Alaska's U.S. Senator Ted Stevens and Congressman Don Young have come under considerable scrutiny over investigations being directed towards them. Not only have both have endured media criticism, but Don Young has already attracted two semi-marquee Democratic opponents, Diane Benson and current state Democratic Party Chairman Jake Metcalfe. A report on this development also aired on KTUU Channel 2.
But for the first time, a prominent Republican has fired a serious shot across the bow. In a letter to the editor published in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner on August 19th, 2007, State Representative Mike Kelly (pictured above left), who represents House District 7 in Fairbanks, called for Senator Stevens and Congressman Young not to run for re-election in 2008.
Rep. Kelly begins the letter by reminding us that the Alaska Republican Party has traditionally been the home of a solid conservative agenda built upon individual responsibility, limited government, development of human and natural resource potential, solid ethics and traditional family values (which contrasts favorably with the national Republican "kahn-servative" agenda of imposing "democracy" by force worldwide, Israel-worship, open borders, and corporate predation). But he believes ethical change is necessary, fearing that if key party members don't set the example, voters will do it for them. Left unspoken is the possibility that voters might decide to punish the Republican Party by turning the state legislature into a Democratic preserve in 2008.
In order to rebuild public trust and confidence, and to effectively complement the ethical reforms promoted by Governor Sarah Palin, Rep. Kelly believes some self-sacrifice is necessary. Here are his suggestions from his letter:
- Senator Ted Stevens would announce his intent to retire at the end of his current term and support the strongest conservative candidate that comes forth to replace him in the next election.
- Congressman Don Young would take the same action to contribute to the re-birth of his party.
- Senate Rules Chair John Cowdery would, in the same spirit, resign his Alaska Senate seat to permit Governor Palin to appoint a replacement in time for the special session beginning October 18.
- Alaska Republican Party Chairman Randy Ruedrich would join the effort by announcing his intent to resign and assist his replacement in the transition.
Since the next election isn't until 2008, and Rep. Kelly has not yet declared his intent to run for re-election, his letter to the editor shouldn't be written off as "pre-election posturing". Rep. Kelly, in a quiet and dignified way, has a track record for placing principle ahead of popularity. In 2005, he willingly tackled the thorny problem of public sector pension reform when rising health-related pension costs were threatening to swamp the state treasury, ultimately producing a money-saving plan in which future state workers would be enrolled in defined-contribution plans rather than defined-benefit plans.
And Rep. Kelly's integrity and effectiveness were rewarded by the District 7 voters in 2008, when they re-elected him to a second two-year term in the Alaska State House. Kelly earned 56% of the vote, swamping his Democratic challenger by nearly 17 percentage points.
Commentary: Rep. Kelly is to be commended for his unusual political courage in swimming against the party tide. He's not your typical party apparatchik.
However, replacing Stevens' and Young's seniority in Congress is easier said than done. And with America's escalating debt combined with growing financial needs, competing for increasingly scarce financial resources will be difficult enough even for experienced war horses like Stevens and Young. A couple of rookies might be overwhelmed initially, and we still have no natural gas pipeline contract to serve as our next golden parachute. Even if a natural gas pipeline contract were signed today, it might be as late as 2017 before production actually begins. So unless Stevens and Young actually get caught with their hands in the cookie jar, we should probably keep them in office.
It would probably be a good idea for Rep. John Cowdery to publicly announce that he won't seek re-election in 2008. Rep. Cowdery's name has been somewhat tarnished by the VECO scandals (although he's not been indicted), and he's getting old. It's time for him to retire. This would be a relatively painless sacrifice to symbolize reform.
This leaves state Republican Party Chairman Randy Ruedrich. While the party has been quite successful during his stewardship, he's been the subject of considerable controversy. Don't forget, when Ruedrich was serving on the Alaska Oil & Gas Conservation Commission, he was caught doing party business on committee time (then-fellow commissioner Sarah Palin blew the whistle on him) and fined $12,000. He feuded with the Palin campaign during much of the 2006 campaign. And while he's apparently buried the hatchet with Sarah Palin, the VECO corruption scandals occurred during his watch, which, combined with his own checkered past, makes his continued presence a liability. Ruedrich's voluntary resignation would dramatically symbolize the Alaska Republican Party's renewed commitment to ethics, and, by itself, might be enough to halt the erosion of public confidence.
News Flash: Maybe Mike Kelly is more prescient than I thought. Just moments ago, according to a KTUU news brief, McClatchy Newspapers reports the Justice Department's corruption unit is now investigating Rep. Don Young's $10 million earmark for the Coconut Road extension project in Florida. Criminy - when does it stop.