Semi-secret election meeting crashed by Republican activist
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Thursday, November 14, 2019
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Semi-secret election meeting crashed by Republican activist

Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott, far left, convened a working group to work on election issues. The odds favored Democrats, if attendance is any measure. (Claire Richardson photo)

The Lieutenant Governor’s Office held an “ad-hoc” meeting to give a group of invited guests an overview of Alaska’s election system on Monday and Tuesday of this week.

But the information on the meeting was cryptic, and the invited guests were not revealed.

Several groups and consultants were represented, as shown in the photo posted on Facebook by the lieutenant governor: Joelle Hall, former executive director of the Alaska Democratic Party and current operations director of the AFL-CIO; David Becker, president of the Center for Election Innovation and Research; a representative from Tanana Chief’s Conference; and staff members of the Division of Elections.

Also present were progressive John Lindback, a Portland, Ore.-based election consultant and former chief of staff to Lt. Gov. Fran Ulmer, and Bruce Botelho, a well-known Alaska Democratic Party operative who led his party to victory by reorganizing the race for governor in 2014, bringing in the governorship of Gov. Bill Walker and Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott.

The room was rounded out by Barbara Jones, Anchorage Municipal Clerk, and Joyce Anderson of the League of Women Voters. An attorney from the Attorney General’s office flanked Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott as he opened the meeting. Mallott did not return for the second day, however.

Not on the guest list: Anyone close to the Alaska Republican Party, other than Sen. Gary Stevens of Kodiak, who is a registered Republican and may have been the only Republican in official attendance.

In fairness, no representative from any other political party was present, although a case might be made that there were plenty of Democrat surrogates in the room, including Claire Richardson, the lieutenant governor’s chief of staff, and Josie Behnke, director of the Division of Elections.

Two meetings, covering 9.5 hours over two days, is a long stretch for merely an update of the election system, so Must Read Alaska sent a note to Richardson to ask for the list of invitees, the attendees, the agenda, and the notes from the meeting. We have not heard back.

Just one person attended who was not invited, but surprised the lieutenant governor with his presence: Randy Ruedrich, former chairman of the Alaska Republican Party who is also an alumni of the Alaska redistricting process.

Ruedrich is, among other things, an expert on elections in Alaska. He was allowed to observed from the chairs along the wall. He would not say how he learned of the meeting, which had been tucked into  the “public notices” section of the State’s website.

According to what MRAK has learned, the meeting focused on topics like moving to mail-in ballots, as Anchorage is doing, and ways to save money during future elections. Ruedrich, himself notoriously cryptic, said he’d get back to us on that.

Until the lieutenant governor responds to our public records request, that is all that is known about what took place between more than 20 people over the course of 9.5 hours on the topic of our next general election: There was a meeting.  A lot of Democrats were there. No one knew about it. There was one invited Republican in the room among the 20 or so. And also the uninvited but formidable force known as Randy Ruedrich.

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Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • So, could we say Randy was the elephant in the room? Give ’em hell and a heartburn.

  • This is the first time I’ve seen anything of you… would love to see more… on Facebook!

  • Democrats never win on a honest and level election. Forget debates they always run to your killing the babies, your a rasist, climate denier or the your just aginst anything I can throw at you and see if it sticks. When will the Democrats become aware we’re not Lemmings and are tired of their political shenanigans.

  • So, the meeting was posted on the state website in advance and then later a photo was posted on Facebook… and you call it a “Semi-secret” meeting?

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