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Alaska’s ‘Little Trump’ Ousted in GOP Primary

Poll worker Linda Hollinbeck gives an "I Voted" sticker to Kevin Poole at the Mendenhall Valley Public Library during Alaska's statewide primary Aug. 16, 2016. (James Brooks/The Juneau Empire via AP)

Alaska GOP freshman state Rep. Jim Colver, who branded himself as “Alaska’s Little Trump,” was defeated in the state’s GOP primary by George Rauscher, a Fu Manchu-mustachioed Republican who had never before won any election.

Colver only lost the Alaska Republican primary by 95 votes. But let’s face it – in politics, second place is just first place in a long line of losers.

Colver’s party campaigned against him. The Alaska Republican Party backed Rauscher over Colver, charging the incumbent was nothing but a Democrat in GOP clothing.

It is true that Colver quarreled with the GOP on many issues like whether the state should be allowed to siphon off some of the permanent fund earnings.

“We’re straight up that we have major concerns about this,” Colver told Newsminer.com in 2015. “We’re not going to vote for transferring funds to not deal with the budget vote; that’s going to happen.”

And the day before the election that would send him packing, Colver told his Facebook followers the GOP’s opposition to him was because he refused to concede to the party leadership’s wishes on issues like using permanent fund money to cover the state’s budget deficit.

“Why are special interest shadow groups spending money against me?” Colver wrote on his Facebook page. “It’s pretty simple. Because I and other rural and interior Republicans wouldn’t roll over on the PFD raid.”

Colver also squared off with party leadership over the issue of reforming oil tax credits.

“Do you want someone to represent you or the establishment? I will take a beating to look out after the best interests of my constituents and Alaska,” Colver said during an interview with the Alaska Dispatch News. “This is a business where you have to … be tough. And push back.”

Rauscher was as surprised as anyone when the Alaska GOP backed him over Colver.

The 59-year-old ran for the House District 9 seat twice before and lost both times. But this time, the party backed him.

Colver’s supporters said the Republican Party was only supporting Rauscher because they knew he would do what he was told to do.

“It’s something I take offense to pretty hard,” Rauscher said.

“When Joe Miller won the Republican nomination (for U.S. Senate) many years ago,” he added, “I voted for Joe Miller. I’m not sure the party did.”

Not unlike the politician whose name he co-opted for a campaign brand, Colver’s history has not been one of a Republican stalwart.

Colver checked the “undeclared” box when he registered to vote. He ran as an independent candidate for the House in 2002. Colver lost.

Eight years later, he was back in politics, drawing a paycheck as an aide for a Democrat and donating to candidates of that party through 2010.

Colver is part of the Musk Ox Coalition in the House, a group of moderate Republicans who will sometimes vote with Democrats.

The Alaska GOP has had problems with Colver since the day he took office following the 2014 election. Republicans accused him of working with Democrats to build a bipartisan majority in the House in April.

Tuckerman Babcock, chairman of the Alaska Republican Party, told Casey Reynolds, a political blogger, that the party had no choice but to come out against Colver.

“We have done our part to make sure that everyone in the district knows he’s really, at heart, a Democrat,” said Babcock.

It wasn’t just the state Republican Party that had problems with Colver.

A politically active business group in Alaska, the Accountability Project, targeted Colver and fellow Musk Ox Coalition member Paul Seaton as two Republicans who were not helping the GOP cause and should be defeated in the 2016 primary.

“Both of those guys are very susceptible to flipping over to a Democrat-led coalition in the House,” said Scott Hawkins, treasurer for The Accountability Project and president of ASCI. “Where the state’s at today — in terms of the budget deficit, the whole thing — we think that would be disastrous.”

Colver told KTOO-Radio the accusation that he would organize with Democrats was “false and misleading.”

He called the charge a “cover-up for this mischief …bringing … tons of corporate cash from the Outside.” Alaskans refer to anything, or anyone, coming in from outside the state’s boundaries, as coming from “The Outside.”

Well, all that is history.

Seaton was re-elected, but the GOP won’t have to worry about Colver working the other side of the street at least for another two years.

The Democrats haven’t offered even a sacrificial lamb in the House District 9 race, so at the end of the primary season, Rauscher is going to Juneau, not Colver.

Rauscher believes there was more behind his victory than the backing of the Alaska GOP.

“The people this year,” he said, “they had a big voice.”