All in all, the Alaska Republican Party picnic on Tuesday night was probably the most benign picnic I’ve been to, and I’ve been making a point of going for about seven years, because you never know what can happen. The most dramatic one was in 2006, when Republican Party lawyer Bill Large got whacked with a Sarah Palin “Take a Stand” sign. The whacker was a 70-plus year old Sarah Palin supporter. Large left the state shortly thereafter.
But that was then, and this is now. And if you didn’t know any better, you would have thought that the dozens of candidates, staffers, and political operatives actually liked each other.
It was all mostly mellow, except when young libertarian leaning Jeff Landfield and the outspoken head of the Anchorage Women’s Republican Club Judy Eledge began to argue heatedly over immigration. The gist: Landfield just can’t understand how she, a pro-life, save-the-children Christian, can want the country to turn its back on the children who are showing up on the border. Eledge sees a conspiracy afoot. “Tell me how all of those orphans (which you have no proof are orphans) walked all the way by themselves from South America,” she wrote in a Facebook post later about the incident. She also warned in the post that I was looking for something exciting to write about. “Judy would not let her go away disappointed,” she wrote. Let me be clear: Judy Eledge does a lot of things, including referring to herself in third person, but she never disappoints. Nor does she argue. She yells instead. Some might even describe it as screaming.
There’s always a little tension when Joe Miller is in the same room with Randy Ruedrich and Frank McQueary. But Miller and his peeps were friendly and gracious to everyone, even to me. Joe’s wife, Kathleen even told me a story about how they met. She was a single mom in her early 20s with two small children and two dogs living in Kansas. He had just gotten home from Iraq. She was going to move to her mother’s house in Arizona to finish college, and could only take one of the dogs. Joe called the number on the ad, and even though the Golden Retriever had just been hit by a car and had a broken leg, he fell in love with the dog, and soon, with Kathleen and her two small kids. I recently told APRN that for Joe to reinvent himself, he needed a “personality transplant.” If I could redo that interview now, I would say that what he needs to do is to put Kathleen in front of every camera in the state to tell that story.
Speaking of Randy Ruedrich: I didn’t see anybody, not even Eledge, yell at him at the picnic, which must have been nice for a change. In fact, it can’t be all bad to be him right now: he’s still acting as head of the party, but has none of the real responsibilities. (Sarah Palin can likely relate.)
Peter Goldberg, the actual head of the party, was conspicuously absent. I would be lying if I said that he left a void. People were like, “Who?” when I mentioned him.
Gov. Sean Parnell came and left early. It’s odd to see a governor dress down, picnic style. It’s so odd, in fact, that people seemed to just walk by without recognizing him, which he seemed fine with. You can say a lot about Parnell, but you can’t say that he has that annoying, need-to-be noticed gene that nearly all other politicians and political wannabes in the room have. And likewise, when people talk to him, he really listens. Others should take note.
Rep. Lynn Gattis, for one, appeared to be having a ball. Some of you might have heard that a recent quote regarding her opponent’s scrotum that was published in the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman turned into a cause celebre. Her opponent, Verne Rupright, is one of the trio of men running as independents against Republican incumbents. Rupright didn’t show last night, but the other two—Roger Purcell and Steve Jacobson, did. “They have some balls to snub the party and then show up and eat the food,” Gattis said, repeatedly. Then again, Purcell is known for taking things that he doesn’t have a right to have. Some will remember that when he was mayor of Houston, he took a police car on a nice ride to Fairbanks. That’s truly ballsy.
Best political give-away at the picnic was Rep. Don Young’s chocolate bars made by a Sitka chocolate company, one of which I snagged, ethics be damned. Behold:
Westside House candidate Anand Dubey appeared to have the most people wearing his stickers.
The biggest sign award went to Brad Snowden, the fringe Republican candidate from Seward who wears a big plastic frog around his neck and is staying in a hostel and who doesn’t mind getting from one place to the other by hitchhiking, which I have written about before, and which he apparently read. “You didn’t mention my energy plan,” he said. And then he began to talk to me about this energy plan…
I’m told that both Mead Treadwell and Dan Sullivan worked the room but kept their distance from each other. I didn’t see this, however, because Brad Snowden was trying to talk to me about his energy plan.
The weather was nice, and Rep. Dan Saddler’s band played all the right folksy, country songs.
The best sponsorship of the night went to the petting zoo, which was sponsored by “No on 1.”
Some of the other sponsorships included:
- Ice cream by Don Young.
- Pony rides by Gov. Sean Parnell.
- The bouncy house by Mead Treadwell.
- A photo booth by Dan Sullivan.
Most useful peace of information gleaned: House Speaker Mike Chenault is going for another term as speaker.
Most intriguing conversation that I wish I could have overhead: Mayoral candidate Dan Coffey huddled with Commissioner of Administration Curtis Thayer.
Watch for a regular version of Loose Lips coming on Thursday. It’ll be a good one.
Contact Amanda Coyne at email@example.com