FAIRBANKS — A Republican Party pledge from the state Senate primary election campaign has raised the issue of partisanship in the non-partisan race for the Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly.
A Tuesday newspaper advertisement paid for by the union-backed Fairbanks Interior Workers group claims assembly candidate Lance Roberts “imposed a ‘Party Purity’ oath” on Republican state Senate primary candidates. Roberts is running against union member Cliff Russell for Seat G.
Did Roberts independently impose an oath requiring Republican candidates to pledge allegiance to the party, threatening to cut off party support if they didn’t?
The pledge existed and was covered in the race for Senate District C in Fairbanks. The pledge specifically asked candidates to promise not to join a Senate coalition controlled by Democrats and was a direct response to the bipartisan coalition in control of the Senate.
The eventual GOP primary winner, Click Bishop, had refused to sign, saying
he was “an Alaskan first and Republican second.”
Roberts’ role is less cut-and-dry. He was, and is, the chairman of the House District 5 Republicans. The ad in the Daily News-Miner mentions only Roberts’ involvement, but Roberts points out the pledge was approved by a vote of the district committee.
Roberts says the idea of an oath comes from state party rules.
“Those rules are in our party rules,” he said. “It should be implemented from the state party level. We saw that we needed to do it in our district because it, being a three-way primary, we needed to make sure we knew who our candidates were.”
House District 5 was the only district to circulate such a pledge.
Alaska Republican Party Chairman Randy Ruedrich said there’s no such directive passed down from the state party. There are party rules that allow for a district to withdraw support from a candidate or endorse particular candidates in a primary, but he said it’s up to the district if those rules are enforced in a primary. He went on to say a party pledge is an unusual approach.
“There is no party purity anything,” he said. “We have rules that districts can work with. ... This is something District 5 did.”
Geoffrey Bacon, chairman of the Fairbanks Interior Workers, agreed the technicalities could have been missing from the ad but said the issue of Roberts’ deep Republican Party involvement should worry voters.
“There’s a time for partisanship but there’s a time for the community to come together, and we need to get all the ideas on the table and come to a solution that’s best for our community,” he said. “Bringing a partisan agenda to the table hijacks that discussion.”
Other ads run by the Fairbanks Interior Workers have highlighted Roberts’ statements from social media sources, which Bacon says points out the issue of Roberts’ highly partisan viewpoints.
“He’s too extreme,” Bacon said. “The assembly is a place for nine members of our community to lead our community to economic growth.”
Russell, a registered undeclared, also expressed concern that Roberts would approach issues with “his mind made up.” He pitched himself as a moderate, who is willing to listen to both sides of the conversation.
But Roberts stands by his comments and said it’s exactly what he’ll stand for if elected, noting that he comments on the Daily News-Miner website using his real name.
“I’m running on those principals and values of fiscal conservatism,” he said. “It’s important for me to let you know what those principals are so they’re implemented on the local level.”
Contact staff writer Matt Buxton at 459-7544 or follow him on Twitter: @FDNMpolitics.