Is AIP no longer an official party in Alaska? - Must Read Alaska
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Monday, August 26, 2019
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Is AIP no longer an official party in Alaska?

JOE VOGLER WOULD ROLL OVER IN HIS GRAVE

The Alaska Independence Party may not be able to have a candidate for statewide office under its label on the next General Election ballot.

Why? Because it did not field a candidate this year, and not enough AIP-registered voters cast a ballot in the last General Election.

Is this the end of the unique party with a twisted history that includes Gov. Wally Hickel, a possible political assassination, and a secessionist platform?

The party was founded by Joe Vogler in the 1970s. It’s a states-rights party at its core, and strongly constitutionally focused. Among its unusual platforms is the desire to have Alaskans hold a popular vote on statehood.

Vogler moved to Alaska from Kansas in the 1940s, homesteaded in Fairbanks, and was a colorful figure in Alaskan politics, often wearing a fedora hat and a bolo tie, and writing frequent letters to the editor.

In the 1970s, he gathered 15,000 signatures over three weeks calling for Alaska to secede from the United States.

Vogler disappeared on May 30, 1993, weeks before he was scheduled to give a speech to the United Nations on Alaska independence, a speech that was sponsored by the government of Iran.

His body was later found wrapped in a blue tarp in a gravel pit outside of Fairbanks. Many of his friends and supporters viewed his death as a political assassination. Manfried West is still serving out his sentence after having confessed to killing Vogler.

HICKEL YEARS

Gov. Walter Hickel ran an insurgent campaign under the AIP banner and won his race for governor, serving from 1990 to 1994, which remains to this day the party’s most historic electoral outcome.

The Alaskan Independence Party was founded, in part, to promote the citizens’ right to vote on statehood. The group’s charter states: “The Alaskan Independence Party’s goal is the vote we were entitled to in 1958, one choice from among the following four choices:

  1. Remain a territory.
  2. Become a separate and independent country.
  3. Accept commonwealth status.
  4. Become a state.”

But Hickel didn’t run to secede and never fully supported the platform. He ran as an AIP candidate after meeting with Jack Coghill and Edgar Paul Boyko. The three men swapped nominees on the AIP ticket just prior to the deadline for filing; John Lindauer and Jerry Ward stepped aside and Hickel and Coghill were plugged into the slots.  They went on to win the General Election in an abbreviated, sprint style campaign. Late in his term as governor, Hickel returned his party registration to Republican.

PARTY STATUS IN ALASKA NOW IN PERIL

In Alaska, a recognized political party is “an organized group of voters whose candidate for governor received at least three percent of the total votes cast in the preceding general election or whose number of registered voters is equal to at least three percent of the total votes cast for governor.”

The 17,095 registered in the AIP party as of Nov. 3, 2018 comes to 2.97 percent of the 573,798 registered voters, just under the threshold for being a party.

If the race for governor is not on the ballot, the race for United States Senator is used to calculate the three percent. If neither the race for governor nor the race for United States Senator appears on the ballot, the race for United States Representative is used.

The 2016 General Election did not include the gubernatorial race. Therefore, political parties will maintain their status if their candidate received three percent of the total votes cast for U.S. Senator or if they have registered voters equal in number to at least three percent of the total votes cast for U.S. Senator. That number was 9,343 until the 2018 General Election, according to the Division of Elections.

AIP, it appears, will go into the “recognized group” category, along with Green Party and Constitution Party groups. People may register as members of these political groups, but they are no longer recognized as parties.

POLITICAL GROUPS

In Alaska, a political group is “an organized group of voters seeking status as a recognized political party. To obtain recognized political party status, a political group must file an application with the director of the Division of Elections requesting that the number of registered voters for their group be tracked. The director will recognize the group as a political party upon meeting the requirements of statute.

A political group may field candidates for statewide office in the General Election via petition. These candidates do not participate in Primary Elections but go directly to the General. Gov. Bill Walker was a petition candidate in the General Election.

LIBERTARIANS CONTINUE AS RECOGNIZED PARTY

Libertarians total 7,442 in Alaska, but this small-but-fierce party in Alaska fielded a candidate for governor this year (Billy Toien) and therefore remains a recognized party, even though Toien won less than 2 percent of the vote.

Both Libertarians and AIP candidates typically drain votes from the Republican candidates.

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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

  • We’re estimated to have about 10% more registered voters than we have actual residents legally eligible to vote, so a purge of the rolls would likely give the Libertarians their .3%. I just wish we could restore some alliance between Republicans and Libertarians. I thought that legalizing pot would get all the pot smoking fanatics out of politics, but there is still a lunatic fringe that likes to let their freak flag fly and the flag has an L on it.

  • Good historical research, Suzanne. Here are a few more tidbits: Joe Vogler kept Arliss Sturgelewski from becoming governor in 1986. Sturgelewski had nipped Wally Hickel by 2000 votes and romped over Dick Randolph by 9000 votes in the Republican primary that year. Those disenfranchised by the liberal Sturgelewski cast their votes for Joe Vogler (AIP) in the general election. Vogler received over 10K votes, which prevented Sturgelewski from beating Steve Cowper. Then, in 1990, it was John Lindauer who agreed to step aside so Vogler could replace the ticket with Hickel/Coghill. That was done 30 minutes before the Division of Elections allowed for changes on the 1990 ballots. In 1998, Hickel refused to endorse John Lindauer as the Republican’s candidate for governor during the primary. Lindauer won. Libertarian John Manley of Juneau became Lindauer’s campaign manager. Robin Taylor ran a write-in, spoiling Lindauer’s chances against Tony Knowles. All this goes to show that politics in Alaska is anything but usual.

  • One thing more…..Jack Coghill was the real driver in the 1990 election for governor. Jack won the Republican primary for Lt. Governor. But he couldn’t stand the thought of running with Arliss Sturgelewski who was the primary winner in the governor’s race. The slightly mysogenist Coghill was the one who actually engineered the Hickel/Coghill/Vogler deal at the last minute. This devastated Surgelewski, and ended her career in politics. Joe Vogler said that Coghill made the statement to him, “It’ll be a cold day in hell before I serve under Arliss Sturgelewski.” But in the end, it didn’t go all that well for Coghill under Wally Hickel either.

  • Good article and really good comments. They gave an accurate historical account of election politics.

  • Fun walk down memory lane! After this administration came the Knowles/Campbell race. Knowles beat Jim Campbell by about 500 votes. Tricky Tony provided those shady raffles and free gasoline for voters. “Voter Incentives”. Election Officials were ok with this then too.

  • It looks to me as if bithe the AIP and ALP will lose their Party status, as the LP candidate had to Poll 3% in that race.

  • I don’t believe this article is accurate. My estimation is that the ALP has fallen short in both their race for Governor at only 1.86% (they needed 3%), and their voter registation numbers which are 7,442 (they need 7,626). They only need to increase their number by less than 200 registered voters. They should be able to gain that back relatively easily, but it does underscore the precarious nature of a state determined political status which may be lost in any election.

    Furthermore, it doesn’t appear that the AIP has lost ballot access in Alaska. Though the AIP fielded no candidate for Governor in 2018, they maintain 17, 095 registered voters, far exceeding the new requirement of around 7,626 (3% of the total votes cast for Governor in 2018).