AND SOME PRO-KNOPP DEMOCRATS WHO SHOWED UP TO SUPPORT HIM
Rep. Gary Knopp left Juneau on Wednesday to fly back to his Kenai district for the purpose of explaining to constituents why he broke away from the Republican majority in December, and why he thinks he made the right decision.
He was greeted with skepticism, some shouting, and a few supportive Democrats like former House member Mike Navarre, who appreciated his new alliance with the bipartisan coalition, which Knopp says gives Democrats in the House 50 percent of the power.
Mostly, the reaction to Knopp was one of profound disapproval.
Knopp started his public events with a talk show on Thursday morning, where callers were 8-to-1 against his recent decisions. On Friday morning, he was the featured speaker at the Kenai/Soldotna Chamber of Commerce and it was a polite crowd, with mainly softball questions.
Friday night, with a police officer present, he faced a crowd of about 60 at a town hall meeting. Most were angry and called out loudly that he had deceived them and that they felt he wasn’t representing them.
Before the meeting, about 10 people stood at the intersection of Tern and Sterling Highway, holding signs calling on Knopp to resign.
The town hall began with a display of anger toward him.
“He broke his trust with the public,” one man said loudly.
“Who’s side are you on?” asked one woman of Knopp.
He was there to explain what he did (leave the Republican caucus) and why he did it. Key points he made were:
- He didn’t think a caucus of 21 Republicans was viable. “The 21 members had no chance of success.”
- On the Republican side, he said the Fairbanks, Mat-Su, Anchorage, and Kenai Republican caucuses were too far apart on the issues to have one binding caucus, one where they would vote together on the budget. The Democrat-majority caucus that he has joined is a binding caucus.
- He admitted he had tricked his fellow Republicans when he switched his vote at the last minute after agreeing to vote for Rep. Dave Talerico, but he referred to it as a “sleight of hand” rather than an outright dishonesty when he said he would vote for the Republican nominee, and then decided that he should be that nominee.
- What he did had nothing to do with the governor’s budget, he said. “Those are completely separate issues.”
- There are too many freshmen in the House Republicans who don’t have any experience and the Republicans are a “very green, weak group of people, very fractured in our beliefs and our policy decisions.”
- “My fear, when we started talking about this was we were going to get down to Juneau as an organization and simply implode and completely fall apart way late in the session.”
- He believes that as many as four more House Republicans will join the bipartisan coalition with him and the other five who went over (Gabrielle LeDoux and Louise Stutes were already over).
- During the question and answer part of the town hall, several episodes of shouting and interrupting broke out, including people from the Mat-Su Valley, who had driven 200 miles to attend the meeting.
In addition to supporter Mike Navarre, who was commissioner of Commerce for former Gov. Bill Walker, a handful of Democrat supporters voiced their appreciation for Knopp’s decision to join the Democrats.
(Were you at the town hall? Add your comments and impressions in the comment section below.)