Alaska News

GOP presidential candidate Rand Paul plans Alaska campaign stops

Echoing a similar trip made by his father in 2012, Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul will make two campaign stops in Alaska Tuesday.

The Kentucky senator is scheduled to make public appearances in both Anchorage and Fairbanks. Both events are free to the public.

It's the start of Paul's "Stand with Rand" western states campaign, with planned stops in Idaho, Washington, Utah and Wyoming. Paul is also scheduled to attend several private fundraisers while in Alaska.

While other presidential campaigns have quietly started work in Alaska, Paul appears to be the first announced Republican candidate to make an Alaska appearance ahead of the 2016 election. Fellow Republican candidate Sen. Ted Cruz visited Alaska in November -- before he'd announced his intention to run for president -- in an effort to rally support for Dan Sullivan, who was then a candidate for U.S. Senate.

Paul's stop also comes days ahead of a planned visit from President Barack Obama focused on climate change.

Sergio Gor, communications director for the Paul campaign, said in a phone interview Monday Paul's trip was planned before the White House announced Obama's visit.

Still, Gor said Paul would offer a "a bit of pre-buttal" to the president and "offer our vision of what the senator will be doing if elected."

Paul's visit mirrors similar Alaska campaign stops from his father, Ron Paul, who ran for president in 2012. Gor said Rand Paul's trip was "absolutely capitalizing" on the groundswell of support from his father's 2012 campaign.

"We're fighting for every voter out there," he said. "A lot of his father's supporters are supporting (Rand Paul)."

But large turnouts in two Alaska rallies just before 2012's Super Tuesday didn't translate to a big win for Ron Paul in the Alaska Republican caucus. Ron Paul took 24 percent of the vote in 2012, behind Rick Santorum and eventual Republican nominee Mitt Romney.

Still, Ron Paul supporters lingered in the state, causing disruption at the Alaska GOP Convention a month after the primary that eventually led to a major shakeup in Republican Party leadership.

Alaska Republican Party Chairman Peter Goldberg said the Paul campaign was in contact with the party ahead of the scheduled events. On Monday, the party sent out an email notifying people of the rallies, specifically noting the email was a "service, not an endorsement."

Goldberg reiterated in a phone interview Monday the party has not endorsed a candidate for president, nor would it, until after the primary.

Goldberg said he has personally met Paul and several other Republican presidential candidates. As party chairman with a "neutral" position, he admitted Paul visiting was "not quite as exciting" for him personally.

"But for the average person who follows politics it is very exciting," he said.

Someone who does seem excited? Former Gov. Sarah Palin, who posted in support of Paul's Alaska rally Monday. She wrote she would not attend, but hopes Paul has time for "some moose chili or Eskimo ice cream" while visiting.

Paul's first rally in Anchorage is scheduled for 10 a.m. at the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Anchorage. The Fairbanks rally is set for 2:30 p.m. at the Westmark Fairbanks Hotel.

Suzanna Caldwell

Suzanna Caldwell is a former reporter for Alaska Dispatch News and Alaska Dispatch. She left the ADN in 2017.