Friday, February 01, 2013
Anchorage Republicans Reject Russ Millette, Next Stop Juneau; Debra Brown Becomes Acting Chair
On January 31st, 2013, members of the Alaska Republican Party's Executive Committee met in Anchorage and voted to remove Russ Millette as chairman-elect of the party. However, this is no yet over; the final resolution will come at the first meeting of the State Central Committee scheduled for February 9th in Juneau, at which time Millette will appeal the ruling against him. Vice-Chair Elect Debra Brown successfully defended herself at the meeting and becomes the party's Acting Chair. The best stories so far were published by the Washington Times (slightly tilted in Millette's favor) and Alaska Dispatch (more neutral).
Although Millette clearly has been ineffectual during much of his tenure, the whole process has been unsavory. First of all, last night's meeting was originally supposed to occur on February 1st, when new members of the Executive Committee would be installed, but the date was changed at the last minute to January 31st before the new committee members could be installed. Secondly, right before the meeting, outgoing Chairman Randy Ruedrich cleaned out the party treasury of $35,000 and transferred the money to a bank in Juneau out of control of the Executive Committee; this is considered a classic "rule or ruin" tactic designed to make sure that if the new leadership takes over they will have no money to fund party operations. Ruedrich had previously transferred an additional $100,000 in Republican Party assets to the Capital City Republicans.
Milette was answering charges laid out by Frank McQueary in a letter to Ruedrich, in which McQueary claimed Millette demonstrated that he lacked the skills and the aptitude to lead the party. Specifically, McQueary claimed that Millette said he was a lifelong Republican but changed his affiliation from undeclared to Republican just before the state party conventions in 2010 and 2012. He also raised questions about Millette's work as the party's finance chairman and his affiliation with a political website. In addition, Millette was under fire for refusing to support Mitt Romney as the Republican presidential nominee after Romney secured the nomination. A copy of McQueary's letter was posted on the Restoring Liberty website, broken down into Page 1, Page 2, and Page 3.
To briefly summarize, the meeting lasted around three hours. The first couple of hours consisted of exchanges between Millette and his supporters vs. members of the State Executive Committee. While Millette started out defending his actions, he conceded that his earlier claims about how the party wouldn't give him access to headquarters and accounts were exaggerated. But he continued to insist that Ruedrich was not helpful enough in setting up meetings with potential donors, and claimed that the removal procedure in the Alaska Republican Party could not be used to remove him from the chair position because he was still a chairman-elect and had not fully taken over. But after an hour in executive session, the executive committee found that Millette had failed in his duty as finance chair, considering that to be sufficient grounds for removal, and so they voted to remove him.
The next stop is a meeting of the State Central Committee in Juneau on February 9th. Although this committee is larger and more diverse, there are concerns that the short notice, the sheer size of Alaska, and the comparatively remote location of Juneau will hinder the ability of many of them to attend. Since the central committee is considered to be top-loaded with Millette opponents, the possibility exists that the central committee will elect a completely new chairman at that time, refusing to validate Debra Brown. Brown successfully defended herself against charges of mismanagement of funds in her role as party vice-chair for Southcentral District 34, and so she was allowed to become the Acting Chair of the party. Randy Ruedrich has promised to work with her to assure a successful transition. Update: An account of the February 9th meeting is now available HERE.
But although Millette did nothing wrong, it's evident he wasn't suited for the job. He was consistently outmaneuvered by the old guard at every turn. He turned out to be nothing more than a goldfish in a shark tank. On the other hand, despite the fact that the Alaska Republican Party achieved its greatest organizational and electoral success during Randy Ruedrich's tenure, the shenanigans of Ruedrich and the old guard have irretrievably tarnished Ruedrich's legacy. It may take more than a Debra Brown to stitch the party together, and that someone may be the one who is socially conservative, who has campaigned against crony capitalism, and who just recently severed ties with the Fox News Channel.
Sarah Palin, anyone?