ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) - The head of the Alaska Republican party was ousted from her post and a public feud raged on this week between state party traditionalists and Tea Party loyalists allied variously with Sarah Palin and Ron Paul.
State Republican chairwoman Debbie Brown, a self-described “strong conservative” who shuttered party headquarters in midtown Anchorage as a part of her war with the party’s old guard, says she is still the party’s leader despite “shenanigans” by its executive committee, who removed her from the job on Monday.
Brown, from Kasilof, Alaska, was traveling and did not attend Monday’s meeting, which she dismissed as illegitimate.
She was the second GOP chief ousted this year in sparsely populated Alaska, where big personalities can be just as powerful politically as ideology.
Brown was replaced by retired Army Colonel Peter Goldberg, a little-known recent returnee to the state where he was once posted during his military service.
Officially, Brown was removed over management issues. “She simply failed to demonstrate any capacity to lead or success in the position of chair,” said Frank McQueary, a non-voting committee member who participated in the meeting.
That meeting was held at a site away from the darkened state party headquarters in midtown Anchorage, which on Brown’s orders had notices posted outside, still there on Friday, advising that access to the building had been rescinded as of April 4.
The leadership upheaval followed months of infighting pitting longtime party leaders against activists including supporters of former Governor and Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, former Alaska Senate candidate Joe Miller, and libertarian-minded supporters of Ron Paul, the former candidate for the Republican presidential nomination.
But national politics have little to do with the turmoil among Alaska Republicans.
“This is much more specific to Alaska than it is a reflection of the national issues,” said Gerald McBeath, a political science professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
Brown has found herself at a national Republican meeting in Los Angeles this week alongside her appointed successor, Goldberg, with both identifying themselves as head of the state party - and both denied that title at the meeting, she said in a text message to Reuters on Friday signed “Debra Holle Brown, Chairman, Alaska Republican Party.”
The national Republican leadership “decided the best solution, for all parties, was to deny Alaska a Chairman’s seat,” she wrote.
Brown’s ouster followed a similar move in January against her fellow Tea Party ally Russ Millette. He had been elected to succeed longtime chairman Randy Ruedrich, who left the job voluntarily.
Ruedrich had long feuded with Palin and Miller.
Miller, who is mulling a 2014 campaign against Democratic Senator Mark Begich, defended Brown in an essay published on his website, “Restoring Liberty.” He said charges against her were spurious and that she had been the victim of “a kangaroo court-type proceeding orchestrated by long-time party bosses.”
McQueary, the executive committee member, said Brown has the right to appeal her removal. If she appeals, party members will consider the matter at their May 25 state convention, he said.
Reporting by Yereth Rosen; Editing by Cynthia Johnston, Gary Hill