a letter Monday to the state Division of Elections, alerting Director Josie Bahnke of the party’s decision.

Rule changes for the 2018 primaries were due in September, so it’s unclear whether the state will honor the change or decide it doesn’t comply with state law.

Bahnke told KBBI in an email that the division plans to make its decision within a week.

The state also appealed the October ruling to the Alaska Supreme Court, which could complicate the outcome.

Babcock said the party knows the decision could go either way.

“We’ll see how things unfold,” he added. “We don’t know if we’ll join with the Democratic Party in the defense of the decision, we don’t know if we’ll go to federal court, or we don’t know if we’ll just accept the state’s decision and just to state our position and let the voters decide.”

Seaton, LeDoux and Stutes could still run as a Republicans next fall if they’re blocked from the primaries. Each would need to collect signatures in order to do so. They also could run as an independent or join another party’s ticket.

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