KENAI REPRESENTATIVE BEGINNING TO HEAR FROM HOMEFRONT, AND THEY AREN’T HAPPY
The Republican Women of the Kenai sent Rep. Gary Knopp a letter last week, disapproving of his recent failure to be a part of the Republican majority in the Legislature. It is printed in full here.
Below the women’s letter, you can read Knopp’s point-by-point response, in which he says the responses he is hearing from constituents are 10-to-1 in favor of his recent actions.
REPUBLICAN WOMEN OF THE KENAI LETTER TO KNOPP
January 23, 2019
Republican Women of the Kenai 35186 Kenai Spur Highway Soldotna, AK 99669
Representative Gary Knopp,
We, the Republican Women of the Kenai, have serious concerns with your failure to be a part of the Republican House Majority; including your most recent failure to support a Republican member as Speaker Pro-Tem and Representative Talerico as Speaker.
Let us remind you, you ran as a Republican – unopposed. If people had known you were unwilling to support a Republican House Majority, you would have had a primary opponent. The District 31 election this past fall should serve as an example.
Most troubling to us was a news report (https://www.alaskapublic.org/2018/12/10/rep- knopp-leaves-republican-caucus-seeks-new-bipartisan-coalition/) in which you were quoted as saying you were forming a bi-partisan coalition that would “…act as acounterweight to Gov. Mike Dunleavy, while an all-Republican caucus wouldn’t”.
Let us remind you, Governor Dunleavy won District 30 by a vote of 5,383 to 2,169, a substantial plurality. While we can’t say definitively that 5,383 voters would be offendedby your position to oppose Gov. Dunleavy, we can say that many of them would be. Certainly, we are.
We are very concerned that your actions are destroying the trust that voters had in their representative and the trust of the party who supported your candidacy. Trust is an indispensable commodity in government. Once trust is lost, it is very difficult to regain.
The consequences of your actions have yet to be seen, but we assure you that we will be watching and take appropriate actions to ensure the voters of District 30 are fully informed and given opportunities to remedy the situation you have placed upon the House of Representatives.
Former Representative Paul Seaton ran as an independent after joining the coalition last legislative session. He did not win but at least he did not try to “fool” the voters into thinking he was affiliated with the Republican Party.
We ask you to seriously consider whether you want to remain a member of the Grand Old Party. We would like to have you with us for certain; but we need to be able to rely on you and your colleagues in the State Legislature deserve the same consideration.
Awaiting your reply, we remain Sincerely,
Republican Women of the Kenai
REP. KNOPP’S REPLY TO THE WOMEN’S CLUB
Dear Members of the Republican Women,
I will try to address your concerns paragraph by paragraph; however, I do not believe that it will provide relief to your concerns.
The reasoning behind my actions have been shared with the public media and anyone interested since Dec. 8, 2018. It is simply because there was zero chance of the house succeeding with just a twenty-one-member majority.
It is more important to me that the house succeeds, than the makeup of the house.
The reality of it is the Republicans were never organized from day one. Rep Eastman never committed to the caucus, never committed to supporting the speaker nominee, would not participate in the press release with the republicans. We never had twenty-one.
#1. Speaker pro-tem and speaker
There were two candidates for speaker pro-tem, when they were nominated I knew who my choice was, regardless of party affiliation I chose the best candidate. My vote for Rep Neuman would have been symbolic (in line with the party) but the outcome would have been the same. There simply were not enough votes to elect him. As you saw, Rep Foster was overwhelming elected with the help of the Republicans with 35 yea’s and 4 nays.
As far as Rep Talerico, his name should not have been forwarded for consideration without first having a clear organization in place.
#2. I ran as a Republican because I am a Republican. Maybe more so than most. I care that we are successful, there could be nothing worse than the house falling apart in the middle of the session with a razor thin majority.
#3. A news release announcing my departure from the Republican caucus and the reasons for it are accurate. I could not recall making the statement regarding being a counter-weight to the Governors agenda. I did go back and review the article and saw where I in fact did make that statement. In hindsight I wish I hadn’t said it, or I should have offered a little more explanation about the comment. It is not my intent to thwart the Governors efforts nor do I intend to be a rubber stamp. Make no mistake, some of the Governors campaign promises scare me. I believe there are segments of his agenda that may have negative effects on The Peninsula and frankly has me vey guarded.
#4. I can certainly understand the concern that you and many others have expressed. I appreciate the many constituents who have reached out to me personally with the intention of gaining knowledge and facts to better understand my position. For every letter of frustration that I receive, I receive tenfold in support of my efforts. Also, consider the fact that I represent 16,000 registered voters of which Republicans make-up approximately 33%. Non-partisan and undeclared alone make up 55%.
#5. The trust issue: You are correct about losing the public trust; but if people start passing judgement to early they may be mistaken in trusting their elected officials. What I am saying is, it is too early to pass judgment, if the House gets its work done and addresses the three issues most important to the public (PFD, crime reform & the budget) then gets out of Juneau in a timely fashion, we have succeeded. In my opinion, the appropriate time to make this judgement is when the 31st Legislature has gaveled out.
#6. I am not sure how to respond to this paragraph. It appears to be a thinly veiled threat, meaning you’ll do whatever it takes to unseat me in the next election cycle. You should always strive for the best, if you feel your representation is inadequate you should explore alternative prospects. I encourage every potential candidate that has an interest in public service to file for their office of interest, even if it means I’ll be gaining an opponent. I welcome a good spirited debate on the campaign trail, and the public having more than one option on election day. The truth is, the threat of a primary candidate or loss of support from an organization, will not change my position on pursuing what I believe to be right.
#7. There is no doubt, I will always remain Republican, I have no immediate plans to change my party affiliation. Although I may not always walk in lockstep with the party or all of my Republican colleagues, my Republican values have never wavered. Your group is a prime example of Republicans having issues with unison, two years ago The Peninsula had one Republican women’s organization, today there are three. Why is that?
In closing, I only ask you to be patient and have a little faith. There are a lot of dynamics here in Juneau that members of the public never see or hear. The goal is to have a successful 31st Legislative session and there is only one way forward for the house. You have a great informational resource to the inner working of this organization in Mary Jackson. She knows better than most what it takes to make a body function and the challenges of moving forward with a razor thin majority of 21 members.