Koplin: Signing election audit letter was ‘error in judgment’

Public letter by Cordova Republicans alleged an effort to rig presidential election

Mayor Clay Koplin. (April 24, 2020) Photo by Zachary Snowdon Smith/The Cordova Times

Cordova Mayor Clay Koplin said that signing a public letter supporting an audit of the 2020 presidential election was “an error in judgment.”

The letter, authored by Republican Party Cordova Precinct Leader William Deaton, claimed the existence of a concerted effort to rig the presidential election, and called for an audit to assess claims of voter fraud. The letter was sent to Republicans Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Sen. Dan Sullivan and Rep. Don Young on Jan. 5, the day before Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory was certified by Congress. Over the course of three days, the letter had gained 491 signatures, including those of Koplin; former Cordova City Council member Ken Jones; Rep. David Eastman, R-Wasilla; and Kevin McCabe, a member-elect of the Alaska House of Representatives.

In a written statement, Koplin apologized to the community for what he described as working outside the city’s public process. Koplin said he reconsidered his position after hearing feedback from the public.

“A couple of citizens contacted me directly, which I really appreciated, and pointed out that, hey, there’s a bigger picture here, and… these are some of the implications of what you did,” Koplin said. “That made me take a really sharp look at my own values and what I think of as good governance. In an elected position, you’re there, ultimately, to represent the will of the community.”

Most of the 50-plus legal challenges to the election outcome filed by President Donald Trump and his allies have been dropped or dismissed. Jan. 6, the Senate decisively rejected challenges to Biden’s victories in Arizona and Pennsylvania. Some Republican senators who had planned to support the objections reversed course after pro-Trump rioters invaded the Capitol in an attack in which five people died, including one Capitol Police officer. A second Capitol Police officer died by suicide days after the attack.

“It was reprehensible,” Koplin said. “Violence in our Capitol is an assault on our government, particularly when they’re executing their Constitutional duty to swear in a new president. It starts to look kind of Third-World. So it’s very concerning — to all of us, I hope.”

A Jan. 8 survey by the polling firm Ipsos found that 72% of Americans strongly disapproved of the actions of the Capitol rioters, including 87% of Democrats and 58% of Republicans. A survey conducted two days later found that 67% of Americans believe Trump deserves some blame for the Capitol riot, including 98% of Democrats and 31% of Republicans.

Divisive political issues, Koplin said, can sometimes overshadow positive developments in the community. Dr. Anne Zink, Alaska’s chief medical officer, has repeatedly referenced Cordova as a model of successful coronavirus management — one of many ways Cordova has set a positive example, Koplin said.

“Part of the liability of focusing on negative conversations and negative outcomes is that you lose your goals and your objectives, and the positive things,” Koplin said. “What makes me optimistic for 2021, really, is looking at 2020 and seeing how many things went right, and the sense of community that Cordova has that carries us through these challenges. It’s because the community does know how to have those hard conversations, to have those disagreements and find workable solutions.”

Koplin said he unreservedly recognizes Biden as the legitimate president-elect and hopes the city and state will establish a productive working relationship with the Biden administration. Murkowski, Sullivan and Young have also publicly acknowledged Biden as president-elect. Deaton said he recognized Biden as president-elect, though he did not believe Biden had been elected legitimately. Biden is set to be sworn in Wednesday, Jan. 20.

Jones said he would stand by his decision to sign the letter.