Cordova Republicans want to change party rules

Resolution: Binding-caucus rule has been used to target conservative legislators

Cordova’s Republican Precinct Rally was held at Kayak Cafe. (Jan. 25, 2020) Photo by Zachary Snowdon Smith/The Cordova Times

Cordova Republicans have mobilized to make their influence felt by the party at large. At a Saturday, Jan. 25 rally, the Republican Party’s Cordova Precinct passed four resolutions, one of which called for the abolition of the party’s binding-caucus rule.

The rally was led by 18-year-old William Deaton, a Cordova Jr./Sr. High School student who has distinguished himself by participating extensively in Republican Party politics and by serving student council representative at meetings of Cordova City Council. Deaton hopes that organizing the precinct will encourage residents to take part in politics beyond casting a ballot every four years.

“That’s something that I love about Alaska — that we don’t really care about party politics,” Deaton said. “But, to have a say, I think that, sadly, we currently have to work within the party system… The more people are involved, the better off we will be — that’s what democracy is about.”

A resolution drafted by Deaton and adopted unanimously at the rally condemned the binding-caucus rule observed by Republicans in the Alaska House and Senate. The binding-caucus rule obliges Republicans to vote along with the rest of the party on budget issues. According to the Cordova Precinct’s resolution, this mechanism has been used to undermine party unity and to target conservative legislators. The binding-caucus rule, Deaton said, has been used to attack senators like Mia Costello who supported a full Permanent Fund Dividend, depriving them of committee appointments and other leadership positions.

“What [the resolution] does is call out Republicans in the Alaska Senate and says, ‘We are tired of your antics. We are tired of you removing conservative legislators from their committees and stripping them of their ability to represent their districts well.’” Deaton said. “We’re all about representative government, and this binding-caucus rule is not representative government. It’s the exact opposite.”

Eighteen-year-old William Deaton was elected as Republican Party Cordova Precinct leader. (Jan. 25, 2020) Photo by Zachary Snowdon Smith/The Cordova Times

A second resolution adopted by the precinct called for elected city and borough officials representing areas where abortions are performed to introduce anti-abortion legislation. The resolution drew an analogy between “sanctuary cities,” which limit enforcement of federal immigration laws, and proposed “sanctuary cities of the unborn,” which would oppose federal and state laws allowing abortion. Two additional resolutions declared support for the Alaska Marine Highway System and called for a public vote to approve any statute changes related to the PFD.

The four resolutions passed by the precinct will be brought to the Feb. 8 Republican district convention in Kodiak. If adopted there, they will proceed to the state convention. Deaton identified the resolution on the AMHS as most likely to be adopted by the district.

Rally participants also discussed a possible amendment to city law which would require a public vote to ratify tax increases passed by the city council, excluding increases accounting for inflation. This initiative was, in part, a response to a recently enacted 6 percent surtax on alcohol, tobacco and marijuana products, Deaton said. The initiative is expected to be on the agenda at an upcoming city council meeting, he said.

Twelve residents attended the rally, which was held at Kayak Cafe, a venue co-owned by Deaton’s sister, Karen Deaton Perry. Though only registered Republicans were able to vote at the rally, Deaton hopes to organize regular meetings of conservative residents, Republican-affiliated or not. This could help create a basis for advocacy at city council and school board meetings, he said.

“I thought it was really constructive,” said Lynette DeCook, an independent voter who attended the rally. “I think it’s great that you can get together and hear different ideas that are well put together … Cordova is a unique place that has unique challenges that both parties should work on.”