- Associated Press - Thursday, May 1, 2014

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - The tea party faction of the Alaska Republican Party won’t be attending the state convention in Juneau after two of their members were elected and later removed from leadership posts.

Many Ron Paul supporters are skipping the three-day biennial convention, which starts Thursday in Juneau, the Anchorage Daily News reported (http://is.gd/5jxjVS). That indicates the struggle to take control of the party might have subsided after a rocky two years.

Russ Millette and his tea party backers attended the 2012 meeting en masse in Anchorage, and elected him chairman of the party. He never took office.

Millette said he and his supporters won’t attend the convention this year and are disillusioned.

“Virtually everyone that elected me will not be there,” Millette said. “They had a shot, and they took it and they won, and it was overturned by a group of 16 unelected people called the state executive committee.”

He said the vote last year to hold the convention in Juneau over a competing proposal from the Matanuska-Susitna Borough also played a role since it’s more difficult and expensive for people from Fairbanks and the Wasilla area, traditional hot beds for the tea party, to get to Juneau.

“The process requires a lot of time and money and motivation,” said Evan Cutler, who was an organizer for Alaskans for Ron Paul 2012. “And right now, there’s not enough motivation.”

Millette was elected at the convention two years ago and worked with then-chairman Randy Ruedrich - who backed the candidate Millette beat for the position - for 10 months, learning how to run the party business.

But the day before Millette was to have officially taken office, the state party’s executive committee removed him, claiming he had failed to raise money for the party and only registered as a Republican ahead of the convention.

He was replaced by another tea party candidate, Debra Holle Brown. The executive committee removed her from office two months later.

The new chairman, Peter Goldberg, said he has been relying on Ruedrich to learn the ropes of the job, and would be open to re-election this weekend.

Some Paul supporters are planning to join an alternative group, the Alaska Republican Assembly, which will conduct a convention and “Freedom Fair” in Wasilla later in May. A former Republican Party Central Committee member, Daniel Hamm, is leading the group.

That faction of the party might also be back for the 2016 convention, a presidential election year, when it’s held in Fairbanks.

“It’s just a whole different flavor for the state convention at that time,” said Edna DeVries, an Alaska Republican Assembly member former state senator.

Plus, geography will be on their side in 2016, she said, noting that Fairbanks - unlike Juneau - “is on the road system.”

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Information from: Anchorage (Alaska) Daily News, http://www.adn.com

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