Many, me included, thought that the effort to recall Rep. Lindsay Holmes, the West Anchorage Democrat who turned into a Republican legislator shortly after she was elected, would dissipate in the way that these things do, particularly in Alaska, when protest movements often involve frozen fingers and toes, when well lighted rooms and dim bars beckon.
But the handful of committed activists are still at it, pounding recall signs in the frozen earth, standing on street corners waving signs on snowy afternoons, inching closer to the 800 or so signatures that the recall requires before it has to go through its next arduous phase. As of March 23, they’d gotten at least 332, counting the signature of the man who pulled up in the Northern Lights Carrs-Safeway parking lot, fuming about the switch. He had voted and given money to her campaign. He’s pissed. He trusted Holmes, he said. He gave her money and his vote. He doesn’t trust her anymore. He wants her gone.
The handful of people on that corner holding signs determined to make her pay for switching sides will all tell you a variation of the same thing. They talk about trust, about deceitfulness, about surprise.
You heard much the same talk among Republicans when, in 1988, the Dems were in charge of the House, and the late Republican Rep. Curt Menard switched his party affiliation. Just like with Holmes, it was the timing that seemed to rankle most, or so they said. (Is there ever a good time for such things?) Holmes switched shortly after she was elected, signaling to her voters that she had been planning to do so all along. Menard switched just in time to prevent the Republicans from putting up a challenger in his primary race.
This is how Menard put it then: “I had inklings toward the end of this session that maybe I was serving with the wrong group. The Democratic Party just fits me better. I’m more comfortable. Certainly, you’re going to make some people happy and you’re sure gonna make some enemies. I’m willing to live with that.”
This is how Holmes put it recently: “”I think in a lot of ways it has been something I’ve been moving toward for the entire six years I’ve been in the legislature. I’ve realized over time, working with members on a number of the issues, particularly economic development issues, I’ve found common vision with members of the majority.”
In other words, they both did it because they being in the minority sucks for them and their constituents, and they found enough that they liked about the other side that they could talk themselves into switching.
Back then, the Dems celebrated and the Republicans vowed revenge. Eventually, as these things go, most, and most importantly Menard’s constituents, forgot what they were so upset about. He served for eight more years. He then became mayor of Wasilla, where the sports complex bears his family name.
Things will likely go this way for Holmes, eventually. Unless the recallers help strengthen a Republican primary challenger, who will likely be a radical right winger. One of those fire-breathers. One of the intolerant, misogynistic, homophobic, oil-loving Republicans. One of those Republicans that the Dems love to loathe.
An ideologue, a scoundrel for whom patriotism and party is the last refuge. One who would never consider crossing over.The recallers are fired up. They believe they were wronged and they’ll brave snowy days to have their say, but is this what Alaska needs?