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Politics

Anchorage Republican senator attacks a GOP colleague running for re-election

  • Author: Nathaniel Herz
  • Updated: November 5, 2016
  • Published November 2, 2016

A last-minute campaign-season attack on incumbent Anchorage Rep. Lance Pruitt is coming not from his Democratic opponent, Harry Crawford, but from one of his own Republican colleagues.

Retiring Anchorage GOP Sen. Lesil McGuire laid into Pruitt in a Facebook post after Pruitt posted a campaign video Tuesday about surviving a plane crash 15 years ago.

Pruitt was a key vote when the House Finance Committee this year blocked legislation, Senate Bill 128, to reduce Alaska's budget deficit with some of the Permanent Fund's investment earnings. The bill would have had a side effect of reducing Alaskans' dividends.

Restructuring the fund was a priority of McGuire's. In her post, she accused Pruitt, by voting against the legislation in June, of putting his re-election campaign before the interests of the state.

Rep. Lance Pruitt’s campaign Facebook page with Sen. Lesil McGuire’s comments before Pruitt deleted them.

"It feels to me like you gave up that day. I am grateful you survived your plane accident — for your wife and children," McGuire wrote. But, she added: "That is a separate matter. So thumbs up for your survival but thumbs down for your lack of leadership."

It's rare for lawmakers to publicly criticize their own party colleagues; McGuire didn't respond to requests for comment Wednesday.

Pruitt, who's interested in being House speaker but first must face an election challenge from Crawford, said he was a "little surprised" to see the post from McGuire. He said he hid the message from public view because he didn't think Facebook was the appropriate forum for it.

"I'm really, actually, disliking how negative the campaign this year has gotten," Pruitt said in a phone interview. "It's time to give people something positive to look for in politics right now."

At the committee hearing when Pruitt voted against SB 128, he appeared to acknowledge lawmakers would ultimately need to approve legislation like it.

"I get it. We're not going to have the ability to pay for our budget fully in the next few years without having a discussion about the earnings reserve," he told his colleagues, referring to the Permanent Fund account from which dividends are paid.

But Pruitt said he still opposed the legislation because his constituents were not "walking in lockstep with us in trying to fix this thing going forward."

Pruitt said Wednesday he thought his vote on SB 128 was "incredibly courageous," and argued that his position "protected the Permanent Fund."

"I felt the decision I made was the appropriate decision for Alaska," he said.

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