GABRIELLE LEDOUX’S ODDS
Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux has a problem with the current election system: She doesn’t like her odds of succeeding during the next Primary Election in 2018.
The Republicans, which she joined after years as a Democrat, like their odds of defeating her. In fact, they consider her their top target for removal.
She knows it.
That’s because during the last election season, the East Anchorage lawyer ran as a Republican, and won as a Republican, only to leave her party and join with the Democrats in the Alaska House, where she now serves as Rules chairman.
Alaska Republicans felt betrayed by her, Rep. Louise Stutes of Kodiak and Rep. Paul Seaton of Homer. All three joined the Democrats in a coup to take over the House, even though the Democrats did not win a majority at the ballot box last November. Only by enticing three Republican “musk Ox” coalition members to cross over, were Democrats able to take power.
Statewide Republican leaders from Bettles to Ketchikan convened, debated, and decided: They sanctioned the three in a historic vote that removed all support — financial and organizational.
“It’s like if you sign on for a football or soccer team and then when you get to the game you decide to play for the other team,” said Alaska Republican Party Chairman Tuckerman Babcock.
Politics is, after all, a team sport. Being in the majority means you vote on the State budget with your majority team, and you stick together on strategy for moving your team and its ideas and legislation ahead. LeDoux, Stutes and Seaton joined the other team. Team switching is tolerated for legislators representing heavily Native districts, but there’s a bright line for the rest of them.
But LeDoux, a flower child from the ’60’s and a graduate of U.C. Berkeley (1970), has a cure for her electability predicament: Destroy the Republican Party by having candidates run in open primaries.
House Bill 200 would create a free-for-all primary for governor, lieutenant governor, legislature, U.S. House and U.S. Senate races. Sometimes it’s called a “jungle primary;” at other times it’s politely referred to as a “blanket primary.”
But let’s just call it a California primary, because that’s how they do it there. All candidates for the same office, regardless of political party, run against each other at once, instead of being designated by political party. The top two vote getters go on to the General Election ballot.
There would be no need for a party endorsement, and the person with the biggest political action committee would be the most likely to make it to the General. In San Francisco, Republicans don’t even bother running, because they are never going to make it past the Primary.
In LeDoux’s game theory, this would work for her. She could win a top-two slot in such a scenario in her district. And with unions behind her and name recognition, her odds improve.
LeDoux’s odds might also work for a handful of Democrats. But her bill would hit a wall of opposition as well as a likely legal challenge.
HB 200 was referred to House Judiciary, chaired by Rep. Matt Claman, who serves a district that is not a natural fit for him. There were no sponsor statements to view, no cosponsors. And in spite of the fact that LeDoux is part of the new Democrat majority, Capitol observers detect she is isolated. The Democrats don’t quite trust her.
The LeDoux bill also might make a guy like Claman uncomfortable. His District 21 race was named one of the top 2016 races to watch by the National Republican State Leadership Committee. He could be taken out in a free-for-all primary battle.
DEMOCRATS THROWING KITCHEN SINK AT ELECTION PROCESS
Unable to win in Republican-leaning Ketchikan, Democrats in 2014 tested the waters with an independent candidate, Daniel Ortiz. Ortiz, a popular school teacher, said he’d caucus with the Republicans, but he’s been solid with the Democrats ever since taking office. He’s as reliable a Democratic vote as Nancy Pelosi.
Gov. Walker also dropped his Republican affiliation because he could not win in the primary, and ran as a nonpartisan candidate, pairing up with Democrat Byron Mallott after the primary, and working closely with the Democrats to ease into office in 2014 and then govern hard-left ever since.
His administration is full to the brim with functionaries handpicked by liberal Juneau operative Bruce Botelho, who led Walker’s transition team and is seen still wheeling and dealing on the Third Floor.
The next up to bat was Jason Grenn, who ran in 2016 as a “nonpartisan” with union help and took out South Anchorage’s Rep. Liz Vazquez in the general election. The Democrats had convinced the Democrat candidate Ed Cullinane that he didn’t feel well enough to continue, so he dropped, making it mainly a two-way race, except for a third party who turned out to get just enough votes to be a spoiler for Rep. Vazquez.
