The Alaska Democrats in the House of Representatives have, Must Read Alaska is told, rejected the three names offered by the Alaska Democratic Party to finish out the term of Dean Westlake.
Democrats offered Eugene Smith, Sandy Shroyer-Beaver, and Leanna Mack from the sprawling district that reaches both Kotzebue and Barrow. Gov. Bill Walker has interviewed all three of them. But there are problems.
Smith and Shroyer-Beaver are both from Kotzebue and they have an intense dispute between them over a contract that involves a construction company owned by John Baker.
The issue came to a head over a year ago, when the lucrative construction oversight contract was about to be awarded to Baker, but was withdrawn at the last minute when the math showed it to be far too generous for a public contract.
Smith, who advocated for Baker’s company to get the contract, then lost his job as chief of staff to the borough mayor.
The dispute has become quite ugly between the two in the hub community of Kotzebue.
It’s likely that both Smith and Shroyer-Beaver were too controversial to fill the job of state representative because of that dispute, which has gotten very personal. And Mack, of the city formerly known as Barrow, was too inexperienced.
Now, it looks like Reggie Joule, the former representative for the district, from 1997 to 2012, is likely to be pressed into service to rejoin the House.
Joule was succeeded by Ben Nageak, also a Democrat, but the Alaska Democratic Party targeted Nageak for removal in 2016, and put in place Westake, who was a known harasser of women.
Westlake’s habits eventually got him booted even from his own Democratic caucus. His forced resignation went into effect on Dec. 25.
Joule is a Democrat and he knows the process of legislating. Since leaving the Legislature, he became mayor of the Northwest Arctic Borough (2012-2015), and has worked on Arctic issues. He is a lobbyist for the Northwest Arctic Borough schools.
In 2008, Joule and two other Bush Democrats — Bryce Edgmon and Bob Herron — began caucusing with the Republicans and Joule sat on the House Finance Committee. Edgmon is now the House Speaker, leading a Democrat-controlled majority caucus with the help of three Republicans, who crossed over.