FAIRBANKS — With less than a week for candidates to file to run for state office, Republican state Chairman Randy Ruedrich defended the contested redistricting map in a meeting with Fairbanks Republicans.
During the weekly Interior Republican luncheon, Ruedrich told party members that the Republican-leaning Alaska Redistricting Board created a map that’s good to Republicans and is “fair and equitable” to communities.
Ruedrich met criticism that the process was politically influenced head on, saying districts are more friendly to Republicans simply because Alaska is a more Republican state.
“The Democrats were very unhappy with the map we drew,” he said. “I could say many things about our plan, but ours is fair and equitable. … I think you have a great map for Fairbanks, an opportunity to elect Republicans from communities that actually belong together.”
The outgoing chairman, who served for 12 years before not seeking re-election earlier this year, said much of what was considered to be political was, in fact, reversing the gerrymandering done by Democrats during the last round of redistricting.
“What we did, very clearly, we ungerrymandered a map that combined — paired — 18 Republicans in the first version 11 years ago, so now Republicans have an opportunity to be voting in normal communities,” he said. “These were deliberate, overt attempts by Democrats efforts to gerrymander the map to pair incumbents.
“There’s not a place on the map that has now been approved by the court where two Democrats are in the same district. If the map had been gerrymandered to disadvantage the Democrats, somebody might have been paired.”
His comments come one week after Alaska Republican Chairman-elect Russ Millette made comments about the Republican influence on the redistricting process and identified, by name, a number of Democratic senators who would be “bad memories in November.”
Ruedrich openly recognized the role political influence plays on redistricting during the Friday meeting. He outlined the importance of winning key political positions — the governorship, speaker of the House, president of the Senate and the chief justice of the Alaska Supreme Court — to ensure Republicans are appointed to the Alaska Redistricting Board.
In the last week, two more candidates have filed to run for office in the Interior.
On the Republican side, Dean Shannon has filed to run for the open House District 5, which includes Chena Ridge and Salcha. He’ll face a primary challenge against fellow Republican Pete Higgins, who filed late last year.
The winner of the primary could face off against Democrat David Watts, who filed earlier this week. Watts is the first non-incumbent Democrat to file for election in the Interior.
Democrats have yet to file to run for the east Fairbanks House district, which is held by Republican Rep. Steve Thompson, and the North Pole House district, which is open after Republican Rep. Tammie Wilson was drawn into a different district.
Senate District C, which includes House District 5 and the Richardson corridor House district, currently has no Democratic candidate. Three Republicans — Ralph Seekins, Click Bishop and Bill Ward — are expected to compete in an August primary.
Interior Democratic Party Chairman Michael Wenstrup said the party has candidates lined up and will announce them next week, before the June 1 deadline.
Contact staff Writer Matt Buxton at 459-7544 or follow him on Twitter at @FDNMpolitics.