ANCHORAGE - The Republican Party of Alaska has replaced its longtime attorney, Ken Jacobus.
While praising his 15 years of service, party co-chairman Randy Ruedrich said many of the issues that interest Jacobus these days "might be seen as being in conflict with our principles."
In January, Jacobus filed suit in state court on behalf of a group favoring the legalization of marijuana. The suit challenges Lt. Gov. Loren Leman's disqualification of a petition containing more than 50,000 signatures that would put a decriminalization initiative on the next statewide ballot.
He also has represented other initiative groups, including Alaskans for Efficient Government, which backed a 2002 effort to move legislative sessions from Juneau to Anchorage or the Mat-Su area, and Tax Cap Yes, which backed a statewide tax cap in 2000.
"Ken believes in people's unequivocal right to maximize the use of the initiative process," Ruedrich told the Anchorage Daily News. "I personally - and I think most Republicans - believe we elect people to change the laws in an orderly manner in the legislative process."
Jacobus agreed he is a passionate believer in an unfettered initiative process, even when he disagrees with the issue.
"I know people don't believe it, but I don't smoke marijuana," he said. "The people's right to initiatives is crucial regardless of the subject."
Jacobus does not always toe the party line in other areas. In April he testified before the Senate Resources Committee against a bill supported by Gov. Frank Murkowski that would have changed court rules to limit public-interest litigants. Jacobus said people should be able to sue the government when it's doing something wrong.
Ruedrich and Jacobus said the changing of the guard was amicable.
"Ken will still be doing things for and with the party when he is the best person," Ruedrich said.
"I have no problem with it," Jacobus said. "It's been wonderful working with the Republican Party, and I look forward to doing so in the future."
Republican officials named Anchorage attorney Bill Large as the party's new counselor, which remains an unpaid volunteer position. Large is the District 25 chairman for the Republican Party and a partner in the Anchorage firm of Hosie Frost Large & McArthur. His focus is oil and gas litigation.
An announcement of the change was made May 31 at the party's central committee meeting in Homer, where Jacobus was honored for his many battles on behalf of the party.
Jacobus was one of three activists who won a decision in federal court two years ago removing state limits on corporate contributions to a political party. In another case, the Republican Party, represented by Jacobus, joined with Alaska's four recognized minor parities in support of the 2002 instant run-off ballot measure.