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State GOP chairman calls action of incumbent Sen. Ward 'improper'

'Misleading' letter irks candidate

Posted: Friday, August 18, 2000

The Republican challenger for Senate District E cried foul Thursday when he found the name and logo of the Republican Party of Alaska on a local district's endorsement for the incumbent.

"With that flier and that information -- with the Republican Party of Alaska and that logo -- (incumbent Sen. Jerry Ward) misled people to believe that the Alaska Republican Party was endorsing him," said Anchorage Republican Brad Brown, who has challenged Ward, R-Anchorage, for the Republican nomination to represent Kenai, Nikiski and South Anchorage.

Ward said the endorsements came from the District 9 convention, which represents Kenai and Nikiski, and the District 10 convention, which represents South Anchorage. Senate District E includes House Districts 9 and 10.

Ward said the District 9 and 10 conventions endorsed him last spring. The district chairs sent him a letter, and he mailed that to every registered Republican in Senate District E. Brown received his copy Wednesday.

Beneath the return address, Ward's flier bears the statewide party logo -- an elephant with Alaska for the head and the trunk -- and the words "Information from the Republican Party of Alaska."

The flip side reads, "Senator Jerry Ward has received the unanimous endorsement of District 9 (Kenai & Nikiski) and District 10 (S. Anchorage) of the Republican Party of Alaska for the upcoming Senatorial race..."

Ward said the statewide name and logo were on the letter he received from the districts, and he saw nothing improper about using them.

"They are the Republican Party of Alaska District 9 and the Republican Party of Alaska District 10," he said. "It's absolutely authorized, and if it wasn't authorized, they shouldn't have sent it to me. The proper procedure was followed by the Republican Party and the people in House District 9 and House District 10."

Randolph A. Ruedrich, chair of the Republican Party of Alaska, said the districts can and do endorse primary election candidates. Once a district votes to endorse a candidate, it can approach the statewide party for an endorsement. That would come from the party's central committee.

"But nobody has done that," he said. "For that reason, to indicate that it's the Republican Party of Alaska is an overstatement. To reference it as a District 9 and 10 Republican Party activity and show the logo, I would have no problem with that. But to show it as the statewide party only would be improper. I assume it was a technical oversight."

Brown called it a clear attempt to mislead voters just days before the Aug. 22 primary.

"Jerry timed his mailer perfectly, leaving us little time to re-educate the public to the fact that he did not receive an endorsement from the Republican Party of Alaska," Brown said in a printed statement. "Prior to this mailer, we felt we had pulled ahead. Jerry knows that a public perception of our party's endorsement could tip the scales back to his favor."

Ward said Brown should have been aware of the district endorsements -- except that Brown did not attend either district convention.

"This is just a last-minute ploy to get his name in the paper," Ward said.

George Martin, who chaired District 9 when the convention was held, said he has a real problem with Brown.

"He's pulling a real Democratic trick with this crap," Martin said. "This is garbage. He's trying to make it sound like Jerry didn't have that endorsement, but he did. District 9 and District 10 did endorse him. To play games about whether it's on the front of the card or the back is garbage. The card clearly states who endorsed him. We never suggested the statewide party endorsed him."

The endorsement was signed by Tommy Thompson, who has replaced Martin as District 9 chair, and by Craig Johnson, who chairs District 10. Thompson was traveling Thursday and could not be reached.

Johnson said he simply signed the letter written by Thompson and had not seen Ward's flier. Use of the statewide logo may have been an error, he said.

"But I can use that as district chairman," he said. "We voted. There wasn't a single dissenting vote. Jerry's done a good job for the district and we certainly want to see him back in Juneau. Brad Brown has never even talked to me. I think he even lives in my district. He never approached me before, during or after."

Brown said he received no notices announcing the district conventions, saw no advertisements and was unaware when they took place. He said he had no plans formally to protest Ward's flier to the party.

"I just wanted to bring it to the attention of voters that this wasn't an officially sanctioned mailing through the Republican Party of Alaska," he said.

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