After a recent move to block District 31 House Rep. Paul Seaton of Homer and two other House representatives from next year’s Republican primaries, which the state has denied, district party leaders on the southern Kenai Peninsula are actively recruiting candidates to run against Seaton next fall.
Party officials say a recent court ruling gives the party a say in who is able to run on its ticket, but the Anchorage Daily News is reporting that the state Division of Elections has denied the party's request. It's unclear how the party will move forward.
Party leaders argue the three representatives deceived voters when they joined a bipartisan coalition in 2016, which took control of the House away from the Republican majority.
“These three House reps. jumped ship, abandoned their party, abandoned their team, decided to join the opposition,” Jon Faulkner said, former District 31 party chairman and current vice chairman of statewide party’s State Central Committee.
Faulkner said the local party disagrees with Seaton on more than just the House coalition.
He said Seaton has diverged from a number of key Republican issues ranging from using Permanent Fund earnings to pay for state government to taxes and government spending.
“He can’t just take from the Republican Party the cloak, or we’ll call it the label that is Republican, and call it his own,” Faulkner said. “It’s not his to identify or develop. It’s really a statewide party. It’s a statewide association.”
Faulkner recognizes that the local party’s view doesn’t necessarily represent all Republicans in the district, but notes that local precinct leaders and officers unanimously voted to oust Seaton from the primaries before taking the issue to a statewide vote on Dec. 2.
He said the party is encouraging “party loyalists” to express interest in running in next year’s primaries. Faulkner didn’t give a timeline on when the party will endorse a candidate, which he said could happen before or after the primary process, but he did say that he wants a candidate that will vote in line with the party’s platform.
District 31 Vice Chairman Jesse Clutts agrees. Clutts said he doesn’t expect candidates to take orders from the party if they’re elected, but he notes that whoever the party does support should align on key issues.
“I want somebody that’s going to protect the Permanent Fund, that’s going to protect a constitutional amendment to protect that Permanent Fund, so that the politicians can’t reach in there and grab it when they want,” Clutts explained. “Someone that’s going to look at reducing state spending and look at other options other than just taxing people.”
Seaton has represented District 31 for eight consecutive terms. He ran unopposed in 2016, but did garner 48 percent of the vote in the 2016 primaries when he ran against Anchor Point businessman John Cox and former Homer Mayor Beth Wythe.
Editor's note: This article has been updated to reflect the state Division of Election's decision to deny the Alaskan Republican Party's request to deny the three House members from the primary ballot.