A handful of supporters of U.S. Senate candidate Joe Miller, the Republican turned Libertarian, staged an amicable separation from the Alaska Republican Party's leadership last weekend.
A half-dozen members of the state central committee, including local district chairs, are leaving their posts so they don't run afoul of Republican rules barring them from promoting anyone other than the party's official candidate, in this case incumbent GOP U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, said party spokeswoman Suzanne Downing.
Among the departing officials is Ron Johnson, who chaired District 12 in the Mat-Su until he resigned Sunday. He and the other Miller supporters made their decisions in tandem with what Johnson described as a "frank, open discussion" among party officials at a Saturday meeting in Palmer.
Johnson and Downing both said they were pleased that Saturday's meeting was relatively subdued — in contrast to the Republican acrimony that surrounded Murkowski's write-in campaign after Miller won the 2010 GOP primary for the same U.S. Senate seat.
"I was just going, 'Are you kidding me? This is like a love-in,' " Downing said. "The party's really pulled together."
But Johnson was also blunt about how he felt about Murkowski and why he's choosing to support Miller instead.
"We clearly have a Republican nominated for U.S. Senate that does not hold my values, and that's Lisa Murkowski," Johnson said. "We believe, many of us, that she violates the Republican platform in the votes and the things she does."
Asked for examples, Johnson, a social conservative, pointed to Murkowski's past support for Planned Parenthood and same-sex marriage.
A spokesman for Murkowski's campaign, Robert Dillon, said Murkowski remains pro-life but also recognizes that "the Supreme Court has ruled on Roe v. Wade" — the landmark 1973 decision that upheld abortion rights.
Murkowski, Dillon added, is "very strong on pro-business, pro-economic issues, getting government out of peoples' lives and allowing Alaska to develop its resources for the good of its citizens."
"There's always disagreements within a party," Dillon said. "It's got a lot of people involved."
Johnson said he plans to remain a member of the Republican Party and hopes to be restored to his leadership position after the November election. He said he's accepted a position as co-chair for Miller's campaign in the Mat-Su.