Rep. Lora Reinbold missed the Eagle River debate at Jitters with her challenger Crystal Kennedy. It was a mistake for Reinbold, because we missed her side of the debate. Her opponent spoke intelligently, articulately, and clearly about the issues facing our state, no one there could discount Crystal’s commitment as a worthy contender and public servant. In other words, she won that lopsided debate.
Yet, being a one-seater, we missed what should have been an entertaining, toss ‘em and dodge ‘em, head-to-head debate, and it would be a mistake to not re-elect Reinbold, based on that non-debate alone.
I supported Reinbold going in but afterwards, in openness, I became ambivalent. Both candidates are tremendous. Though I am thankful and confident for having such a deep bench in the Republican dugout, when friends asked, “Who should I vote for?” for a few days I was not sure. Can’t it wait until that last minute, when I stand behind the voting curtain to decide?
Early this week I got some help to decide, a robo-call with messages from Senator MacKinnon and Representative Saddler touting Reinbold’s opponent.
I had also bounced the two candidates off of friends. Both are admired. Then Wayne Ross replied, saying to me something about “the establishment getting involved again,” which rang true. That should make the decision easy.
The establishment’s biggest beef with Lora Reinbold is that she got kicked out of the Majority caucus for not voting with them when the budget came up on the House floor. That’s one of the rules of being in the Majority caucus, vote as a block on the budget. She didn’t.
So she got booted, lost her committee assignments and any status in the caucus. It’s a lonely place. And for political people types, that is living hell.
The Majority caucus said they needed a team player to have a stronger voting block. Enter the GOP upper level types who said Kennedy is just that person. And now we have a nasty race against one of the nicest people, a great listener, and probably the most fiscally conservative Republican legislator in Juneau at this time, Lora Reinbold. It doesn’t make sense to run against her.
Lora Reinbold is a huge fighter for a tighter budget. She should never have been cast out. Nor should the Republican establishment try to correct things. It would have been better instead, if a few other Republicans had shown the same political muscle as her and stood with her on cutting the massive state budget. Prompted by the difficult decision to vote against the exorbitant budget proposed two years ago, she reluctantly departed from the Majority caucus.
Senator Bill Stoltze, whom we all know is one of the staunchest budget cutters, has publicly supported Reinbold in this race. He understands what the fight entails.
Now, I could throw mud at my fellow Republicans for doing such a trick as this, however in principle, I love vigorous primary challenges to sitting Republicans. We sharpen ourselves. Let the best one win.
If you’ve supported Kennedy so far, and you’ve thought we needed a “team player,” then remember that the next Legislature will be regrouping; they will form a new Majority caucus in the first five days after the election. Reinbold has acknowledged that it is important to work in unison with her colleagues, during a radio interview on the Tom Anderson Show recently, and that she will do just that.
We have two absolutely incredible ladies running to represent Eagle River constituents. One of them has held her ground and not become bitter in the good fight. The other hails from a host of Party members on her side.
It’s an exciting race and yet a ridiculous one at the same time. We should fully support the candidate who knows how best to listen to her constituents, constituents who don’t give a rip about the “Majority caucus rules,” who instead want a fighter to face the biggest budget crisis this state has ever faced, to face it representing them, the voters, the people. That is Lora Reinbold.
Eugene Harnett, editor of APEonline.org and Eagle River resident.