An unexcused and unexplained absence by Rep. Gary Knopp of Kenai has left the Alaska House of Representatives in disarray and without a Speaker for the 25th day.
During this morning’s session, Republicans had 20 votes in favor of Rep. Dave Talerico, and Democrats had 17 votes opposed. Two Democrats had excused absences — Zack Fields and Tiffany Zulkosky. Two Republicans — Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux and Rep. Louise Stutes, vote with the Democrats on everything.
Knopp was the 21st vote that would have ended the stalemate
But although Knopp attended the Ocean Beauty legislative reception on Thursday night, although he caucused with the Democrats early Friday, and attended the first half of the House session, he did not show up after a recess, during which he and Democrats huddled.
Speaker Pro Tem Neal Foster gaveled in at 10 am and the usual introductions were made by the members.
Knopp was in the House Chambers for this earlier portion of session, but when it came time to vote after a short recess, he simply didn’t return.
All legislators knew that there would be a vote for Speaker during Friday’s session. Democrats appeared relaxed, knowing that Republican Knopp was not going to show up for work.
People in the Capitol said Knopp claimed to be sick, but there was no public explanation and he had not asked for an excused absence.
This is Day 25 for the session, and the House is still without a Speaker, which means no business can be accomplished. Twice before, Knopp has voted against Rep. Talerico, of Healy, for Speaker.
Thursday’s floor session had been cancelled when no progress was made on the 21 votes needed to elect a Speaker. At this point, it appears that trust between Democrats and Republicans is at a low point.