It has only been a week since the 2016 general election and the Alaska Republican Party is already making major changes. The Party now has a new office and a new staffer to run it.
Josh Walton, a former legislative staffer and Republican campaign veteran, has been tapped to take over the Party’s day-to-day operations as their executive director.
It was Walton’s blend of experience within the different realms of Alaska politics that made him the ideal candidate according to interviews this afternoon with party leadership. The Party’s Vice-Chairman Rick Whitbeck said, “He’s well-rounded. He’s worked policy, he’s worked campaigns, he’s worked legislative. He understands all three of those worlds.“
Alaska Republican Party Chairman Tuckerman Babcock echoed those feelings and added other important factors in their decision to go with Walton saying, “He went to Claremont University and understands databases. He knows how to use data and that has become and very important element in campaigns.” He added, “Josh and I have known each other a long time so there is a trust factor there that is important in political operations.”
Walton most recently ran Marilyn Stewart’s campaign for state house in West Anchorage and spent the last legislative session working for the Rasmuson Foundation in an effort to get lawmakers to adopt a comprehensive solution to the state budget crisis.
Before that, according to his LinkedIn page, Walton worked as a legislative aide to Rep. Liz Vazquez, Rep. Craig Johnson, and Rep. Mia Costello. He also worked on political campaigns in Alaska going back to 1996. Some of those campaigns include John Lindauer for Governor, Dave Cuddy’s 1996 challenge to Sen. Ted Stevens, and Babcock’s mother-in-law Sen. Lyda Green’s re-election bid in 1998.
For our part, we applaud the choice of Walton. He has both the political knowledge and experience the position demands, but also a temperament such an organization requires.
Working inside a political party is like setting up shop in the eye of a hurricane. Things may seem calm and boring in the office, but in a moment any one of a thousand storms brewing within the party or in state or even national politics can burst through the door and consume your day.
Walton has an easy-going, easy-to-like disposition. He has little need for the spotlight and demonstrates little interest in stirring up internal battles. He is the perfect choice to be the adult that helps put out intraparty fires, rather than the egocentric type such a position can attract who might end up starting or fanning them.
What role Walton will fill as ED and what his exact duties will be are still being fleshed out. He’ll likely take over the party’s scaled down, post-election communication duties, manage databases, coordinate party fundraising activities, plan party events, and oversee administrative operations and party staff on a day-to-day basis.
Whitbeck said of Walton’s role, “He’s going to be the everyday point of contact for the Party. That allows Tuckerman and I to focus more on the strategic side and campaigns.”
According to Babcock, Walton will officially start tomorrow, November 16. That will coincide with the termination of party Communications Director Suzanne Downing’s employment.
The deal isn’t final just yet, however, according to Babcock. The Party’s State Central Committee (SCC) must approve the terms and conditions of Walton’s employment at their meeting in early December. At this point, though that looks like a mere formality.
NEW HOME NEEDED
The first order of business for Walton will be moving the Party into their new temporary offices and perhaps finding a new permanent home.
On August 27th, republicans moved out of their longtime home at 1001 W. Fireweed Ln and into a few hundred square feet of space in the corner of Rep. Don Young’s campaign office.
Obviously, the changing nature of candidates and campaigns necessitated they find space not housed in an individual candidate’s campaign headquarters. So party leaders have worked out a temporary deal to co-locate with Republican pollster Dittman Research at 502 W. Potter Dr. #9 .
Should we read any more into the Party choosing to co-locate with a pollster other than the opportunity to find decent office space at an affordable price? Whitbeck would only say coyly, “Considering that we use them a lot, there is a value to being co-located with them.” He wouldn’t elaborate what the nature of that value might be.
It is a bold move, well maybe not a bold one, but certainly one that breaks with tradition. For the last two decades, most offices for the Republican and Democratic parties and their campaigns have been located along a corridor running down Fireweed or Northern Lights Blvd. The AK GOP’s move all the way down to Potter Dr. may be a good one from a party operations standpoint, but wow, does it throw off the political fung shui in Anchorage.
Babcock said he is actively looking for a longer term solution. He expects to have something to present to the SCC at their meeting in May.