Bob Bird speaks at the 2020 Alaskan Independence Party convention.

The only major political party founded in Alaska has voted for a change in leadership with a renewed goal of expanding membership ranks and endorsing candidates who are committed to the party’s core values.

Founded in the early 1980’s the Alaskan Independence Party (AIP) consists of approximately 19,000 members and has enjoyed a resurgence since 2020, when Bob Bird was elected chairman.

On April 13, a small group of party leaders voted to replace Bird with longtime member John Wayne Howe. The vote occurred during the party’s annual convention in Fairbanks.

The change in leadership was motivated, in part, from a desire among the Fairbanks convention attendees to focus on growing the party’s membership through email and social media outreach, as well as wanting the AIP to put its energy behind AIP-member candidates who fully support the party’s core values.

Just nine days before the chairmanship vote, Bird interviewed Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., on his Talk of the Kenai Radio show. Kennedy is a life-long Democrat, who is now running as an independent in his bid for the presidency.

Prior to the Kennedy interview, Bird issued a statement noting that Kennedy was “hopeful to be placed on the presidential ballot in Alaska under the AIP banner.”

Bird praised Kennedy’s “courageous stand in the face of withering criticism during the Covid vaccine scam,” saying that this stance “reflected the libertarian values of our party.”

Bird also noted that the AIP has “placed Constitution Party presidential candidates on the ballot before,” and said the AIP should decide Kennedy’s fate at its April 13 convention.

During the interview, which made national headlines, the firmly pro-life Bird pressed Kennedy regarding his stance on abortion, border security, weaponization of the Justice Department against conservatives and oppressive federal control of Alaska’s natural resources, among other issues.

John Wayne Howe

Kennedy admitted that he would support national legislation to enshrine abortion rights in U.S. law. He also expressed reticence about easing federal restrictions on developing oil resources. Both stances are opposed to Bird’s views and those of the AIP.

Bird never endorsed Kennedy, but said he had hoped his radio interview would help AIP delegates in making a determination about him, one way or another.

In a phone interview with the Watchman, newly elected AIP Chairman John Wayne Howe said the radio interview played some part in Bird being replaced as chairman.

Howe noted that there weren’t many AIP party leaders present at the April 13 convention in Fairbanks, but those who attended had enough votes to usher in new leadership.

“The people wanting change resided more in Fairbanks, so I think had the convention been in Anchorage, it may not have happened as far as change,” Howe said. “Now, that being said, I did not look to become chairman. I had people who had approached me who said they wanted to nominate me. That’s happened a couple of times in the past and I said, ‘no.’ This time I said, ‘yes I would,’ because they said they really were serious that they wanted to have me as chairman. I don’t think it was so much wanting a change directly as much as it was wanting to have some of the older concepts. I used to work with Joe Vogler and was probably closer to him than a lot of people who are around these days.”

Howe said the Fairbanks vote reflected a desire among some members to have the AIP strictly endorse candidates who were members of the AIP, as opposed to reaching out to candidates who were affiliated with other parties but had some AIP sympathies.

The Kennedy radio interview was a topic of discussion prior to the chairmanship vote.

“That was part of why the Fairbanks people wanting to do something a little different,” he said.

Howe, however, was quick to praise Bird for leading the AIP back to a viable political party after it fell largely dormant for more than a decade.

After twice running against U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, in 1990 and 2008, the hard-charging Bird was elected AIP party chairman in 2020, organizing a statewide convention and then crisscrossing the state to raise awareness, increase membership and recruit AIP candidates to run for office.

“While we are the third largest party in the state, we should be the largest,” he said. “I think the big focus is to physically encourage more candidates.”

– John Wayne Howe

“He has pulled it together to be a party again,” Howe said. “It was pretty much in disrepair. I would say it was in slumber. He woke it up.”

He noted there was greater interest in the party in 2020 when Bird was elected chairman, with more candidates running on the AIP ticket.

“Bob arranged a convention and brought us to life and started doing things again,” Howe added.

Howe, who has been a member of the AIP since shortly after its founding, said he wants to continue the push for membership, but with a focus on gathering emails, while continuing to conducting physical outreach to registered voters to gain feedback.

