The belief among local Republican Party officials that Rep. Jim Colver (R-Palmer) is working to form a bipartisan majority coalition in the state house, and that his voting in opposition to the House’s Republican leadership too often appears to be growing. Now multiple local party officials are openly searching for pressure that the party establishment can exert to bring Colver “back in line.”
As reported by Matt Buxton of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner this morning:
On Monday, the Republican Party leadership of House District 9, which spans from Delta Junction to Valdez and Colver’s hometown of Palmer, sent Colver a l
etter threatening “stiff sanctions” for his recent actions.
The letter notes in the last week Colver stepped out of line when he voted against three Republican-backed bills and amended another.
The chief complaint, however, is that Colver is “collaborating in the creation of a caucus/coalition with Democrats in order to form a bipartisan House majority.”
The letter by Carol Carman, the chair of the District 9 Republicans, notes the allegations are unsubstantiated but offers Colver’s voting record from last week as evidence.
“Your recent voting record and other behavior is concrete evidence that you are allied with the minority,” she wrote.
The same article notes that Colver has denied the allegations.
That denial doesn’t appear to have done much to appease Republican Party faithful in the Mat-Su. This morning Chairwoman of Republican Party District 7 Glenda Ledford, which encompasses the Greater Wasilla area and neighbors Colver’s District 9, distributed a letter addressed to Colver that parroted many of the same concerns in Carman’s letter:
The letters from local party leaders come on the heels of the vaguely-worded section of the Monday’s Alaska Republican Party email newsletter indicating that the party is looking at unspecified “sanctions” to levy against certain unnamed incumbents for working with members of the opposition party:
“ARTICLE 9 SECTION 4: Deep in the rules of the Alaska Republican Party is the item that gives districts and the State Central Committee the ability to sanction incumbents who caucus, collaborate or connive with members of the opposition party in the pursuit of a Democratic-led caucus. We hear rumblings that district leaders are examining the section with an eye toward asking the Party Rules Committee to strengthen it to help straighten the backbone of the squishiest incumbents who may be creating unholy alliances.
It’s been done before, but not for a few years, and usually only when district leaders feel deeply betrayed by their representatives. The party is stronger than it has been in years, so this could be real.”
It’s unclear what, if any, substantive or impactful sanctions the party can impose, much less enforce, on incumbents that don’t tow the Establishment’s line. Political parties can refuse to funnel money or organizational support to candidates, but parties can’t prevent candidates from running on their own primary ballot. By rule, party officials are also obligated to support whoever wins the Republican Party nomination for any office.
It’s worth noting that Sen. Charlie Huggins, who currently represents Senate District D—which contains Ledford’s District 7— did caucus with a mostly Democrat Senate majority coalition from 2007 – 2010. Huggins even served as the then-Bipartisan Working Group’s Rules Chairman from 2009-2010. Even so, he faced no sanctions from the Republican Party at the statewide or local level.