(2-minute read) HE’S THE 21ST VOTE NEEDED FOR A REPUBLICAN CAUCUS IN THE HOUSE
Rep. Gary Knopp, the self-appointed negotiator between the Alaska House as Republicans and Democrats try to determine a power structure, has a leg in both camps.
He was a registered Democrat when he came to Alaska in 1984, and didn’t register to be a Republican until 2010, the same time he got involved in running for office in a strong Republican district.
Documents acquired from the Division of Elections show that he registered on April 20, 1984 as a Democrat, and remained one for 24 years, until March of 2010. This document is making its way across the Kenai Peninsula and appeared in the emails of legislators as early as yesterday:
Knopp began his switch-hitting political career on the Kenai Peninsula Borough, elected first in 2006. He rose to become borough Assembly president, and at that time changed his registration to Republican.
Knopp ran as a Republican for the House of Representatives in 2014 against fellow Republican Kurt Olson, but lost.
When Olson retired, Knopp won the seat in 2016, and again in 2018. He ran unopposed last year because in this strongly Republican district, his conservative voters knew him as a Republican incumbent, and the Democrats didn’t want to waste their money in the General Election — they had other fights to join around the state.
The record shows Knopp didn’t start voting until 2014, but the report from the Elections Division only goes back five years. Other sources show Knopp voted as early as 2010, 26 years after he had moved to Alaska.
Knopp was initially a member of the Republican majority when it formed the day after the November General Election, with Dave Talerico as Speaker.
But the caucus dropped to 20, splitting evenly with the Democrats, when Knopp surprised his Republican colleagues by divorcing himself from the caucus.
Since then, as the 21st vote needed to own the majority, he has instead worked to form a bipartisan working group that would have him in some kind of leadership role under Bryce Edgmon as speaker.
He has alternately worked to create a 50-50 power-sharing agreement between the Democrats at one end of the hall, and Republicans at the other end. As of this writing, no majority has been formed, even though there are 23 elected Republicans.
REPUBLICAN REGISTRATION: PARTY OF CONVENIENCE?
Another political switch hitter is Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux, the representative for Muldoon and JBER who has been elected as a Republican but organized with the Democrats in 2016 in order to help them enact an income tax.
But 19 years ago, LeDoux ran for State House as a Democrat in Kodiak in 2000, losing in the general election to Republican Gary Stevens. She changed her party registration in 2004, ran again, and then moved to District 15, where the turnout is low and her odds of winning were better.
Louise Stutes of Kodiak is the third Republican who caucuses with the Democrats.
On Tuesday evening, the House was still split, 20-20, and Knopp has now voted twice against Republican Dave Talerico as Speaker. LeDoux and Stutes did the same.