By Jenny Neyman
The race for lieutenant governor of Alaska briefly had a camouflage hat thrown into the ring over the weekend, on behalf of the Alaskan Independence Party.
AIP leadership met Friday in Nikiski and selected Norm Olson, of Nikiski, co-founder of the Michigan Militia and Alaska Citizens Militia, as its nominee for lieutenant governor.
Olson said he was contacted by party representatives Friday and asked to consider the party’s lieutenant governor slot on the November general election ballot, to run with Don Wright as the AIP candidate for governor.
“There’s nothing about the Alaskan Independence Party that I don’t like. It’s just great,” Olson said. “And when I was asked to run as their lieutenant governor in the upcoming elections I jumped on the bandwagon and accepted the nomination and threw my hat in the ring, so to speak.”
But by Sunday, Olson was withdrawing his acceptance of the party’s nomination. He wouldn’t say why, but issued a statement saying the decision to withdraw came after being briefed by militia co-founder Ray Southwell of “actions taken in the days prior to the meeting.” Southwell, also of Nikiski, is running under the AIP for the state House District 34 seat against current Speaker of the House Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski.
Olson’s statement quotes Southwell as saying, “I’ve known Norm Olson for 25 years and I knew that once he was appraised of the situation or the circumstances leading up to the Friday meeting that he would withdraw his name.”
When asked to explain those circumstances, Southwell said, “I can’t really go into a lot of detail, other than I don’t believe the (AIP) voting leadership was fully informed before making a decision on Bill Walker. I don’t do well with politics, and I don’t participate with the political games.”
Southwell said he was referring to the AIP leadership not considering Walker, who lost his Republican bid for governor in the statewide primary election, as its gubernatorial candidate on the general election ballot. Wright was selected as the AIP candidate for governor, but it was initially reported that he was stepping aside, which would allow Walker to have his slot in the general election.
That was erroneous, said AIP Vice-Chairman J.R. Myers, of Soldotna, who is running for the Soldotna seat on the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly in the October municipal election against former borough clerk Linda Murphy.
Myers said that, during a recent AIP Senate District Q meeting, party leaders in attendance were informed that Wright had signed a form announcing his withdrawal from the gubernatorial race. But Meyers said he learned later that the withdrawal form was never filed with the Division of Elections, and so Wright retains his position as the AIP candidate.
“Since there was never a legal vacancy in the office of governor we could not legally name anyone other than Don Wright, who had rightfully won our primary just recently, so we were unable to name anyone as a governor replacement,” Myers said.
Southwell, who is continuing his candidacy for state House, wouldn’t say what, specifically, it was about the Wright-Walker flap that led to him advising Olson to withdraw his acceptance as the AIP lieutenant governor candidate.
“Unfortunately I can’t go into that. I may have gone too far already, but I think people need to be aware, and I don’t want AIP to become like the other two parties, the Republicans and Democrats, where it’s all politics. I will not participate in the political games,” Southwell said.
Olson said he still supports the AIP and its platforms, even though he will not be its representative on the general election ballot.
“There were a lot of issues that I would revisit and look at and try to influence. Of course, I’m not a lawmaker in that role (of lieutenant governor), but certainly I’m not quiet, either, and I won’t be. I’ll remain part of the Alaskan Independence Party, it’s just that circumstances would not permit me to go on (as a candidate),” Olson said.
Particularly through his militia involvement, Olson has been outspoken about state sovereignty, and is a strong supporter of the AIP’s stance that Alaska’s statehood vote was fraudulent, since many Native Alaskans were not allowed to participate. In his speeches at militia and Second Amendment Task Force events, Olson uses often-fiery oration to advocate opposition to federal involvement in Alaska, and urges supporters to prepare for a time in the near future when armed opposition may be necessary.
Olson announced his candidacy in a message sent to e-mail subscribers Saturday.
“I am asking every recipient of this e-mail to get out there and tell people that we are on the verge of a political revolution: Alaska for Alaskans! Nothing more and nothing less. That is my position. If you want political war, we’ll give you a good fight!!!!
“… I want your vote, yes! But beyond that, I want your pledge and your sovereign vow to support me as I stand against the Federal Government’s long reach into the private lives of REAL ALASKANS. Our ‘Lexington Green’ is coming soon. You must make your decision to take your stand as INDEPENDENT SOVEREIGN ALASKANS or continue to suck on the tit of the federal sow! What’s it going to be?
“I’m not playing political games here, folks. I’m saying that together with Don Wright, the AIP candidate for Governor, that I will work to mobilize the ENTIRE ALASKA MILITIA, MADE UP OF ALL ALASKANS, to stand against the rape and pillage of the federal government of this God-Given blessed gift called Alaska.”
Olson said the position of lieutenant governor has limited authority, but he hoped to use his candidacy and his term in office, if elected, to bring attention to issues of importance, such as development of Alaska’s resources so as to reduce federal interference in Alaska, and the empowerment of Alaska Natives.
“Let people know that I am with TRUE ALASKANS. We can do it ourselves. We can develop our own resource,” he wrote in the e-mail announcing his candidacy. “We can enable and inspire the native Alaskans to stand up and refuse to suck on the tit of the Federal Government from this day forward!!!! Our native American brethren are being pressed into slavery, to remain dependent for generations, to deny their own children and grand-children the dignity that comes with self-reliance, self-sufficiency, and self-determination. I’m asking every native American businessman and visionary to stand with me to make YOUR DREAMS COME TRUE!
“… If you can’t handle the TRUE REALITY of what is coming here in Alaska, then don’t bother. BUT, if you are a TRUE ALASKAN who has the blood and the spirit of those who carved out a life from the wilderness, and has been touched by the Great Spirit Who has ALREADY GIVEN US VICTORY, please stand with me.”
Myers said he found the AIP decision to support Olson for lieutenant governor unexpected.
“Quite honestly, I was as surprised as anyone, really, even through I was part of the deliberative process and we met for five hours that night. I wasn’t expecting to leave that meeting with Norm Olson as our candidate for lieutenant governor,” Myers said. “However, we did have an opening for lieutenant governor and many of the members know him and he was contacted during the meeting and expressed a willingness to run, and he was therefore given that opportunity.”
Myers said he knows Olson casually and Southwell as a fellow beekeeper, and through their work at Central Peninsula Hospital. Southwell is an emergency room nurse, and Myers works as an emergency mental health clinician. But that’s the extent of their association.
“I’ve never been to a militia meeting. I am not a formal member of any militia, other than the constitutional provision that all the citizens are,” Myers said. “I’m not opposing what they’re doing, but I don’t like to be mischaracterized, either. Same thing as far as the secession issue goes. Contrary to what some say, I do not advocate cessation. I advocate the right of people to make self-determination politically.”
Myers said he thinks the AIP is an evolving party and said it is seen as controversial, but that this election season has given it a boost in notoriety, especially in its potential to give prominent candidates who lost primary bids a chance at a rematch in the general election.
“All the rumors about Murkowski and Walker. It’s been very interesting, I will say that,” Myers said. “It just underscores the need or shows there is room for different philosophical approaches to public policy in the political arena, and I think that’s healthy. I call it a free-market political approach — give people options and choices and see what they do with them.”