After an earlier day of uproar, the Alaska House of Representatives elected Kathy Tilton, a Wasilla Republican, to the role of House speaker on Wednesday.
After the vote, Tilton said, “We are ready to show Alaskans that we are ready to do business.” “We didn’t want a repeat of the past several seasons where Alaskans were waiting for business to open.”
This is the third legislative cycle in which the House began its session without a coalition, although in recent years it has taken up to five weeks to convene.
Speaking to reporters after the session, Tilton said the majority coalition currently includes every House Republican except Wasilla Representative David Eastman and Kodiak Representative Lewis Stutz. She said that includes the Bush Caucus, which Dillingham Independent Rep. Bryce Edgemon, Bethel Democrat Rep. CJ McCormick, Nome Democrat Rep. Neil Foster & Utkiagvik Independent Rep.
McCormick was the only member of the group not to vote on Tilton’s speakership. He has not yet responded to a request for comment.
Tilton said the alliance is based on a policy agreement.
“I think we can all agree that the priority of this session is to deal with the financial stability of the state of Alaska. That’s probably the number one issue we’ll be working on,” she said.
Tilton said the House will begin announcing committee assignments on Thursday.
The delegates spent much of their Wednesday morning session conferring privately with each other. Various members floated names for the speakership, including Edgman, Stutz, Kenai Republican Representative Justin Ruffridge, and North Kenai Republican Representative Ben Carpenter. Edgman and Carpenter declined their nominations.
In the end, members voted 26–14 to elect Tilton to the speaker’s seat. Every House Democrat except Foster and Juno Rep. Andy Storey did not vote. Tilton said the votes do not align with those of the members of the new Republican-led majority coalition.
The Senate, meanwhile, proceeded through his leadership confirmation on Tuesday and moved forward with plans for increased education funding and a redesign of the state pension system. Representative Zac Fields, an Anchorage Democrat who is now in the minority, said most of his House colleagues align with those priorities.
“I think our imperative going forward is for the majority and the minority to work together on our shared goals, as those are the two most important issues facing us this year,” he said.