The warring factions of the state Republican Party fought to a draw Thursday over the party establishment's efforts to remove its two top incoming leaders, but the standoff was only temporary.
After four hours of hearings, parliamentary maneuvering that demonstrated the overwhelming power of incumbency, and an ample measure of verbal sniping, the battle was rescheduled to resume Feb. 1. That's when incoming chairman Russ Millette and vice chairwoman Debbie Holle Brown are due to take office, and possibly the first day they could actually be removed by the Republican state executive committee under party rules.
Millette and Brown were charged with infractions that could lead to their removal. As if to leave no doubt where the charges were coming from, the complainant against Brown was outgoing chairman Randy Ruedrich, while Ruedrich's Rules Committee chairman carried the charges against Millette.
The executive committee nearly always voted overwhelmingly against allowing the defenses sought by Millette and Brown, but ultimately agreed to the postponement after their attorney, Wayne Anthony Ross, and supporter Liz Vazquez, also an attorney and a former Republican legislative candidate, pointed out that they couldn't be removed from office Thursday because they weren't in office yet.
Millette and Brown were elected at a contentious party convention in April when supporters of presidential candidate Ron Paul showed up in huge numbers. In his complaint against Millette, rules chairman Frank McQueary said Millette had only recently joined the party and failed to promote party causes over the last 10 months.
The hearings were held in the cramped Republican Party headquarters on Fireweed Lane, with private security guards counting people as they walked walk into the door. When they got to 49, the limit for the building set by the fire marshal, they stopped letting people in. Picketers from the Paul faction carried signed outside the door, while inside, in the back of the room where the hearing was held, they grumbled about a kangaroo court.
Ruedrich, the long-term chairman, said Millette hadn't done enough to work for candidates he might not have agreed with. In response to a question from Ruedrich, Millette said he didn't support any candidate for president in November. Ruedrich has pointed out that he used party resources to back insurgent Joe Miller's campaign in the general election in 2010 even as Miller was running against a long-term Republican, Lisa Murkowski, then carrying on as a write-in candidate after losing to Miller in the primary.
The sharpest sniping of the evening took place between Ross, who hadn't planned to defend either Millette or Brown, and one of the executive committee members, Rex Shattuck, chief of staff of Rep. Mark Neuman, R-Big Lake. Speaking over the phone from Juneau, Shattuck demanded that Ross, one of the longest practicing lawyers in Alaska, present proof that he was an attorney. Shattuck was overruled, but not before Ross reminded Shattuck he had represented him more than a decade ago.
"And you lost the case," Shattuck said.
Reach Richard Mauer at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4345.