Leadership within Alaska’s Republican party will decide whether to oust Kodiak’s sitting district chairman at a hearing Tuesday, Sept. 20 over his public support of Sen. Lisa Murkowski.
In July 2021, Alaska’s Republican Party formally endorsed Kelly Tshibaka, Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s Trump-backed Republican challenger this November. The party censured Murkowski for her support of legal access to abortion, among other issues that same year.
In February, Republicans from District 5 – which encompasses all of Kodiak Island – passed a resolution supporting Murkowski.
“We were concerned with the early endorsement, or unusually early endorsement, of a candidate in the Senate race,” said Duncan Fields, the District 5 Republican party’s chairman.
Fields was voted into the position three years ago; he said Murkowski has been a longtime advocate of local issues – like Alaska fisheries and the island’s Coast Guard Base.
He voiced his support for Murkowski in a brief campaign video posted to the senator’s Twitter account earlier this year, and some from the state GOP took notice.
Two other district chairs – David Peck and Wayne Ogle from districts 7 and 8 on the Kenai Peninsula – filed complaints with the state’s party leadership. Each outline Fields’ “promotion of the candidacy of U.S. Senator Murkowski,” and call for Fields to resign or be removed as district chairman.
Whether or not Fields will receive any type of formal discipline – or stay in his position as chairman – will be decided at a meeting Tuesday evening.
District Chairman Peck and party leadership could not be reached by phone Monday afternoon. When reached for comment, Ogle said he’s fine with Fields supporting Murkowski – just not as a district chair.
Fields said the state party’s rules don’t prohibit local districts from endorsing a different Republican candidate – and he’s careful to distinguish the district chairmen who filed the complaint from the state’s party leadership. But he says whatever happens Tuesday could set an important precedent going forward.
“Whether or not it’s their intent to sort of purge every person in every district that has an opinion that’s different from the party, or if there is going to be a sense that the Alaskan Republican Party can have divergent voices and divergent opinions even at the district level,” said Fields.
Sen. Murkowski received 54% of the vote in the state primary in Kodiak. Fields said Kodiak voters tend to lean towards more moderate candidates historically – and this isn’t the first time local elected officials have been punished by the state GOP for working across the aisle. In 2016, the Alaska Republican Party voted to withdraw support from three state representatives who joined a majority Democrat coalition.
“I think as party chairman here in Kodiak, I feel this latest incident in that context is a further effort to silence the interests of Kodiak,” said Fields.
The Alaska Republican Party’s hearing is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday.