State Division of Elections denies GOP primary block

Rep. Paul Seaton, R-Homer, works at his desk in the House Chambers. (Photo by Skip Gray/360 North)

The Alaska Division of Elections has denied the Alaska Republican Party’s request to block three incumbent House Republicans from running in the party’s 2018 primaries.

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The party wrote a letter to the division on Dec. 4 asking that Homer Rep. Paul Seaton, Anchorage Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux and Rep. Louise Stutes of Kodiak be blocked from the primary ballot as a repercussion for violating a party rule against caucusing with other political parties when there’s a Republican majority.

All three representatives joined a bipartisan coalition in 2016, which took control of the House away from the Republican majority.

State Elections Director Josie Bahnke said the division responded to the party’s request on Dec. 7.

“We decided not to take any action at this time for a couple of reasons,” Bahnke explained.

Bahnke said that the party missed the Sept. 1 deadline to make rule changes to its primary process and that its request also clashes with state law.

“The request clashes with the law allowing any registered Republican to run in the Republican primary,” Bahnke said. “Lastly, none of the three candidates targeted by the proposed rule change has yet filed for re-election in 2018. So really, any action by the division would be premature at this time.”

State Republican Party leaders voted to make the rule change earlier this month, arguing that an October court ruling in a case between the Alaska Democratic Party and the state allowed them to add the primary block as a repercussion for violating the existing party rule.

Alaska Republican Party Chairman Tuckerman Babcock disagrees with the division’s decision.

“But of course the judge’s decision recognizing the right to do it wasn’t until October. So, I don’t think that will hold up,” Babcock said. “The second thing was that it’s premature because none of the three Republicans who joined the Democrats have filed for re-election yet. That has nothing to do with enforcing our rule or not.”

Babcock said the party might join Democrats in their lawsuit. The Democratic Party wants to allow independents to run in its primaries.  The state appealed the case to the Alaska Supreme Court and it will taken back up in March. Babcock also noted the party might consider filing its own case in federal court.

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