As Congressman Don Young has aged in years the Alaska Republican Party needs to develop a succession plan for him. At some point he is either going to die in office or he is going to retire and whichever one it is the party has to have a replacement waiting in the wings. There is such a man that the party should be reaching out to for that purpose and that man is Rep. Ben Carpenter of Nikiski. Ben was elected to the state House of Representatives last year after a very competitive primary with Wayne Ogle.
After he won that primary in the deeply red 29th district he coasted to his election victory. Since that time he joined the finance committee after the House organized and the majority and minority caucuses were established. He has become a leader on the finance committee among the minority members and when it came time for budget amendments in committee, he stepped up to the plate.
He introduced a lot of amendments for targeted reductions in the state operating budget. Aside from this, Ben has also established himself as a man who works to appeal to the conservative populist wing of the Republican Party. This is important as that brand of politics is critical to mastering in order to bring out the voters on the Kenai Peninsula and in the Mat-Su Valley. Aside from those factors he has had a career as an officer in the United States Army. He served as a tank commander in Iraq and Afghanistan and that career is something which will give him an edge in a state with a high veteran population.
If the Republican Party has not made the outreach to him about being a potential successor to Don Young then that conversation should begin this year. If the party does not begin the conversation and waits till Don Young is no longer there then the party has set itself up for a needless hassle. Trying to find a candidate at the last minute to run in a congressional race is not the way to go and the party needs to be proactive, not reactive. Another aspect to this is the chairman of the party Glenn Clary should be in communication with Don Young and discussing with him what his thoughts are on a successor. He should be honest with Don about the situation and where the party stands and clear the air. If Don is reluctant to have the conversation then Glenn should have it with his senior staff and try to get them into the discussion. Ben should be introduced to Don and there should be extensive conversations about what the job entails.
Ben would be able to handle these conversations and will have no problem taking good advice on how to do the job. When he was at the Republican Party state convention last year he worked on the budget and constitution committee for the party platform. He showed a penchant for listening to those on that committee with more knowledge of state government and constitutional history than he and following their recommendations. That talent has served him well as a legislator and will serve him well as the state’s lone representative in Congress. The time to reach out to him is now and prepare Rep. Carpenter for the future. If not now, then when?
Ceezar Martinson is a lifelong Alaskan and was the Republican nominee for Legislative District 20.