Rep. Ruffridge announces he has a big caucus


Soldotna Rep. Justin Ruffridge tried to be named House Speaker Pro Tem at the beginning of the legislative session. That didn’t fly. Then he tried to become House Speaker, and that, too, wilted. Now he says he has looped in 17 members of the House into something he is calling a “Freshman Caucus.” It’s like the Bush Caucus only for the people with the least seniority.

The freshman Republican, who has raised eyebrows since arriving in Juneau for his unorthodox moves, has Democrat Andrew Gray of Anchorage alongside him as co-chair of the caucus. Gray is known in Anchorage for his unyielding progressive stances at the Anchorage Assembly, and now represents U-Med district in Anchorage in the Alaska House, while Ruffridge represents Soldotna on the Kenai Peninsula. Ruffridge said anyone in the House who has not served in the Legislature until this year is welcome to join. That means Dan Saddler of Eagle River and Craig Johnson of South Anchorage, both returning to the House after time away, are not welcome.

“Our purpose will be to discuss ideas, debate policy and share those issues most important to the constituents which encompass districts from all over the state. Most importantly, we will continue to build on great working relationships,” Ruffridge said on the House floor.

After he announced the formation of the Freshman Caucus, whose actual number of participants is uncertain and likely fluid, the Democrats all pounded their desks enthusiastically, with former Speaker Louise Stutes banging her desk almost as loudly as she used to bang the gavel when she was the Democrat majority speaker. It appears there may be as many as 12 participants in the caucus, rather than the 17 Ruffridge hoped for. Meetings will not be open to the public.

Of the 17 who could be included, eight are Democrats and seven are Republicans, with the other two being Democrat-loyalist no-party members. That puts Ruffridge in charge of a Democrat-majority group, even while he is a member of the Republican-led majority.

Ruffridge’s announcement created chatter among longtime capital observers when he announced the caucus. But whether the caucus has more to do with soft-power bowling leagues or will try to be a stiff political force remains to be seen.


  1. Gary Knopp, another Soldotna legislator, also thought he had a big caucus. (Suzanne beat me to it). How did that work? Not so good, especially for Knopp. The Legislature wasted four weeks trying to organize, then Knopp wanted to be Speaker. Alaska House Rules. Those unqualified and acting like spoiled children, get spun into the ground. Go check Knopp’s headstone.

    • James, only time will tell whether you are right or not in regards to Ruffridge’s ability. I say however, never underestimate the power of an ambitious politician, especially if the politician is a demented power hungry Stoat!

  2. This is the most ridiculous thing ever. Who is this idiot? These guys better decide which caucus they’re in. Politics don’t work like this. Ask CJ McCormick.

  3. Alaska got zero problem solving done with Craig Johnson and Dan Sadler in their previous legislative stints. There is nothing wrong with relationship building, especially if it can take down walls and silos

  4. I think most of us would agree that the legislature is and has been full of dysfunction. That’s a big reason for why there are so many new legislators this cycle. As seen with Andy Josephson’s recent treatment of freshman legislators to push his agenda, letting the old guard run roughshod over the newbies, especially when the old guard have made such a mess of things isn’t for the betterment of the state. The new legislators make up a large percentage of the legislature, they shouldn’t allow themselves to be treated like rented mules. They were sent there for a reason in the numbers they were sent there and it mainly has to do with breaking the status quo we’ve seen over the last decade or so. Whether I agree with the politics of everyone in the freshman caucus or not at least there are some bucking those in power who think they run things!

  5. I am to the point of not caring what these reprobates in Juneau and DC do or don’t do. They have lost the right to govern.

  6. I recall John Butrovich telling me that after he was first elected to the Territorial Senate he was that bodies only Republican. When the Majority wanted to caucus, they told him, “hey Butrovich, beat it kiddo, go have a caucus in the phone booth and don’t forget to close the door”.
    Apparently, attending a caucus, regardless of the size of your quorum, can be a personal matter.

  7. The entire legislature has gotten together to join the “F you Alaska” caucus.

    Our federal elected representatives are honorary members.

  8. I hold out little hope for this state in its current state. The republicans are power hungry (because they have none), the democrats are bloated with it, and the independent is chasing his tail because they’ve given him assignments to keep him thinking he is needed. There was a show on TLC a few years ago called Rocket City Rednecks. Not a serious show, but I remember a slogan they used; “First: Be serious about your project, Second: Look good doing it and remember, Safety Third!” Here’s our new slogan for Juneau; First: Look serious or even glum about your role in Juneau (it make us think you’re there unwillingly, even humbly serving); Second: Dress to represent a people group in the state to score points, and remember, it’s all about you and the people you serve are a distant third.

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