New GOP rules make takeovers harder

Nathaniel Herz

JUNEAU -- The Alaska Republican Party at its state convention Saturday passed a set of rule changes that could make it more difficult for a takeover by the Ron Paul and tea party insurgents that temporarily overthrew GOP leadership at the party's last convention, in 2012.

Among the changes: Anyone who wants to become chairman of the party, or take any other leadership position, needs to have been registered as a Republican for the previous four years. Prospective party leaders must be vetted by a nominating committee and cannot launch bids from the floor.

And people who attend local conventions must have been registered Republicans for the previous three months before they can vote.

Republican officials said that the requirements are reasonable for newcomers who are seeking power within the existing party structure.

"If you're going to be chair of the Republican Party, you should be a strong Republican -- you should have some history," said Rep. Pete Higgins, R-Fairbanks, who was on the party's rules committee. "Work your way up. Put your time in."

Higgins acknowledged that the changes were in part motivated by the party's 2012 convention, where a big influx of Ron Paul supporters and tea party members elected a slate of their favored leaders, who were ousted a year later by a committee of party regulars.

One of the party members behind the 2012 coup said the new rules were too restrictive and could make it more difficult for Republicans to recruit "grass-roots" support.

"The moderates have taken over the Republican Party and they're seeking to exclude the conservatives from being able to participate at a high level," said Lance Roberts, who's from Fairbanks. "You're not going to get involved in the party if you can't participate."

The new rules will make another takeover by Roberts' wing of the party more difficult, he said, but not impossible. Members have said a resurgence is likely at the 2016 convention, which will be held in Fairbanks -- on the road system, unlike this year's convention in Juneau.

That's also a presidential election year, when people will likely be more motivated to attend.

"It will take more planning now," Roberts said. "But nothing is insurmountable."

Former party chairman Randy Ruedrich defended the new requirements for party leaders as "low hurdles," and noted that rules for candidates for state-level elected public offices are more restrictive. Gubernatorial candidates, for example, must have lived in Alaska for seven years prior to filing for office.

He added that people can win leadership roles much more easily at the district level.

Party members also held elections at the convention on Saturday. Chairman Peter Goldberg was re-elected to his post; he ran unopposed.