So the annual Alaska Republican Party picnic happened last night at Kincaid Park. People came and went, food was served, and politicos and candidates of all kinds were seen hobnobbing.
Here are my five takeaways from the event:
Bad Day, Smoke Filled Room
I’ve been going to the picnic for about 15 years and this was actually the first time I’ve seen it get bad weather. It was a miserable rainy day outside, so many of the fun activities you might normally see, bouncy castles, horse rides, kids frolicking on lawn, just simply couldn’t happen and it gave the event a heavier, almost business like tone.
Having the event moved entirely indoors may have contributed to another problem. At one point the chalet started filling with smoke. It got so bad I had to leave the room I was in and expected the fire alarms to go off at any second. Someone said it had to do with the cookers outside being too close to the door, but I honestly have no idea what really caused it. Whatever it was must have gotten addressed because after 20-30 minutes it seemed like the room was back to normal.
Even with the promise of meeting presidential campaign, turnout for the event still felt lighter than usual. I’m sure a lot of that had to do weather. It was also clear, however, that more than a few people who would normally be at the picnic instead went to the Anchorage Assembly hearing on AO96, the gay rights ordinance. Around 7 o’clock I left the picnic and headed over to the Assembly chambers to check out how that was going. I saw plenty of social conservatives there you might have expected to see at the party picnic.
Where Were The Presidential Campaigns?
Advertisements for the event promised “presidential campaigns will be represented.” That claim turned out to be pretty heavily misleading. Of the 16 republican presidential candidates only 5 (Jeb!, Carson, Walker, Rubio, and Cruz) paid the party the $500 fee to get a table. The Chris Christie campaign didn’t have a table but had someone walking around gathering signatures. One of the event organizers said the Rand Paul folks wanted to come but scoffed at the $500 price tag.
The Carson and Cruz tables were manned by local volunteers who didn’t seem to have much knowledge of the national campaign. Rubio’s table was manned by political consultant Art Hackney, who appeared most knowledgeable of any of the tables about his guy’s campaign. The Jeb! and Walker campaigns each had a staffer flown in for the day.
All of the campaigns present were gathering signatures because party rules require them to get at least 50 Alaska republican signatures, with no more than 10 coming from any one legislative district, to put them in the March Presidential Preference Poll (PPP),that is what the Alaska GOP calls its primary election.
I talked with Tom Anderson, who is working with Trump’s people, and he said they had no interest in attending the event. Normally I would be shocked by that, but it kinda sounds like Trump, doesn’t it?
If the level of commitment by campaigns shown at the GOP picnic is any indication, look for Scott Walker and Marco Rubio to do well in the PPP.
Local Candidates Already Gearing Up
Local assembly candidates Joe Riggs, Adam Trombley, and Ira Perman all made it to the event. Riggs and Trombley both had tables with collateral materials and yard signs. That is pretty impressive considering the election is still 7 months away.
On a personal note, I really like Riggs campaign logo design. It is simple, elegant, and pleasing to the eye. He told me the work can be attributed to local graphic artist Paxson Woelber.
Perman deciding to go is an interesting addition to what is already shaping up to be a very, very interesting West Anchorage assembly race. Look for my article on that in the coming days.
Republicans Embrace Pay for Play
Part of the evening’s festivities included a party presidential straw poll…with a twist. Everyone got a vote , but you could also make a $10 donation to the party and get 10 additional votes. Alaska GOP flack Suzanne Downing, who was manning the effort, referred to the first method as “garage politics” and the latter as “Chicago style politics.”I’m not exactly sure what the “pay for play” idea was supposed to do exactly. I can’t imagine they raised that much money off it and the optics are questionable. Maybe it was just a teaching tool, you know, for the little republican kids.