Eastman to Knopp: Your plans cut your fellow Republicans out




I read with interest your recent article: “Republicans and Democrats must work together to form a bipartisan coalition.”

As a fellow legislator representing a Republican district quite similar to yours, I believe your thoughtful proposal deserves an equally thoughtful response.

[Read: Knopp explains why he rejects fellow Republicans]

In your proposal you recommend that we form a bipartisan caucus with “upwards of 24 members” and you note that “A 50/50 split would be ideal.” From this, I take it that you envision a caucus of either 22 or 24 members, as 20 would be too small a number to form a majority, and the total must result in an even number to accomplish having a 50/50 split between Republicans and Democrats. In the first case, your caucus would be comprised of 11 Republicans and 11 Democrats, and in the second case, it would be made up of 12 Republicans and 12 Democrats.

Rep. David Eastman

Thank you for noting in your proposal your intention “not to divide our caucus but to help it succeed.” I must admit, had you not stated that up front, I would have come away with the opposite impression. If only 11 of the 23 elected Republicans are permitted to join the caucus, that would leave the majority of Republican legislators excluded from participating. If 12 are invited, that wouldn’t be much better, as it would divide the caucus right down the middle, with 11 Republican legislators still excluded. Even if those 11 were from the smallest Republican districts, that would still mean Republican representatives for 194,960 Alaskans would, on your plan, be excluded from participation.

And which 11 or 12 Republican legislators would be the ones excluded on your plan? You mention wanting to minimize the risk that one or more legislators might not vote with the caucus on a vote. To accomplish that, you would want to exclude the more liberal and more conservative legislators from your caucus. But I couldn’t help noticing that your district was one of only five districts statewide to prefer Joe Miller to Lisa Murkowski two years ago. If you plan to vote in keeping with the district you represent, you and your district would both be excluded from the caucus and from activity in the Legislature for the next two years.

And yet, I understand that your name is included on each of the versions of the caucus membership list that you have been circulating. But how could that be, unless you have already decided not to vote in keeping with the constituents you represent?

In reading your proposal, I have a concern. The people of Alaska voted overwhelmingly for Gov. Mike Dunleavy in the last election. The caucus you left last month included 21 Republican legislators who each supported Gov. Dunleavy, to a greater or lesser extent.

You are proposing bringing into your caucus 11 or 12 Democratic legislators for whom the candidate who best represented them was his opponent, Mark Begich. You are proposing putting these legislators into positions of leadership from which they will be advocating for the very positions that Dunleavy opposed and that the people of Alaska rejected at the ballot box. Likewise, from those positions of leadership they will have the power to block each of the items on the governor’s agenda. Have you considered this? In your mind, is that a good thing?

I’m certain it couldn’t have escaped your notice that, as a result of the last election, Republican House legislators currently represent more than 145,000 more Alaskans than their Democratic Party counterparts.

Your proposal would have the effect of wiping away the results of the last election and artificially choosing to move forward into this legislative session as though Republican and Democratic legislators in fact received the exact same number of votes across our state. Is this fair to those who voted? And does it best serve the interests of a state in which Republican voters outnumber Democrats by a ratio of two to one?

I have my own proposal that I would like you to consider.

In both of our districts, Mike Dunleavy beat Mark Begich by more than 40 percent. The constituents we represent have spoken clearly that they like our new governor and his priorities. I propose that the best group of legislators to work together to accomplish these priorities are our fellow 23 Republican legislators (and any other legislators who catch the governor’s vision and publicly commit to working with us to accomplish it).

Let us work together to repeal Senate Bill 91, to protect the dividend and to pass a balanced budget. Let us do so for the rest of the 31st Legislature in an environment where each legislator is invited to contribute, will be heard and will be able to use their talents and experience to the fullest in the pursuit of these shared goals. If you have serious concerns over the specific role of another legislator in the caucus, let us have that conversation now.

We have already spent the first 12 days of this session working through which Republican legislators will be excluded. Let us focus the remainder of our time and energies on accomplishing the goals that the people have tasked us with accomplishing.

Rep. David Eastman, represents District 11, the Mat-Su Valley, in the Alaska House of Representatives.

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  1. Thank you, Rep. Eastman, for your insiders view on the actions of Rep. Knopp. Very insightful. I have no doubt this has been echoed into Knopp’s head a number of times, but thanks for sharing it with the rest of us. Hopefully, his constituency will continue to hammer him with their distaste for his behavior, and next election sends him packing.

  2. Great analysis and perspective by Dave Eastman. Better yet, he offers a superior counter proposal worthy of serious consideration! Many of us who work in a seasonal environment, time is of the essence and, a sense of urgency balanced with the correct priorities will most likely succeed in accomplishing the goals. So … “Get on with it and get to Work!”

  3. Outstanding article, Representative Eastman. You have pointed out that elections have consequences and those elected should represent the will of the people. To do otherwise, is to undermine the election process and, more importantly, deny people their representation.

