Alaska Republicans elect Carmela Warfield as new party chair

Apr. 20—Carmela Warfield handily won a four-way race to become the new chair of the Alaska Republican Party. She replaces Ann Brown, who had been party chair since 2021.

Warfield, who serves as president of the Hillside Community Council and is a former chief executive of the conservative Alaska Policy Forum, received 57% of 267 votes cast at the state party convention in Anchorage on Saturday.

With 153 votes, Warfield beat former state Sen. Jerry Ward, who received 52 votes; former legislative aide Nikki Rose, who received 34 votes; and former GOP Vice Chair Mike Robbins, who received 28 votes.

Warfield said Saturday that the Alaska GOP's priorities under her leadership would be for the party to "use all (its) resources to defeat ranked choice voting in November, take back our lone U.S. House seat, give our speaker (Cathy Tilton) a larger majority, and send President Trump back to the White House."

Warfield will lead a party that has more than 140,000 registered members in Alaska. Prior to the GOP convention, she campaigned by traveling to many GOP events in different parts of the state, and had been endorsed by multiple groups including the Anchorage Republican Women's club and the Mat-Su Republican Women's Club.

[U.S. House candidates headline annual convention of Alaska GOP]

Warfield said "party unity" would be critical moving forward. The party proposed several changes to its rules on Saturday meant to promote "Republican-led" majorities in the state Legislature.

While many GOP members of the state House majority were in attendance at the convention — including House Speaker Cathy Tilton and House Majority Leader Dan Saddler — Republican leaders of the bipartisan Senate majority — including Senate President Gary Stevens and Senate Majority Leader Cathy Giessel — did not attend the convention.

Zackary Gottshall was elected party vice chair. He also serves as chair of the Alaska Human Rights Commission. Gottshall received 208 votes, beating Charlene Tautfest, who previously served as party secretary and received 52 votes.

The convention proceedings were nearly halted by an effort from several party members to switch all voting during the convention — including for party leadership — to paper ballots.

Party members voted on dozens of resolutions and motions during the two-day convention, and several acknowledged it would take several days to get through the agenda relying on paper ballots cast by nearly 300 convention attendees. Many convention-goers appeared skeptical of all electronic voting methods.

The party has relied for several years on electronic so-called "clickers" to cast votes during conventions. The technology relies on an internet connection to facilitate simultaneous real-time voting, using individual devices distributed to every party member with the right to vote during the convention.

Former state House member Chris Kurka, a Wasilla resident, made a motion early Saturday to switch to paper ballots exclusively. The motion was seconded by current state Rep. Jamie Allard of Eagle River.

"I appreciate the need for expediency," said Kurka, however he said the system "is easily hackable."

The proposal was met with opposition and hostility from some party members. Judy Eledge, Chair of the Anchorage Republican Women's Club, said she had faith in the clickers, which she said had been used since 2016.

"I truly question who would want to hack into our system," she said.

Laura Antonsen, a Ketchikan Republican said, "get over it — we're in the 21st century."

Ultimately, the party narrowed the proposition to consider whether to cast paper ballots in party leadership elections only. But that too was struck down, in a 113-137 vote, allowing the convention to proceed as planned.