OPINION: Knopp sides with his ego over voters

  • Alaska state Rep. Gary Knopp, left, waits during a break in a floor session in which the House failed to elect a permanent speaker. Knopp voted for himself as speaker, leading to another deadlock that's preventing the House from organizing. (Photo/Becky Bohrer/AP)

Rep. Gary Knopp’s fellow Republicans appealed to party loyalty and pragmatism as they attempted to convince him to break his month-long holdout that has prevented the state House from organizing. Democrats flattered his ego.

Knopp sided with his ego.

After telling Anchorage Daily News reporter James Brooks that he decided over this past weekend to end his pointless stunt of refusing to vote for Rep. Dave Talerico of Healy as Speaker of the House in a Quixotic quest to force the formation of a bipartisan coalition, Knopp reneged on his pledge a day later after Democrats put forth his name as their choice instead of former Speaker Rep. Bryce Edgmon of Dillingham.

Knopp then voted for himself and against Talerico on Feb. 12, resulting in another set of 20-20 stalemates that leave the House unorganized and unable to even receive the 25 bills Gov. Michael J. Dunleavy said he intended to introduce the following day in tandem with his “ground up” budget to address a projected $1.6 billion shortfall for the fiscal year that starts July 1.

In a ridiculous piece of semantics explaining his reversal, Knopp said he only pledged to vote for a Republican as Speaker and not which Republican that would be.

Calling his statement disingenuous would be polite. Or, as Rep. Mark Neuman of Big Lake put it more accurately, it’s “bullshit.”

Rather than dance with the people who brought him — his District 30 is so Republican that Democrats didn’t even field a candidate against him and its voters chose Dunleavy by a 68 percent to 27 percent margin of 3,214 — Knopp is determined to prove his original assertion that one person can blow up a caucus of 21.

At the time, Knopp specifically was referring to notorious gadfly Rep. David Eastman of Wasilla, who is looking more and more sensible every day in comparison.

Now, rather than organize with the Republicans as his voters intended for him to do, Knopp is single-handedly doing more damage to House business than Eastman could ever approach.

With per diem of more than $200 multiplied by 40 House members, it’s is a safe estimate to say Knopp’s grandstanding has cost the state about a quarter-million dollars for nothing so far.

Knopp can claim all he wants that he believes a bipartisan coalition is preferable, but in reality what he is doing is nothing more than the bidding of the Democrats who lost their majority in the last election.

Oh sure, Democratic caucus members Reps. Louise Stutes of Kodiak and Gabrielle LeDoux of Anchorage have an “R” next to their name, but that doesn’t make them Republicans any more than donning a paper crown makes someone the Burger King.

There is no understating how badly Knopp screwed up by siding with himself over the simple good of being able to organize and conduct business and then letting chips fall where they may as the session unfolds.

Knopp broke a very public pledge and as such can’t be trusted by any of his fellow Republicans going forward even if he eventually comes around to voting for Talerico.

He may well have further entrenched both sides, or it is possible his intransigence driven by his completely unjustified belief that he’s acting on principle will end up sending a couple wavering Republicans into the Democrat caucus to give them control that the people of Alaska — and especially those of his own district — clearly did not vote for.

Knopp can say whatever he wants about Eastman, but Eastman says what he means and acts accordingly. Knopp has demonstrated that he values loyalty to himself first and that his word means nothing.

There isn’t a soapbox big enough to look down on anybody from that perspective.

Andrew Jensen can be reached at and[email protected].

Updated: 
02/13/2019 - 11:14am

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