  4. Knopp is either not very good with math, or he lied to his constituents.

    In the last legislature the House was run with a caucus of 21, with 3 members apparently Knopp wishes to be like. I understand his point that the previous House majority caucus really made a mess of things but that was because they were the minority party ruling with 3 members who also lied to their constituents they way Knopp did, that wouldn’t be the case this time.

    Knopp, stop showboating and do the job you were elected to do or resign since you apparently don’t want to do your job as an elected official and represent your constituents.

  5. I come from the Interior where my Representative is Talerico and Senator is Bishop. I voted for both knowing that they were going to represent me in this new session. If either one of them had changed their political position, I would be standing at the intersection of the Alaskan Highway and the Tok Cut-off, waving a sign asking my fellow voters to start a deluge of letters to vote them out of office. Why is this not being done down on the Kenai? Rep Knopp, you misrepresented yourself and I hope the constituents of your district lambast you and vote you out of office as soon as possible. I am sure I’m not alone on thinking that you are committed to denying Gov. Dunleavy the promises he made, which is why he was elected. You’re the sheep in wolf’s clothing!

  6. Bingo! Very well-written counter-point. Time for Knopp to be true to the voters who elected him and get this thing going.

  7. Rep. Eastman notes “I propose that the best group of legislators to work together to accomplish these priorities are our fellow 23 Republican legislators“ and I agree. However, to Rep. Knopp’s defense the caucus per the party’s mandate (via rulings and primary challenges) is not working with 23 members, only 21. If Rep. Eastman’s proposal is genuine, what work/has he done or proposal made between the party, caucus, and the two “turncoats” to welcome Reps. LeDoux and Stutes back to the caucus and thus resolve Rep. Knopp’s concerns with a 21 member majority’s effectiveness?

    • It’s not Eastman’s job to “…resolve Knopp’s concerns.”
      It’s Knopp’s job to do what he was hired to do, which is not disrupting the public’s business and the ability of his colleagues to the public’s business.
      As for “welcoming” LeDoux, maybe memories of a criminal investigation into vote fraud come to mind, no?

      • I’ll concede that it is not Rep. Eastman’s job to ease Rep. Knopp’s concerns, however he does note in his op-ed that he has a proposal—which to me appears to be a path towards a caucus bigger than 21, which Rep. Knopp views as too much of a liability to get anything meaningful accomplished. If Rep. Eastman’s “proposal” is genuine, I do wonder if he has done any legwork towards making the “23” proposal as I call it reality.

        I’d argue that Rep. Knopp is looking out for his constituents in that he is making sure that his district’s priorities, which most likely are not fully in lockstep with Gov. Dunleavy or the party cannot be vetoed by any one caucus member who may have woken up on the wrong side of the bed on the day of passage. Additionally, in a 21 member majority caucus you can’t piss of anyone and in order to do that you must promise something, usually money. If you must appease all 21 members with funding for their essential project(s), how much will really get cut in the grand scheme of things?

        As for LeDoux, the voting irregularities are definitely cause for concern. However, Rep. Eastman does make the pitch of her joining the caucus by referencing the 23 Rs in his piece.

        • Well argued…
          With respect, technicalities like cauci, money, appeasement, and the lobbyist army notwithstanding, this person won.
          His voters voted for him for a reason, and now he’s doing what for them, exactly?
          In the apparent absence of a legitimate money trail, or a meaningful quest for some power position that merits the attention of lobbyists and buyers, all we seem to have is (another) childlike entity whose only claim to fame is the disruption it can cause, just like any other ill-trained child.

          • Yes, the caucus system gives a disproportionate amount of power to each representative and senator. Unfortunately, the power is exacerbated when the caucus lines are narrow-which as you know are the case. So, yes a sophomore representive from the peninsula is winning at the moment and now must play all angles to survive in the short term. Long term—voters generally get amnesia during the primary ( good weather and fish in Alaska are a deadly combo in relationship to our responsibilities) and are then left the scraps come November.

            Looking at his campaign materials, I don’t see exactly where he promises to join a specific caucus. You are a right though that his constituents voted for him to do a job which is not happening, but so is the case of the other 39 members (no legal requirement to join caucus- while I’m sure many promised to-name me one politician who has never broken one), maybe through no fault of their own.

            Finally, while this stalemate is entering week 3, we all know between receptions, introductions on the floor, budget overviews, and ‘lunch and learns’ nothing is accomplished in the first 2 months of session anyway. This may be a blessing in disguise in that the budget may be the only thing to come out of Juneau. Which would mean more focus on it and less rediculois trophy and burdensome legislation.

            I appreciate the discussion.

  8. Followthe$, looks like everybody’s coming out of the woodwork to have a say about our Mr. Knopp, and little of it in a loving way…
    Your blessing in disguise bit was brilliant, forgive me in advance if I accidentally plagiarize.

  9. Speaking of voters getting amnesia, one of the key points being made to excoriate David Eastman are all the 39-1 votes. I’ve been around long enough to remember that this was commonplace with Terry Martin. So what exactly is the big deal? That someone that conservative has no business in office in the first place? That’s the only possible explanation anyone could have.

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