The communications coordinator for the Capital City Republicans praised outgoing Alaska Republican Party Chairman Randy Ruedrich Friday and said the ouster of the party’s chairman-elect by its executive committee late in the week appeared to be for a good reason.
Ben Brown, who is also a columnist for the Juneau Empire, said he was not at the rowdy convention last year in Anchorage at which Russ Millette, a supporter of then-Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, a two-time insurgent Republican presidential candidate, who was little known in Alaska Republican circles, was elected to the chairmanship, nor was he present for the executive committee meeting Thursday night at which Millette was denied the position. But Brown said he has been following the story.
“The person who was elected, Mr. Millette, was apparently not in a position to be able to do the job he was elected to do,” Brown said without elaborating.
Paul supporters turned out en masse for the Republican convention last year and were able to elect like-minded officers, including Alicé Leuchte of Juneau as party secretary.
Leuchte did not respond to repeated requests for comment Friday.
Debra Brown — who is not related to Ben Brown — was elected vice-chairwoman of the party at the convention as well. With Millette ousted before he could take office Friday, she is now chairwoman. She was not interviewed for this story.
After the convention, Ruedrich transferred some $100,000 from the Alaska Republican Party to the Capital City Republicans, funds that were later returned.
That maneuver was repeated Thursday with a smaller sum, slightly less than $40,000 marked for distribution to Republican legislative candidates.
“It was simply a matter of safekeeping,” said Ben Brown, stressing that the Capital City Republicans will not make spending decisions with that money. He said the transfer was made to keep control of the funds out of the hands of “untrustworthy” incoming officials before the executive committee voted to deny Millette the chairmanship.
Asked if the Capital City Republicans would transfer those funds back to the state party now that Millette’s chairmanship has been forestalled, Brown was noncommittal.
“When the time is appropriate, that would be what we would want to do,” said Brown.
Brown also offered warm words for the often controversial Ruedrich, who has been a major player in the Republican Party since the 1980s and was chairman since 2000.
“He was an effective party chairman,” Brown said, citing Ruedrich’s ability to raise money for the party and noting that he presided over a period of increasing Republican strength at the state level in Alaska.
With Ruedrich now gone as chairman, and a lesser-known quantity in Debra Brown — a Kasilof resident who is a former Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly Member and ran unsuccessfully for borough mayor in 2011 — now in charge, Ben Brown said there has been “a significant change of leadership in the state party.”
“Obviously, things are still very much in transition,” Brown said. “I look forward to meeting the new chairwoman. I hope that she has a vision of a party that is a big tent.”
But Brown indicated he does not see the leadership drama as a large detriment to the party, as the Paul-affiliated national nonprofit organization Campaign for Liberty warned in a statement Friday.
“The Republican Party in Alaska is alive and well,” Brown said.
Meanwhile, Rep. Cathy Muñoz, R-Juneau, the only Republican in Juneau’s legislative delegation, declined to comment on Millette Friday evening.
“Frankly, I’m not involved in Republican politics at that level,” Muñoz said. “I’m much more involved locally.”
• Contact reporter Mark D. Miller at 586-1821 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.