Reality check: Republicans don't control Alaska House, but neither do Democrats - Must Read Alaska
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Wednesday, April 21, 2021
HomePoliticsReality check: Republicans don’t control Alaska House, but neither do Democrats

Reality check: Republicans don’t control Alaska House, but neither do Democrats


A 21-19 Republican majority in the House looks like a win this November for Republicans. On paper it is, but in reality, Republicans are still not in control this year. The truth is, they have not been in control for several years, and that’s partly because they cannot stick together. They’ve been experts at snatching defeat out of the jaws of victory.

In 2014, Republicans won 23 of the House seats, Democrats had 17. The Muskox Caucus — recalcitrant or reluctant Republicans — was just getting started, and it would be led by former Reps. Jim Colver, Gabrielle LeDoux, and a couple of others, now retired.

By 2016, Republicans had lost two seats, and were down to 21, Democrats had 19. With Rep. Mike Chenault stepping down from the speakership at the beginning of 2017, House Republicans were adrift without strong, unifying leadership.

In 2018, Republicans won 23 seats, Democrats won 17, but due to eight Muskox Republican defections, the Democrats have been in charge for the past two years. Bryce Edgmon was speaker, agreeing to drop his Democrat label and masquerade as an undeclared.

The red wave that occurred on election night in 2020 dissolved into a red mirage after tens of thousands of unwitnessed and unverified absentee ballots washed in over several days. There is now evidence that these absentee ballots had a historically low rejection rate from the Division of Elections.

In spite of the 21-19 math, it’s actually now at 20-20 in 2020.

Rep. Louise Stutes, a Republican from Kodiak, will most likely caucus with Democrats, while no-party Josiah Patkotak of Utqiagvik says he will also caucus with Democrats, or at least stick with the Bush caucus, which is with the Democrats, led by Bryce Edgmon of Dillingham.

That leaves the other Republicans: Bart LeBon, Steve Thompson, Mike Prax, Mike Cronk, Chris Kurka, Kevin McCabe, George Rauscher, David Eastman, DeLena Johnson, Cathy Tilton, Ken McCarty, Kelly Merrick, David Nelson, Sara Rasmussen, Tom McKay, Laddie Shaw, James Kaufman, Ron Gillham, Ben Carpenter, and Sarah Vance.

With just 20, they can either work together on the items they can agree on, or some of them could form a bipartisan coalition with the Democrats. There is also a solid chance that the most conservative members in the Republican caucus break off into a sub-caucus, while the more liberal members join with the Democrats in a “something is better than nothing” bargain, leaving the Republicans out in the wilderness.

The 20 Republicans will have to decide if sticking together is more important than committee chairmanships and controlling spending.

They’ll have to decide if they want to even be in charge of a budget where there’s not enough money, where there’s pressure for a sales tax and eliminating the Permanent Fund dividend altogether, or whether being a powerful and united minority is just as impactful this time around.

The problem with Republicans in the Alaska Legislature is that holding together hasn’t been their strongest suit in recent years. But this year, if the majority of the 20 can unite, they can still control everything, as a strong minority.

The “don’t blink” theory also applies the 20 Democrats, however. They are made up of much more experienced lawmakers, with only three freshmen, while the Republicans have eight freshmen and a host of relatively new lawmakers who have never served in a majority. Democrats know how to count votes, and have dealmakers among them. The Democrats also have a leader in Edgmon, who has served as Speaker, while the Republicans have lost their own minority leader, with Lance Pruitt apparently losing by 16 votes to Liz Snyder in District 27.

In the words of a veteran lawmaker, “It’s a mess. Don’t expect this House to organize any time soon.”

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Written by

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

  • Lt. Governor Kevin Meyer needs to stop his charade that there was no fraud in this election. If he does not investigate the election then he should promptly resign.

