1963: A year of a 20-20 House split and how it was resolved - Must Read Alaska
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1963: A year of a 20-20 House split and how it was resolved

2021 year is not the only year when the Alaska House of Representatives is split 20-20 between caucuses.

In 1963, the House had the same trouble organizing, and could not even elect a Speaker Pro Tem for a few days.

Notable members of that session included Warren Taylor, for whom the Taylor Gallery is named; Jay Hammond, who became governor; Joe Josephson, father of Rep. Andy Josephson; John Holm, father of former Rep. Jim Holm; and Carl Lottsfeldt, the grandfather of current lobbyist/political operative and MidnightSunAK blog publisher, Portland resident Jim Lottsfeldt.

SUMMARY OF ACTIONS – Convening/Organizing

  • Secretary of State Hugh Wade swore in the membership of the new House.
  • Warren Taylor-D and Jay Hammond-R were nominated as Pro Tem by their respective sides. Taylor, born in 1891 in Chehalis, Wash., had served as the first Speaker of the 1st Alaska Legislature. They were voted on by the body three times, failing each time 20/20.
  • Following the three failures, a motion was made to propose a 3-member committee in an attempt to resolve the impasse.  That failed 20/20.
  • Taylor and Hammond were voted down two more times for Pro Tem, 20/20
  • Taylor nominated an alternate, Dora Sweeney for Democrats, but that vote failed, 20/20. 

That was just Day 1. The House adjourned with no progress toward even getting a Speaker Pro Tem.

On Day 2, both sides nominated the same two candidates — Sweeney and Hammond, and that vote failed 20/20. The sides reverted to their original nominees, Taylor and Hammond, and that failed 20/20.

Taylor once again nominated Dora Sweeney. Along with Hammond, they both failed 20/20.

Over the next few days, the motions kept being made and failing, until Day 4, when an eight-member committee was appointed, with four members from each caucus. The committee was to propose a way to end the impasse. The committee was approved 21/19.

The joint/bipartisan committee met in the chambers, with staff, the press, and the public in attendance. The vote to allow the committee to use the chambers passed 38-2 with only Josephson and Lottsfeldt voting no.

The group came up with the following method for electing a Pro Tem, and then a Speaker:

  • Each caucus was to nominate two members for Pro Tem and Speaker.
  • Members were called up one at a time to the Clerk’s desk to cast a secret ballot.
  • After the first round of voting, the lowest vote getter was eliminated from future rounds of voting.
  • On the second round of voting, the top vote-getter was elected Pro Tem.
  • Then the process was repeated to elect a Speaker.
  • The eight-member committee proposed that whoever was elected Speaker, their party would be the majority.
  • On Day 8 of the legislative session, Bruce Kendall of Anchorage, was elected Speaker. Kendall later changed his party registration to Democrat.

Read the House Journal from 1963 at this excerpt:

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Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • Whatever it takes to get the snake in the grass Bryce Edgmon out of the speakership needs to be done. The raping of the permanent fund by him and others has hurt Alaskan natives enormously. He tries the bait and switch saying he’s giving low-cost fuel while he steals candy from babies. PCA doesn’t come from Bryce Edgmon but as part of the budget so if you want to thank somebody thank the governor.

  • I did not watch these festivities in 1963. I did become familiar with most of these folks in 1966. Bruce Kendall was an undistinguished Speaker of the House. Today, transparency is essential to hold elected officials accountable. Let ‘em keep voting in public for as long as it takes, win or lose.

  • The only thing certain is, however it will turn out, Alaska will lose and establishment grifters will win.

  • See!? Our fathers or grandfathers were just as immature us! Hahahaha. An Insatiable appetite for wealth and power. Look what it ever done for them, they all still died! Hahahaha. rest in peace their souls. Hopefully.

    IF THEY could travel here and see their children and grandchildren! they tell us READ YOUR BIBLE. Its the only thing that matters. Its the instructions how to live and work in this challenging and confusing world.

    • Just knowing right from wrong is mostly what it’s all about. The Bible is full of stories that told about people doing it the wrong way and mostly what will happen when JC and the boys come back. If you had some sort of a parent when you were being raised and they taught you right from wrong that’s pretty much all you need to know to function in society. Picture this a guy is walking down the street towards you and you walk up to him and just kick him in the balls. Then they’re like what the hell is going on and you’re like shrugging your shoulders I didn’t know. Of course you know right from wrong only an idiot would use that as an excuse. It’s bad decision making that gets you in trouble.

    • According to Ray Wiley Hubbard he asked the devil “which religion is the truest”?

      The devil said they’re all pretty much the same; Buddha was not a Christian but Jesus would’ve made a good Buddhist.

      Jen, was Pee-Ethan’s problem that he wasn’t Christian? Maybe he’s why Anchorage is on the path to hell and perhaps also why his wife’s dreaming of running him over in the car?

  • He was my grandfather. Father had same name, but was Carl Lottsfeldt Jr.

  • Greg Forkner is right. Edgmon is a carpet bagger the bush has bought into. Senator Stevens is the same. If the people were informed they would never vote for these two.

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