“While we are the third largest party in the state, we should be the largest,” he said. “I think the big focus is to physically encourage more candidates. I would hope to see a candidate in every race, but I don’t think we’ll get that … I would think 10 would be realistic, which we have not had for a long time.”

Howe has run for several elected offices as an AIP candidate including U.S. Senate, U.S. House and governor.

He said the biggest draw of the AIP is that it is interested in “individual freedom for Alaskans, not just freedom for certain people, but freedom for everybody.”

He said the AIP wants to work to rectify the flawed relationship Alaska has with the federal government, especially with regard to federal control of Alaska lands and resources.

“We have less than one percent that is in private ownership, if you exclude the Native corporations,” he said. “We need to have Alaskans who have individual assets and control over the destiny of this state.”

The AIP’s official platform calls for the defense of states’ rights, individual rights, gun ownership, property rights and equal footing with all other states. It also opposes property taxes, and favors a direct popular election of the attorney general, all judges and magistrates, while firmly supporting pro-life efforts, parental rights and strong traditional marriages. The party also seeks a return to the traditional Permanent Fund Dividend payouts to Alaskans, among many other issues.

In the wake of being replaced as AIP chairman, Bird said expressed hope that the party would prosper, despite the surprising shake up in leadership.

“In the ‘No good deed goes unpunished’ department, I was voted out of the AIP chairmanship, despite having saved the party from extinction in 2020,” Bird said in a prepared statement. “I brought together a staff from the individuals who listened to the party’s purpose and history and were willing to serve.”

While Bird said he was “not too upset about the change, because I was intending to announce that I would step down in another two years due to age and health,” he wishes there had been more communication prior to the vote.

“If the new faction knew me better, I would have told them they needed a little more seasoning, but would have graciously stepped down anyway, earlier than I intended, once they had secured the votes to control the convention,” Bird explained. “That’s politics, if exercised in an open manner – which it seldom is. But instead, it was a surprise.”

In the course of his leadership, Bird said he traveled some 25,000 miles across Alaska by car and plane to build AIP networks in Fairbanks, Mat-Su, Anchorage and the Kenai Peninsula. His efforts involved fighting for a constitutional convention, opposing ranked-choice voting and many other endeavors aimed at building up the party’s membership and public presence.

“The events of our times are obvious enough,” Bird noted. “The AIP is being watched by its allies and its enemies. Whatever role the Lord has in store for Alaska, I can only hope they will do better than what was accomplished in the last four years. As I’ve stood on the shoulders of others, they can now stand on my own.”

As a now former chairman of the party, Bird said he remains committed to the AIP and its mission.

“I’m very glad it wasn’t taken over by a hostile faction,” he said in a phone interview. “It’s not a disaster. I go into every convention knowing anything could happen.”

He added: “I’ll work more locally now and make sure the Kenai Peninsula understands the AIP message, which of course I’ve been doing anyway.”


— For more information about the Alaskan Independence Party, click here.

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In surprise move, Alaskan Independence Party elects John Howe to replace chairman Bob Bird

Joel Davidson
Joel is Editor-in-Chief of the Alaska Watchman. Joel is an award winning journalist and has been reporting for over 24 years, He is a proud father of 8 children, and lives in Palmer, Alaska.


  • James Duncan says:

    Bob, your a class act and yes, this is what happens in the political arena. If you step into it you must learn to roll with the punches. You have done it well. You have also helped steer the AIP out of the harbor it was in.
    I personally am not a AIP member but appreciate the party’s voice and have voted for AIP candidates in the past. I am also a big fan, Bob, of your friendship for many years and the voice you bring to our state. Keep sailing on.
    JD Duncan

  • Friend of Humanity says:

    Bob, I don’t always agree with everything you say. But, I do always appreciate that you are willing to discuss differing views and, from what I have seen, you are respectful when holding these discussions. I am glad to hear that you are going to be staying active in the local community. Please check out Cause of America at This group is a grassroots organization working to restore trust in local elections and is open to all political parties – people who see what is going on with our elections and want to help get America back on the right track. With your knowledge, experience and ability to work with a multitude of personalities, you would be an asset to this grassroots movement.

  • Kasey says:

    I like what I hear about the things the party supports. What would be the primary difference between the AIP and the GOP?