Republicans Deny Allegations of Rule-Breaking in Preference Poll

Alaska’s Super Tuesday events infused the state’s Republican Party with new blood. Young voters registered in large numbers to vote in the 2012 Presidential Preference Poll and to participate in district conventions. But, many are not feeling a warm welcome from party veterans and some are even alleging rule-breaking in Super Tuesday’s process.

Late last Tuesday night, Randy Ruedrich, the Chair of Alaska’s Republican Party declared Mitt Romney as the winner in Alaska’s Presidential Preference Poll. Ruedrich, says participation in Tuesday’s events was a high.

“We know we’re over 13-705, which is what we had four years ago, so we’re going to end up with a larger number of ballots cast.”

But not everyone who participated is happy. Evan Cutler is the volunteer organizer for the grassroots group, ‘Alaskans for Ron Paul 2012’, which has 650 or so members on Facebook. Cutler says Tuesday night his email inbox was overflowing with complaints.

“We were receiving reports from a variety of people about different kinds of irregularities, like people complaining that they’d been turned away from the polls, even thought they’d registered to vote.”

District 18 encompasses all of downtown Anchorage and includes Bootleggers Cove, Government Hill, the South Addition, Fairview and areas adjacent to Merrill Field. Conventions for 6 districts, including district 18 were held at The Al Aska Shrine — that also happens to be Ruedrich’s voting District.

“What I was told happened in that district, was that a certain number of people had shown up for Romney and that a certain number of people had shown up for Ron Paul, all wanting to be delegates, and that people there realized that they didn’t have a definite majority and in order to keep Ron Paul from people from being in the delegate slots, stalled the meeting and took time to call people on the phone and get people to participate remotely.”

Rachel Drinkard is the Entertainment Editor at the Anchorage Press, and a young Republican who got fired up by Ron Paul. She was at the District 18 convention, and is one of the people alleging rule-breaking there.

“I was really turned off by the way that we were treated and the conduct of the leadership of the republican party in Alaska.”

Drinkard was so turned off, that she wrote a letter to the editor at the paper where she works, which appeared last Thursday. Her main complaint: Cronyism and old guard Republicans not following their own rules.

“There was an attempt at proxy voting which is strictly verboten by Roberts Rules of Order, which they claim to follow. Then they had a botched attempt at desperate teleconferencing. Throughout this process, nobody could produce any rules that made what they were doing okay. Just by an large I got the feeling that we were walking into an old boy’s club and they expected to carry on business as usual and they seemed surprised when we took issue with it.”

David Eastman says, each of those things, if true, constitute clear violations of party rules. He’s the chair for Region 3 of the Alaska Republican Party, representing Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Eagle River and the Mat-Su Valley.

“In the four years that I’ve served on the state central committee my experience unfortunately has been that the organization really does serve more like a club than an organization and so those that are on the in that club treat it as such.”

Eastman has served as the chairman of his district rules committee and as the chairman of the Mat-Su valley regional convention rules committee. He’s a rule expert. His impression of the process?

“Unfortunately some feel entitled that the vote should go their way regardless, and so if it doesn’t then they look for ways of making sure that it does.”

State Senator John Coghill, from District F, the North Pole area, has been involved with the Republican Party in Alaska for 15 or so years. He says he’s challenged Ruedrich on ethics issues before and this is not the first time Ruedrich has been accused of bending the rules to his advantage. According to the Department of Law, Ruedrich violated the Ethics Act in 2003 by using state resources for partisan political activity while serving in a state agency that regulates oil and gas development. Reudrich admitted to some of those charges and paid a $12,000 fine. He also resigned from his position on the Oil and Gas Commission. Coghill says the new allegations are disheartening.

“Randy is one that wants to control the meeting so quite often he’ll use the rules to his advantage. And if he misused them and put the Ron Paul people at a disadvantage, then shame on him.”

The offices of Republican National Committee in Washington D.C. were contacted for this story. RNC officials responded by email saying, they hope the issue can be resolved in state and that proxy voting is not authorized during a district convention. Back in Alaska, Ron Paul organizer Evan Cutler says he’s setting up an online forum for voters to document their experiences. Despite their concerns, both Cutler and Drinkard say they will be at the state Republican convention next month pushing for more transparency and a change in leadership in Alaska’s Republican Party. Ruedrich categorically denies the allegations that he broke any rules and insists the newcomer’s complaints are just sour grapes.

“In General I was very pleased. We’ve probably gotten five favorable messages to every unfavorable message that we’ve received. Some of the unfavorable messages have been helpful in improving the process.”

District conventions are continuing throughout the state until March 24. The State Convention is scheduled to take place in Anchorage April 26-28.

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Daysha Eaton is the News Director at KBBI in Homer. Daysha Eaton holds a B.A. from Evergreen State College, and a M.A. from the University of Southern California. Daysha got her start in radio at Seattle public radio stations, KPLU and KUOW. Before coming to KBBI, she was the News Director at KYUK in Bethel. She has also worked as the Southcentral Reporter for KSKA in Anchorage. Daysha's work has appeared on NPR's "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered", PRI's "The World" and "National Native News". She's happy to take assignments, and to get news tips, which are best sent via email. Daysha became a journalist because she believes in the power of storytelling. Stories connect us and they help us make sense of our world. They shed light on injustice and they comfort us in troubled times. She got into public broadcasting because it seems to fulfill the intention of the 4th Estate and to most effectively apply the freedom of the press granted to us through the Constitution. She feels that public radio has a special way of moving people emotionally through sound, taking them to remote places, introducing them to people they would not otherwise meet and compelling them to think about issues they might ordinarily overlook.