Another one of the Alaska Democratic Party and Gov. Bill Walker’s handpicked legislators is in a world of trouble. This time it’s Rep. Zach Fansler of Bethel.
But the rumors have swirled around the Capitol for three days and Democrats have been huddling after Fansler was the subject of a police report about a violent attack that ruptured the eardrum of a woman, after the two had spent an evening drinking in a bar in downtown Juneau.
The story involves a text message from Fansler that refers to “BDSM,” which stands for Bondage, Domination, Sadomasochism, a sexual lifestyle.
Fansler has denied the attack and has a lawyer speaking for him. He is said to have returned to Bethel for the weekend and is not taking calls.
FORCED TO ACT
The Democrats have huddled for days on this crisis, missing important meetings. Speaker Bryce Edgmon finally today asked for Fansler’s resignation.
“Credible information came to my attention yesterday afternoon that Representative Fansler had possibly behaved in a manner unbecoming of a legislator. Upon seeking out and verifying further information of the incident and meeting with caucus leadership, I have requested his resignation,” said Edgmon in a statement.
“Zach Fansler is someone I and many others respected and trusted, and who worked hard for his district. His behavior is a betrayal of trust which has created feelings of shock and deep sadness among everyone I have spoken to.
“Along with other members of House Leadership, I am overcome with sympathy and respect for the victim. It takes immense bravery to bring these matters forward. I honor and am deeply grateful for her strength and courage and want to make clear our caucus will not tolerate this behavior,” Edgmon said.
“I understand the matter is the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation and do not feel further comment is appropriate at this time,” Edgmon said.
In 2016, the Democrats sought to remove two stable family men — Rep. Bob Herron of Bethel and Rep. Benny Nageak of Barrow. To take them out, they hired John-Henry Heckendorn. Heckendorn is now the governor’s campaign manager who is being paid with State funds as a “top aide” — one whose only real job is to get Walker re-elected.
Heckendorn and his Ship Creek Group in Anchorage savaged Herron and Nageak for caucusing with the majority Republicans, as rural Democrats quite often do.
Even former Sen. Mark Begich threw his support to Fansler:
By replacing them with “swinging singles” Fansler and Westlake, and with three turncoat Republicans (Gabrielle LeDoux, Paul Seaton, and Louise Stutes), the Democrats were able to take over control of the House of Representatives.
But in December, things began to unravel. Westlake was forced to resign after he sexually harassed numerous women, and was discovered to have fathered a child with an underage girl.
Now, Fansler is accused of a violent attack against a woman. It appears the attack took place on Jan. 13, before the legislature gaveled into session. He was photographed marching in the women’s march seven days later.
Rep. Charisse Millett, House Minority leader said, “I’m sickened. My heart breaks at the news that another woman has been victimized. The details of the report were graphic, unsettling and difficult to read. Reports of dating violence, sexual assault and harassment must not be tolerated anytime, anyplace and by any person, no matter their position or title. While I do not know who this victim is, I commend her for not remaining silent. My thoughts and prayers are with the victim recovering from her attack.”
Millett described her heart as heavy. “We are living in a critical time during history, the culture of harassment and assault needs to end. We respect this victim, and all victims, for having fortitude, strength and courage to report abuse. House Republicans look forward to the day when this type of action is no longer occurring.”
Last May, Fansler scolded Rep. David Eastman for remarks he had made about rural Alaska women and abortion:
It appears that Gov. Walker will have another Democratic vacancy to fill in the House. We can only hope that his candidate vetting process has improved.