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Libertarian Leader Quits Party; Seeking GOP Nod For Governor in ’86

October 24, 1985 GMT

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) _ The leader of Alaska’s Libertarian Party announced Wednesday he would run for governor as a Republican, conceding that even in the state where it has flourished, the party of the individual can’t compete with traditional politics.

With the announcement, Dick Randolph, a 49-year-old Fairbanks insurance executive, ended nine years as the outspoken and charismatic leader of a party whose preamble says ″government’s sole function is to protect the rights of individuals.″

″Alaska and America have, for all practical purposes, a two-party system,″ said Randolph, a one-time Republican who has played the political ″spoiler″ in the 49th state as a Libertarian. ″To contribute the most to our system of government, one must participate within that system.″

Some political observers, including Randolph himself, consider the defection a crippling blow to the Libertarian Party in Alaska, the only state ever to elect a Libertarian to state office.

In 1980, the nation’s Libertarians looked north to Alaska for inspiration. That year, voters returned Randolph to the state House for another two-year term and elected a second Libertarian representative, Ken Fanning of Fairbanks.

Two years later, Randolph drew 15 percent of the popular vote for governor.

But that also was the year voters failed to send a single Libertarian to the Legislature, and the year the party’s fortunes began to dip, Randolph said.

″Randolph is an attractive guy, a great candidate,″ said Republican state Rep. Fritz Pettyjohn. ″He’s the glue that held the party together over the last few years. His departure will be a death blow.″

Randolph’s defection ″won’t mean the party will roll over and play dead,″ says Carl Shepro, a political science professor at the University of Alaska- Fairbanks.

But Shepro added that with Randolph’s move, ″there is some question now as to whether they can field a candidate for governor.″

The party’s lone representative in the state House, Andre Marrou of Homer, is more optimistic. Marrou, who was elected in 1984, said the Libertarians in Alaska have ″bottomed out″ and are ″on the way up. That’s where Dick (Randolph) and I disagree. He thinks it’s still got a ways to go down yet.″

Marrou said the party may have an announcement soon about a candidate for governor in 1986.

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Randolph said the Libertarian Party, in Alaska and nationally, is in serious decline. He thinks the main reason is Ronald Reagan.

″President Reagan espouses many of the important things the Libertarians care about: less government, less taxes, more freedom for the individual.

″Reagan has articulated most of the Libertarians positions″ and the effect has been to weaken the Libertarian Party, Randolph said.

His political consultant, Bill McConkey of Anchorage, said Randolph stands a good chance of winning the governor’s chair. McConkey notes that Democratic Gov. Bill Sheffield’s chances for re-election may have been damaged in a failed legislative attempt to impeach him over allegations that he tried to steer a state contract to a crony and lied about it to a grand jury.

Sheffield refuses to say if he will seek re-election next year. And the field of Republican candidates is expected to be crowded.

Some Republicans are delighted at Randolph’s decision to join their ranks.

″All the Libertarians have done ... is elect Democrats,″ says Pettyjohn. ″They take the votes that would have gone to Republicans.″