A Day at the Republican District 31 Convention (AKA The Paul Seaton Retirement Party)

Editor’s note: According to Ivan Z. Encelewski, Executive Director of the Ninilchik Tribal Council, the tribe is apolitical and does not specifically endorse a political candidate or party. Peter Zuyus later said that his summation of the keynote speaker’s remarks was not intended to imply an endorsement, but to highlight areas of agreement with the Republican Party platform.

The following is a true story. No names have been changed and everyone is innocent.

I had the pleasure to attend the District 31 Republican Convention on Saturday the 3rd of February. The event was limited to registered Republicans, so yes, I admit to passing that test. This is the first district event I have attended, so I did not know what to expect.

The Republican District 31 has been in the background and a bit quiet for a number of years. From what I witnessed, that is all about to change, in a big way.

It was strictly a no recording device, phones off day so my comments are from old fashioned notes.

The welcome remarks by Nona Safra set the tone for the day — positive and energizing. Followed by the Pledge of Allegiance (all hats were off and no one kneeled) then an uplifting invocation by Pastor Julie Wasser.

Ivan Encelewski, Director of the Ninilchik Tribal Council spoke of the tribal contribution to the economy, health and community involvement on the Kenai Peninsula and how Ninilchik tribal activities benefit both native and nonnative borough residents. He outlined the on going programs of the Ninilchik Council and the Council support for much of the Republican Party platform and agenda.

Local political speakers included Jon Faulkner, Alaska Republican State Party Vice- chair; Neal Duperron, District 30 Chair; and Nona Safra, District 31 Chair.

Jon spoke about what it means for him to be a Republican. He started by saying the quote for the season is, “Paul Seaton cannot run as a Republican in the state Primary.” For this audience, his speech was very inspiring and well received. Neal Duperron took the floor and in his no-holds-barred style told everyone get busy, get active and elect a Republican to District 31.

The attendance was one of the largest ever for the district and the enthusiasm much greater than I expected. Two distinguished state office seekers were present and spoke to the group. Gubernatorial candidate Scott Hawkins dropped in for a few moments to outline his qualifications and plans for the state fiscal plan.

Ms. Edie Grunwald, candidate for Lt. Governor and retired Air Force Colonel, stayed for the whole day. In a short, but engaging presentation she emphasized her background and qualifications for Lt. Governor, later being overheard saying, “I was an Air Force Colonel and am now asking you to promote me to Lt. Governor.” Her stance to fight crime and drug abuse in the state was well received. Vibrant and personable, it appears her time spent visiting with local residents earned her considerable respect and local support.

After the state candidate presentations district business carried on. Committees were formed to submit local change recommendations to the state Republican Party Platform. A wonderful silent auction followed with a few words from candidates and potential candidates for the District 31 Republican house seat. As Nona Safra eloquently put it, “the Republican house seat currently is held by Democrat Paul Seaton; that must change” to loud applause.

John Cox of Anchor Point ,who has filed to run for the seat, gave an emotional and fiery talk on why he filed to run against Paul Seaton, outlining his military background and area businessman credentials. A little later, Ms. Sarah Vance from Homer gave a well received look at her intent to run for the District 31 seat. She spoke of the need to bring District 31 back to the Republican party and the core values that Seaton has turned his back on. We can probably expect to hear more from her in the near future.

Conversations overheard indicate that the words of Cox and Vance inspired others to consider entering the race. Who is next?

In general, I have the impression that Republican District 31 is invigorated, going to be vocal, be heard and work hard to elect a Republican to the house. Members have no qualms saying it will not be Democrat Paul Seaton.

During the day, Nona Safra was unanimously elected as Chair of District 31. The attendees were looking forward to her leadership of the District 31 Republican Party.

All in all, it was a fun and educational experience. If District leaders follow through on their commitments, I think we will all be hearing a lot more from KPB Republican District 31.

This is not an endorsement: It is the way it was.

Peter T. Zuyus is a retired business executive and senior citizen advocate living in the Homer area.