FAIRBANKS — Ron Paul might have finished a distant third in Alaska’s Republican presidential primary race, but the Texas congressman and his supporters won big at the Republican state convention this weekend.
In a tense and at times openly confrontational convention, Paul’s supporters came out in force to express their distaste with what they call “establishment Republicans” and successfully took control of much of the party.
The biggest victory the Paul supporters took home this weekend was the chairmanship of the Alaska GOP. Russ Millette, a Paul supporter, was elected to replace retiring party Chairman Randy Ruedrich at the state GOP convention in Anchorage.
Ruedrich had led the party since 2000 and played a key role in electing Republicans, despite his own run-ins with controversy. In 2003, Ruedrich stepped down from Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission amid ethics complaints levied by the commission’s then-chairwoman, Sarah Palin.
In 2008, Ruedrich faced stiff opposition, organized in part by future U.S. Senate candidate Joe Miller of Fairbanks.
Ruedrich wasn’t running to keep the chairmanship this year. However, according Fairbanks area delegate Mike Dunton, many see Millette’s victory as an ouster because Ruedrich’s favored replacement, Bruce Schulte, wasn’t elected.
Millette, who won’t take over until 2013, will be joined by fellow Paul favorite Debbie Brown, who was elected as vice chairwoman.
Not everything went smoothly for the Paul supporters, though.
Paul supporters often interrupted the convention to yell over any mention of presumed-Republican nominee Mitt Romney.
And on Friday night they interrupted a speech by U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who won a write-in campaign against Tea Party-favorite Joe Miller. Miller, along with other delegates, helped organize votes at the convention, and his wife, Kathleen, won a GOP delegate seat on the Electoral College.
Several videos on YouTube show a tense standoff where dozens of delegates shouted down Murkowski.
Fairbanks-area delegate and Ron Paul supporter Mike Dunton said the fight didn’t do anyone any good.
“The Lisa Murkowski thing was just plain wrong,” he said on Monday. “Ron Paul would have never condoned that. … I didn’t vote for Lisa and I don’t like her, but this doesn’t work for me, this doesn’t help.”
The Alaska Dispatch reported Saturday that Ruedrich said the Alaska Republican Party transferred all of its roughly $100,0000 to the local Capital City Republicans and Juneau because legislators were “concerned.”
That’s because Millette will serve as the party’s finance chairman immediately. He could, presumably, withhold funding for this falls’ races.
Reflecting on the weekend, Dunton said the weekend will dramatically shift the direction of the Alaska GOP during the next few years.
“It was something else,” he said. “It was shenanigans on all sides.”
Contact staff writer Matt Buxton at 459-7544.