New York billionaire Donald Trump is preparing to open an office in Anchorage’s Dimond Center mall within the next day or two, according to Jim Crawford, chairman of Trump Alaska 2016.
Outside of Anchorage, the Trump ground game in Alaska will include offices in Juneau and Fairbanks, and possibly Ketchikan and Bethel, said Crawford, a commercial realtor and veteran Republican operative.
About 20 people will staff the Anchorage office. The regional offices will have about 10 staffers along with a host of volunteers, according to Crawford.
Some $500,000 will fund the effort to manage voter databases, do phone banking, knock on doors, and perform other types of voter outreach, he said.
“We’re committed to a strong Trump in in Alaska,” said Crawford, a longtime campaign consultant and former chair of the Republican Party of Alaska.
Trump’s brash style appeals to Wayne Anthony Ross, an Anchorage attorney once tapped by former Gov. Sarah Palin to be Alaska’s attorney general. The Legislature ultimately rejected the appointment.
“I like a guy who speaks his mind,” said Ross. “It’s refreshing.”
A figure in Alaska political circles for decades, Ross is known for his outspoken style and controversial remarks on guns and gay rights, among other topics. He sees glimpses of himself in Trump.
“He says what he thinks and I did too when I ran for governor. Of course, I didn’t get elected but he has a lot more money,” Ross said.
The committee advising Trump on Alaska policy ahead of the national GOP convention in July includes five prominent Alaska Republicans: former Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, state Sen. John Coghill of North Pole, former Anchorage Mayor Rick Mystrom, former Senate President Drue Pearce, and retired Alaska Housing Finance Corp. chief Dan Fauske.
Likewise, the honorary co-chairs of the Trump Alaska 2016 organization read like a Who’s Who of GOP politics on the last Frontier. Besides Ross, the players include former Lt. Governor Loren Leman, House Speaker Mike Chenault, state Sens. Charlie Huggins and Lesil McGuire, Anchorage Assemblywoman Amy Demboski, Rev. Jerry Prevo, Frank Dahl, Don Kubley, Craig Compeau, Paul Fuhs, Dave Schilling, Gabrielle Rubenstein, John MacKinnon, Dave Cuddy, Matt Waggoner, Glenn Biegel, Richard Carr, Dave Cruz, Robert Hall, Ed O’Neill, George Owletuck, and Glenn Clary.
John Sturgeon, a longtime forestry executive and moose hunter, is also an honorary co-chair.
He said he respects Trump’s business acumen.
“You can’t be successful in business without being pretty smart and knowing how to work with people. Deals don’t work unless both sides are happy,” he said.
But like some other honorary co-chairs and policy platform committee members, Sturgeon doesn't appear to be enamored with Trump.
“I’m an anyone-but-Hillary person,” said Sturgeon, who recently won a partial victory in U.S. Supreme Court case against the federal Park Service.
In a unanimous ruling in March, the high court sided with Sturgeon that the Park Service overstepped its authority by banning the moose hunter from using his hovercraft in Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve. The justices sent the case back to an appeals court for reconsideration.
Meanwhile, former Anchorage Mayor Mystrom, who supported Florida’s Marco Rubio in Alaska’s Republican Presidential Preference Poll, has agreed to be a policy adviser to the New York real estate mogul. He wants Trump to understand the importance of resource development for Alaska more than anything. In his role on the policy platform committee, Mystrom will work on issue development for Trump.
Mystrom said he was asked to be an honorary co-chair of Trump’s campaign in Alaska but decided not to do so. Co-chairs are individuals who are willing to make speeches, help with fundraising, and otherwise rally the base on Trump’s behalf.
“I declined,” said Mystrom.
Among other things, Mystrom said he doesn’t necessarily embrace Trump’s hawkish stance on trade with countries like China.
“I don’t see it as necessarily bad that we send work out to China and elsewhere because it results in lower prices and it’s more efficient. I’m not in favor of trade barriers,” he said.
Treadwell also said he doesn’t agree with Trump’s stance on China.
“China is Alaska’s largest trading partner. If you take Japan, South Korea, China, and Taiwan, there are thousands of Alaska jobs tied to those markets,” he said.
Since a big slice of Alaska’s economy is based on international markets, it’s vital that the U.S. maintain free trade and not erect barriers for the purchase of Alaska products.
Treadwell said he would work to make sure Trump understands how important it is to release some of the federal government’s control over life in Alaska, including the vast amount of land it owns and manages in the state.
Apparently Trump needs some Alaska talking points on that issue.
In a January interview the outdoor publication Field & Stream, Trump was asked whether he supports the idea of the federal government divesting some of its land holding by turning them over to states.
Trump said he didn’t agree.
“I don’t like the idea because I want to keep the lands great, and you don’t know what the state is going to do. I mean, are they going to sell if they get into a little bit of trouble? And I don’t think it’s something that should be sold. We have to be great stewards of this land,” Trump said, according to a transcript.