The ballroom was packed with ladies in beaded gowns and gentlemen in tuxes, and every table was full at the Republican Party’s Unity Gala on Friday at the Dena’ina Center in Anchorage.
The actual numbers were not released by the party, but counting over 500 heads, and multiplying that by the $200 tickets, adding the $10,000 and $5,000 tables, and all the auction items (Ted Stevens cufflinks, anyone?), it’s clear the party netted more than $100,000 on the event. The funds are dedicated to running the party office, doing an absentee ballot chase program, and a get-out-the-vote effort for the 2020 election cycle.
Observers and insiders said that there’s never been a more successful fundraiser for the Alaska Republicans in the history of Statehood. Those who scoffed at the “Unity” theme before the event were surprised at the strong showing of a broad base of conservatives, and even when a liberal gossip blogger and tracker snuck in the door to take his seat at the table of Sen. Josh Revak, guests and party officers were gracious and non confrontational.
Only a handful of legislators made an appearance — Sen. Natasha Von Imhof, Sen. Mia Costello, Sen. Shelley Hughes, Sen. Revak, Rep. Colleen Sullivan-Leonard, Rep. Bart LeBon, Rep. Laddie Shaw, Rep. Sara Rasmussen, Rep. Chuck Kopp, and Rep. Mel Gillis.
Backed by a massive, historic pre-Statehood U.S. flag, Party Chairman Glenn Clary spoke of how the nation pulled together during World War II, and now is the time for the Alaska Republican Party to also pull together. He reminded people that the anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor was Dec. 7.
“Yesterday, December 7, 1941 — a date which will live in infamy — the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan,” Clary said.
“Tomorrow, we will remember the sacrifices that were made, and the lives lost to preserve the freedoms and liberties that we enjoy today. We will commemorate American’s victory over imperialism and socialistic regimes.
“Unity was the glue necessary to defeat America’s enemies in 1941 and it will be the glue necessary to provide Republicans the strength to defeat our enemies to infinity and beyond.”
Clary’s remarks were right for the occasion: The flag behind him with 48 stars had been supplied by Marti Goldberg, who inherited it from her father. Lt. Commander Elwood Schaffer served on a submarine chaser (U.S.S. PC-474) off the coast of North Africa during World War II. Goldberg noted that the flag was also draped vertically in front of her family home in honor of her neighbor, Dougie Irwin, when he returned home from Vietnam, during a time when many did not respect returning warriors.
Sen. Dan Sullivan also spoke along the the historic theme, about how Republican Administrations have always been good to Alaska — from President Lincoln forward.
William Seward, Lincoln’s Secretary of State, arranged for the purchase of Alaska. Alaska became a state under Eisenhower, and oil became our economic driver under Nixon. President Trump has taken an interest in helping Alaska move forward with new energy exploration and development, as well as building the road to King Cove, and allowing at least some multiple uses of the Tongass National Forest.
Conversely, the Democrat presidents have sought to shut down Alaska, and under the Democrats in Congress, Alaska always suffers. President Clinton killed ANWR by vetoing legislation after it passed Congress, and it was Clinton who locked up the Tongass with the Roadless Rule. President Obama treated ANWR like a monument, and closed off 80 percent of the NPRA. Under Obama and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, the King Cove Road was killed.
The stakes for 2020 are high, he said. The direction national Democrats are leading the country are not in line with where reasonable, moderates want to go in Alaska. For example, the Green New Deal would get rid of fossil fuels in 10 years.
Sullivan said Alaskans are united for policies that are in the best interest of this state. Republican policies, he said, are in the best interest of Alaska.
Gov. Michael Dunleavy spoke about how Democrats on the national level are trying to use impeachment to unseat the president, and how on the local level, they’re using the same tactics. He said that we are, at this time, debating the essence of America — Republican Democracy vs. socialism.
Dunleavy rattled off a list of “good news” items for Alaska, including:
- .9 percent GDP growth in the first half of 2019
- Lowest unemployment in Alaska’s history, (records go back to 1976)
- 1,800 new jobs added this year
- Alaska’s wages up $355 million
- 5.6 percent personal income growth
The gala, which began at 6:30 pm, was still going strong at 11 pm on Friday night, with hundreds lingering in the Dena’ina Center.
Only a small handful of protesters stood outside in the cold with “RINO Safari” signs demanding a full Permanent Fund dividend, but they did not dampen the spirits of the broad base of attendees who came to celebrate all the values they have in common.