The Alaska Republican Party has a new leader, after a tumultuous year that saw GOP gains in the legislature but a fight over direction of the party.
Debra Holle Brown will succeed Randy Ruedrich as chairman, Ruedrich said Friday.
Brown was elected vice chair during a boisterous state convention last year, when Ron Paul supporters and other non-establishment party members made their presence known. Russ Millette was elected chairman and was set to take office Friday, but party leaders meeting in Anchorage voted instead late Thursday to oust him.
A complaint filed against Millette raised questions about his work as the party's finance chairman, his affiliation with a political website and his claim to be a lifelong Republican. Ruedrich said a complaint against Brown was dismissed.
Brown said she was grateful that "reasonable minds prevailed," resulting in the complaint against her being dropped. Brown, who has described herself as having been an active member of the state party since the mid-1970s, said she is confident in her new position. Brown, of Kasilof, is a former member of the Kenai Peninsula Assembly and school board.
"It's no different from what any other administrator will do," she said of her new position. "I think that I'll be able to do a very responsible job. I'll give it my best effort, and I'm confident in myself. I believe that's a good start, right?"
Brown said she has concerns about turmoil within the party, which she said dates back to 2010. Divisions within the party at that time were over the U.S. Senate race, in which tea-party favorite Joe Miller ran unsuccessfully against Sen. Lisa Murkowski. Miller beat Murkowski in the primary but she won after mounting a write-in campaign.
"I've been through experiences in my own life where you just stay focused, you do the things that you know need to be done," she said. "I will be trying to bring people together here. We need to bring this party back to the roots of the people of Alaska, the families, the rank and file Republicans, and that's going to really help a lot, I think."
She said there is an "excellent" foundation to build upon, "so I think there are a lot of positive opportunities for the future here of the Alaska Republican party."
Ruedrich said party officials planned to meet Feb. 9 in Juneau to choose a new vice chair. He said Millette also might appeal his ouster.
Ruedrich said three other pending complaints, including one against him, are scheduled to be taken up Saturday.
By BECKY BOHRER