Rep. Gary Knopp took the mask off today. He went back on his word and turned his back on his fellow Republicans once again. This time, he tried to become Speaker of the House himself.
For weeks, he told the public that he wanted a to craft a bipartisan leadership team in the House, a 50-50 power-sharing plan with Democrats. Nothing he came up with was acceptable to both sides.
On Monday, he committed to several people to voting for the Republican nominee, Dave Talerico.
He told his Republican colleagues he was tired of fighting and although he thought a Republican caucus could not hold together, he would be the 21st vote for the originally established majority, which was Dave Talerico as Speaker.
Knopp knew that he had three meetings in his home district on Friday, and time is running out for him before he has to face the music with voters.
On Monday, he told his Republican District Chair, Neal DuPerron, that he was coming back over to the Republican side, with Talerico as chair. That happened just as his district was voting for him to “rejoin or resign.”
Today, after all he had promised, he flipped, and voted against Talerico.
It went further: He voted for himself as Speaker.
Here’s how it went down in the House today, a day that many long-time political observers say was unprecedented in its bizarre twists and turns.
As agreed to by the Republican caucus, Rep. Chuck Kopp nominated Rep. Dave Talerico as Speaker. The Republicans were stunned when instead of 21 votes, Talerico only had 20.
For the third time, Gary Knopp had voted against Talerico, denying Republicans the majority and going back on his word.
Rep. Louise Stutes nominated Gary Knopp, and then Rep. Daniel Ortiz of Ketchikan stood and made the motion to vote on Knopp as Speaker.
The Democrats were all on board, along with the two Republicans who caucus with the Democrats — Rep. Louise Stutes and Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux.
Evidently this had been brokered on behalf of the Democrats the night before by Stutes, who had dinner with Knopp.
Rep. David Eastman asked that before the vote, Knopp should speak first about why he had refused to vote for Talerico, when the day before he said he would.
“I never said who I would support,” Knopp said in response. He said that he was approached the night before and he admitted the move was no doubt unexpected, acknowledging he pulled a surprise on his Republican colleagues.
“I am supporting a Republican nominee: myself.”
The scheme, however, didn’t go according to plan. The vote went 20-20, with his Republican colleagues denying him the chance to take over the Speaker’s gavel. They had been double-crossed.
TRUST BROKEN IN REPUBLICAN CAUCUS
At this point in the Republican caucus, there’s so much mistrust that it’s hard for this longtime observer to see how the Republicans put together their organization.
They now know that Knopp, who for weeks worked as the “broker” between Republicans and Democrats, was never an honest broker. Also, many of them have made power deals that have since fallen through, and some of those deals would have put Democrats firmly in charge.
Everywhere Republicans look in their caucus, they see people who have made deals for power that throw the rest of the Republicans — and Republican principles — under the bus.
On the Democrats side, the trust is still intact; their caucus is working in lockstep.
Back on the Kenai Peninsula, angry voters are now calling for a “resign-or-recall” of Gary Knopp. But Knopp is standing firm.
In a note Knopp sent to one of his constituents, he tells the complaining constituent that he is too dense to understand what is going on in Juneau:
“Ed, let me make it very clear for the last and final time; not a chance in hell that I’m going to resign!