What do Reps. Chuck Kopp and David Eastman have in common?
Well, other than a simmering feud over legislative procedure, they’re both the target of a last-minute campaign funded by Outside Republicans as part of a larger effort rid the Legislature of Republicans who’ve refused to toe the party line.
According to filings with the Alaska Public Offices Commission, the Republican State Leadership Committee has dropped $150,000 into Alaska’s primary election to oppose Kopp and Eastman while supporting several other party-line candidates running in contested Republican primaries for the House.
- $24,898 to oppose Kopp in a primary against Tom McKay
- $20,245 to oppose Eastman in a primary against Jesse Sumner
- $21,198 to support former Rep. Lynn Gattis’ attempt to rejoin the Legislature
- $15,946 to support Rep. George Rauscher against challenger LD Howard
- $3,000 to support David Nelson, who’s running against Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux
- $1,790 to support James Kaufman, who’s running against Rep. Jennifer Johnston
Kopp and Eastman are at nearly opposite ends of the Republican political spectrum and frequently sparred publicly during the legislative session. Kopp, a member of the bipartisan majority coalition, is the House Rules Chair responsible for maintaining the process in the House while Eastman, a far-right Republican who got the boot from minority Republicans, took it upon himself to largely derail the process.
The unifying characteristic, along with several other “moderate” Republicans facing contested primaries this year, is that they didn’t fall in line behind Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s agenda.
While Eastman was out on his own, those moderate Republican representatives joined Democrats, independents and the Republican-controlled Senate to oppose the worst of Dunleavy’s first two years in office, which included calling for deep cuts to education, the state ferry system and several other areas in service of paying out a full-sized dividend to Alaskans.
Several of the Republicans who caucuses with Democrats represent wealthier parts of the state where reductions to the dividend wouldn’t make as large of an impact as implementing alternative forms of revenue such as income taxes or oil taxes.
Former GOP Chairman and former Dunleavy Chief of Staff Tuckerman Babcock has been busily mounting opposition to several of those Republicans, like Senate Rules Committee Chair Sen. John Coghill, R-North Pole.
“After decades in Juneau, time for John Coghill to retire. A good man, but wrong on so many issues,” Babcock wrote in a July 30 Facebook post promoting former Outside budget director Donna Arduin’s endorsement of Coghill’s primary challenger Robert Myers. “Coghill fought the Dunleavy balanced budget. He refused to attend the Special Session. He authored the terrible crime bill, SB91. He taxed your PFD $2,000 each. He supports control through a ‘binding caucus.’”
Still, few Republicans have directly taken on Babcock or similar efforts at restoring a compliant Republican majority to the Legislature—some like Rep. Johnston have even distributed mailers calling to “Take back the House.”
A campaign mailer by LeDoux, who’s long been a thorn in the GOP’s side, turns the issue into a selling point. It features a picture of former Babcock with a photoshopped cigar in his mouth and reads, “The party bosses at it again,” says the mailer. “They want you to vote for their handpicked candidate. A 23-year-old who will do whatever they want.”