Democrats are running independents consistently now, as the Democratic Party brand becomes more radical and less palatable.
ALASKA STILL R-COUNTRY
In Alaska, more than 146,000 registered voters are Republicans and they vote a semi-closed ballot to prevent the kinds of shenanigans that can occur when an opposing party — be it Democrat or Libertarian — tries to overwhelm the ballot box.
Alaska used to have an open primary, but in 1992, Republicans closed their ballot — but not to everyone.
Currently, Republicans, nonpartisan, and undeclared voters all may vote the Republican ballot.
Democrats or members of other organized parties are not allowed to vote the Republican primary ballot. It’s a semi-closed format that has been challenged but upheld, because the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the parties’ right to political association and organization.
The party-rule ballot has the names of candidates who filed for the Republican nomination and would be available to Republican, nonpartisan and undeclared voters. The other ballot contains all non-Republican candidates, is available to all voters, and is known as a Statutory ballot. A voter may only votes one of the two ballots, although in rural Alaska in 2016, many voters were allowed to vote both the Republican and statutory ballots — illegally.
Instead, out in the Mat-Su Valley, you’ll have Republican vs. Republican in the General as well as the Primary. Democrats will not advance due to the conservative nature of that part of the state.
The same goes for a deeply Democrat environ such as District 33, the downtown Juneau district, where a Republican would never get a chance to have his or her ideas heard in the General Election season. The battle would be between a Democrat and another Democrat. The thoughts of the loyal opposition would be lost.
PRIMARIES SWAMPED BY SPECIAL INTERESTS
In the 2016 Primary Election, fewer than 16 percent of registered voters went to the polls, which was several percentage points better than the 2000 Primary, when barely more than 9 percent bothered to vote during the height of summer.
With numbers like that, a highly motivated and well-funded group from Outside the state could easily take over the primaries in a small-population state like Alaska, especially with our strict campaign fundraising laws. Armed with political action committee cash and Big Data, a surrogate group for the Sierra Club, or the “Resist” movement could run circles around local candidates, even more than they do now. You’d never know what a candidate really stood for. Kind of in the same way the public really doesn’t know what Rep. Grenn stands for.
LeDoux herself has a political action committee, Gabby’s Tuesday PAC, and she requires lobbyists to pay her handsomely so that she can back “commonsense conservatives,” as she defines the term.
Last year she backed Jim Colver, Bob Lynn, Paul Seaton, and a handful of others with the 18 checks she took into her coffers, the largest of which was from the AFL-CIO.
It appears that LeDoux is now trying to eliminate the party system in Alaska entirely, by withholding information from voters, like HB 200 seeks to do. She also has an axe to grind with the Republican Party, which voted to withdraw all support from her and run a candidate to oppose her next time as a result of her defection the Democrats.
But even if LeDoux’s gambit passes, she would face legal hurdles. According to the Alaska Constitution, the lieutenant governor runs on the same ticket as the winning member of the party. It’s unclear how that would work if two Democrats or two Republicans advance for governor on the General Election ballot.
HB 175 — KILLING THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE — PASSES WITH DEMS IN CHARGE
HB 200 goes hand in hand with another piece of liberal legislation, HB 175, which would eliminate the Electoral College process in Alaska and award all three Electoral College votes to the candidate who won the most votes in the United States as a whole.
That bill is sponsored by Democrats Rep. Zach Fansler, Les Gara, Justin Parish, Harriet Drummond, Scott Kawasaki, and Geran Tarr. It creates an interstate compact and if enough states joined the compact, the presidential election would essentially become a popular vote.
In the most recent presidential election, all three of Alaska’s Electoral College votes would have been awarded to Hillary Clinton.
As HB 175 was voted on in the House State Affairs committee this week, Rep. LeDoux took a pass, and wouldn’t vote the bill up or down. It passed with the majority Democrats voting for it and only Republicans DeLena Johnson, Gary Knopp and Chris Birch voting no. Democrat Adam Wool also took a pass.
Between HB 175 and HB 200, House Democrats (and the “Republicans” who joined them) are attempting to make over the election process in Alaska — a process that is not broken.