ANALYSIS OF THE HOUSE PRIMARY
Tuesday is Primary Election day. Some Republicans are banking on short memories from voters.
Two years ago, Alaska voters sent more Republicans than Democrats to the House. And yet Democrats controlled the House. Some turncoat House Republicans have some serious explaining to do.
Most blame the GOP losing control of the House on Rep. David Eastman, a Wasilla Republican. Eastman has become somewhat of a saboteur of the conservative movement. He’s even recruited candidates to run against some of the most conservative members of the Legislature.
The word on the street is Eastman is all about Eastman. If Republicans are to gain control of the House again, Eastman losing to his primary opponent, conservative Jesse Sumner, would be the first step. Several high-profile conservative legislators are backing Sumner.
Eastman’s rigid and stubborn style helped defeat the “Heartbeat Bill” prohibiting most abortions after the baby’s heartbeat is detected. Eastman didn’t support it because he said it didn’t go far enough. Eastman’s lack of support sealed the bill’s fate.
Pat Martin, with Alaska Right to Life, supports Eastman’s all or nothing approach to legislating. Martin has been a frequent critic of Gov. Mike Dunleavy, a Republican, on the issue of abortion. Which is odd, since the governor is solidly and consistently pro-life.
Martin is also backing District 7 candidate Christopher Kurka in the Republican primary to replace retiring incumbent Colleen Sullivan-Leonard. Kurka is facing former legislator Lynn Gattis, a strong supporter, and friend of the governor. Sullivan-Leonard is endorsing Gattis.
The Republican House District 28 primary between incumbent Jennifer Johnston and challenger James Kaufman is another big race that could help Republicans regain the House. Johnston is far from a conservative and made a Joe Biden like gaff this year when she admitted she believes rural Alaskans can’t handle a full dividend check. It’s odd that rural Alaska legislators remained silent on Johnston’s charge. It proves how valuable she is for the Democrat-controlled House caucus.
Kaufman is an underdog but, in a year, where voters are upset about legislators raiding the fund instead of cutting the budget, anything can happen.
Republican in name only Chuck Kopp is facing a tough primary challenger in former GOP party boss, Tom McKay. Kopp is a liberal. He’s so much in the pocket of the unions he’s wanting to bring back a pension plan for some state employees. You think the state’s financial problems are bad now? Imagine what bringing back a pension for state workers would do.
The unions have pumped a ton of money into Kopp’s campaign, but McKay has the backing of several prominent conservatives including former Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan.
Two relative newcomers will face off in the House District 23 Republican primary with candidates Connie Dougherty and Kathy Henslee. Henslee seems to be the more conservative of the two based on her endorsements, including one from former Gov. Sean Parnell. The winner will face a tough opponent in the general when they go against incumbent Democrat Chris Tuck.
Republican Mark Neuman is another incumbent in real trouble. Neuman has been mostly a no-show on the campaign trail and is facing a tough challenger in Kevin McCabe for the House District 8 seat. McCabe’s retired Coast Guard and currently fly’s 747s for a major airline.
The one Republican House incumbent that organized with the Democrats that has no chance of winning is Gabrielle LeDoux. Two days after the primary election, LeDoux is due in court facing a felony election fraud charge. 24-year old David Nelson is challenging Ledoux. He’s a sharp kid and an authentic conservative. But he could have ties to ISIS and still beat Ledoux.
Expect big changes in The House this election cycle. The Democrat’s days of controlling the body should soon come to an end.
On Monday, I’ll write about changes coming to the Senate on Primary Day.
Dan Fagan hosts a radio talk show weekday mornings from 5:30 to 8 am on NewsRadio 650 KENI.