Attendees at the Republican Party of Alaska's annual convention in Anchorage are all aflutter with the buzz Friday that longtime state GOP Chairman Randy Ruedrich will not be running for re-election.
Ruedrich did not return calls for this story, so it could be just another rumor in a series of rumors about Ruedrich. But if it's true, it's a major change for Alaska's GOP.
For years, Ruedrich has been able to keep a tight grasp on his party, surviving attempted coups, as well as animus from former Gov. Sarah Palin and her tea party-esque supporters. Alaska's GOP has been split between libertarian and big business factions, perhaps even more so than Republicans in other states. But over the decades he’s led the GOP, Ruedrich has managed to keep them together, making sure the state remains ruby red on the electoral map.
The party must vote on its next chairman, and with Ron Paul supporters reportedly making a coordinated splash at the convention, it's unclear who would be favored to take Ruedrich's place. The vote will take place on Saturday afternoon.
One thing is for sure: if the party ever needed a strong leader, this would be the time. Because of redistricting, all 59 legislative seats are up for grabs, and the fight, which will largely center around the oil tax debate still raging in Juneau at this time, is expected to be brutal.
Speaking of Ron Paul supporters: conspiracy theories abound about a certain email sent, supposedly from one Paulite, which outlines how Paul supporters are planning on taking over the party. Other Paulites say it's a trick and that Ruedrich is to blame. It does seem strange that all of the media -- but seemingly none of the state convention delegates -- received the email.
Some suspect that Ruedrich is involved. His last act to try to save the party as he knows it? Stay tuned.
Joe Miller come back?
But tales of intrigue and espionage involving Randy Ruedrich are practically cliché anymore. It would appear that another well-known Alaska Republican could be making a move for power at this year’s convention.
Remember Joe Miller?
Flashback to 2008: Joe Miller and then-Gov. Sarah Palin appeared together at the state GOP convention. Miller was flanked by body guards because, according to people who knew him, he was convinced that someone in the party was out to kill him. With Palin’s blessing, Miller was on a mission to try and oust from leadership those who embodied the “old guard” of the Alaska GOP. No one personified that more than Ruedrich. Miller wanted to succeed so badly that before he showed up, he sneaked onto the computers of his then-coworkers at the Fairbanks North Star Borough, where he was a lawyer, and tried to rig an online poll against Ruedrich.
Four years, one failed campaign for U.S. Senate, one handcuffed Alaska Dispatch journalist, and several lawsuits--including one that the Alaska Dispatch is involved in -- Miller is back. And he's still trying to reinvigorate party leadership, it would appear.
Could Miller be jockeying for a job? It’s unclear what Miller has been up to lately; there’s been some various political action committee activities, including a short stint with tea-party associated Western PAC, and he has recently been fundraising for Restore Liberty PAC, which is registered as both a state and federal PAC.
Miller does have money left over from his failed 2010 U.S. Senate campaign. As of April, federal filings indicated Miller has about $450,000 cash on hand, which he's able to use to pursue another federal office.
It was also reported in February that Miller was eyeing Alaska’s other seat in the U.S. Senate, currently held by Democrat Mark Begich.
Contact Amanda Coyne at amanda(at)alaskadispatch.com