HD31 Republican Party imposes stipulations on debates with Seaton

Sep 7, 2018

Republican candidate Sarah Vance (left) and non-partisan candidate Paul Seaton (right).
Credit City of Homer and Alaska Legislature

The District 31 Republican Party is imposing stipulations on when, where and how its nominee, Sarah Vance, will debate incumbent and former Republican Paul Seaton.

In an email to the Homer Chamber of Commerce and local press, Party Chair Nona Safra said the party will not approve any debates taking place in establishments where alcohol is served. Safra also noted that the “time, date, moderator and location” will be subject to her approval.   The party is also prohibiting their candidate from participating in any debates prior to Oct. 15.

Vance did not returns calls for comment in time for this story.

Safra did respond by email saying in part that the party’s largest sticking point is the Homer Chamber of Commerce’s plan to hold its debate at Alice’s Champagne Palace. Safra declined to comment further about the additional stipulations put forth in the email.

An email from House District 31 Republican Party Chair Nona Safra sent to local press and the Homer Chamber of Commerce.

Chamber of Commerce executive Director Debbie Speakman said the chamber will reassess the event, which is planned for Sept. 25.

“On Monday, we’re having our next legislative committee and then we’ll suss out the stipulations and see if it’s something we can work with,” Speakman explained over the phone Friday.

The chamber hosts debates for all primary and general election races every year, and Speakman said this is the first time the Chamber has received stipulations from any candidate or political party.

“Typically the biggest hurdle is getting dates that will work for each of the candidates,” she said.

The Chamber was forced to cancel its bipartisan primary debate for House District 31 earlier this summer due to one Republican candidate dropping out.  Safra said at the time that the party’s nominee would face Seaton in debates during the general election.

Seaton, who left the Republican Party earlier this year, said that the local party never imposed stipulations on debates during his time as its nominee.

“I was in eight Republican primaries and won those primaries and participated in debates and forums as those were scheduled or which I could make,” Seaton said. “But those were my decisions, not a party’s decision. I think it should be somewhat worrisome to people that a party is making these kinds of dictates on a candidate.”

However, State Republican Party Chair Tuckerman Babcock said it is typical for the state party to get involved in setting up debates for statewide or federal office. He said it’s up to local parties whether they want to get involved in organizing debates or want to impose restrictions on public forums their candidate may be asked to participate in.

“The local volunteers on the district committee, they take the lead on how they’re going to be involved or what they’d recommend to candidates running locally,” Babcock explained, “ and of course the candidates themselves are also involved in the process.”

KBBI has asked Vance to appear on the Coffee Table with Seaton in October. Vance has not confirmed whether she will appear on the show. Seaton said besides KBBI and the chamber, he has not received any other requests to appear in a debate or public forum with Vance.

Party chair Safra’s email also said the party’s stipulations apply to the race in District 9 on the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly. Troy Jones is running against incumbent Willy Dunne. However, voters will head to the polls for that race on Oct. 2, about two weeks before the District 31 party said it would allow Republican candidates to participate in debates.