State GOP vies to enlist outside the party to settle primary fights

Posted: Tuesday, July 16, 2002

JUNEAU (AP) -- The Republican Party of Alaska wants you. Provided, of course, that you are like them.

The state Republican Party has begun targeted mailings to registered Libertarians, Republican Moderates and members of the Alaskan Independence Party encouraging them to switch their party affiliation.

Randy Ruedrich, chairman of the Republican Party of Alaska, said the mailings are urging the roughly 28,500 voters in those parties to change their registration to either the GOP or the ''undeclared'' category.

The switch would allow those voters to help settle 21 Republican primary races, Ruedrich said.

Libertarians and Republican Moderate candidates have no contested primary races, Ruedrich said. The Alaskan Independence Party has six candidates for governor.

Under a new election law, voters can no longer switch their party affiliation at the polls. Instead, voters must make the switch 30 days before the Aug. 27 primary.

The deadline for voters to switch political parties is July 28, said Virginia Breeze, spokeswoman for the state Division of Elections.

But Alaskans registered as nonpartisan, undeclared or consider themselves among the ''other'' parties not recognized by the state can vote in either of the six primaries held on that day, Breeze said.

This will be the first election under a new primary system in which the parties will restrict who can vote for their candidates.

The GOP-controlled Legislature passed a law last year to end the blanket primary system that has been in place since 1967.

Under the blanket primary, all political candidates are listed on one primary ballot and voters could vote could chose a Democrat in one race, a Republican in another race, and so on.

The Republican Party of Alaska objected to that system because it allowed voters from other political parties to help chose the Republican nominee to go on to the general election.

Republicans have argued that Democrats have raided past GOP primaries, resulting in weaker and less conservative candidates.

Democrats have benefited from the blanket primary in past statewide elections. Democrat Gov. Tony Knowles narrowly won his first term in 1994 after moderate Republican Jim Campbell won the GOP nod.

In that year, former Republican Lt. Gov. Jack Coghill siphoned off thousands of conservative votes by running under the Alaskan Independence Party.

The state GOP sent letters to the registered Libertarians, Republican Moderates and members of the Alaskan Independence Party last week. Another mailing is expected to be sent this week, Ruedrich said.

The GOP chose members of those political parties because their members tended to share similar conservative values, Ruedrich said.

''We're just trying to prove that our process is open to any reasonable, like-minded individual,'' Ruedrich said.

Statistics from the state Division of Elections do not show a large exodus from the three parties targeted by the GOP.

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