    • Agree

  • ‘The red wave that occurred on election night in 2020 dissolved into a red mirage after tens of thousands of unwitnessed and unverified absentee ballots washed in over several days. There is now evidence that these absentee ballots had a historically low rejection rate from the Division of Elections.’
    Everything else aside, nothing else matters without returning integrity to our elections. Republicans (I’m not one) can crank up the printing presses too. They can canvass intensive care wards and fish processors too. And tombstones too. Above all we need a return, if there ever was one, to proper identified intended voting. If I vote conservative all my life, my politics do not change when I die. Alaska has greater than 100% registered voters over population. If the dysfunctional legislature does nothing else, we must DEMAND proper voting process to truly give one vote to each living, competent person. Otherwise how many of us are disenfranchised? I’ve seen it first hand and it sickens me of many of the people sent to Juneau. Gabrielle Ledoux is the Alaska’s poster child for Dr. Evil. I hope she rots in Hiland Road.

    • An addendum headline from Michigan: The largest cluster of votes received in Wayne County was from the Walter P. Reuther Psychiatric Hospital, which provides treatment, care, and services to adults with severe mental illness.
      Magical votes just like Gabby Ledoux’s trailer park. Those caught cheating should lose their citizenship when released from long jail terms.

  • Good, get nothing passed and shut down the Government. Probably the best possible outcome. We sure don’t need more laws or spending.

  • The best thing that could happen to Alaska is for the capitol to fall into the channel while the legislature is in session. This bunch of idiots can’t do third grade math and it is just amazing to me that people continue to elect these idiots. It is true the turd floats to the top.

  • Never, ever, ever doubt the ability of Republicans to fold like cheap suits under pressure.

    Just look at our Governor.

    Face it. Either this state is hopelessly corrupt or Alaska isn’t the conservative bastion it pretends to be.

    • Spot on, Masked Avenger.

  • Channeling Gary Knopp. Channeling Gary Knopp. Come in, please.
    The Democrats need you again.

  • Where we are at is a symptom of the problem of decades of too much “nobody’s money” in the form of the PFD, DC largesse (primarily Uncle Ted’s) and passive ANS income. As a consequence, for decades we were not careful of how the money was spent and the spending structure that we built.
    The recipients of entitlement spending are – you guessed it – entitled. They prefer that the status quo is perpetuated with taxes, on oil or residents, but reducing the PFD is okay.
    Then there are the “Republicans” who believe – this is not a joke – universal basic income is enshrined in the SOA constitution!
    To make matters as bad as possible, we send those elected to represent our interests to a remote location inhabited by public sector employees residents and visiting lobbyists, where Democrats, the party of big government, have a huge advantage. It is unlikely we will be any better following this session. Most likely we will be is worse shape.

  • The best thing is to work together and stop the party divide-working for the general good of the public is a fine start

  • When is the last time any of Alaska’s Senators or Representatives (regardless of preferred party) picked up a Bible and actually got serious about the serving the House of God first?
    A person without God just naturally goes their way and creates chaos in their wake and goes wayward. Can we really hold these past and present legislators really expect anything greater through these legislators lacking discernment and lacking knowledge and direction? When they govern by their own mind and heart?

    • Picking up a Bible and serving the House of God? Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi both claim to be “practicing Catholics.” They certainly are not serving God first!

  • I bet just like me they grew up in a home taking them to church and they never read the Bible in its entirety like most church goers never read the WHOLE bible and multiple times and never think regular church attending and meetings with fellow church members is equally important with the fellowship. That book should been leafed, marked, and page turned that the binding and covers are falling off! If any did read the WHOLE bible, it was one time and one time is not enough time studying the word. the reader needs a group and a home church. If Alaska Legislature did put God first and loved God with their whole heart, they would know the difference between walking forward and backward.

    • You put too much covenants in the Bible itself. The Bible was written by men, some flawed but men nonetheless. They chose their Canon wisely discriminating against women like they did with Mary Magdalene. They left out many books that deservedly should have been placed in the Bible. It was a controlling move in an attempt to brainwash the masses into their way of thinking or what they thought should be Canon. Mostly just use your brain and your good common sense. The Bible is flawed, even though you act like it was written by the finger of God.

  • I kinda of internally thought the House Republicans were a little too much dependent on Rep. Mike Chenault leadership, he is a big man. Ooops! He and his legislator friends forgot to train a team of Republican Successors while they served The State of Alaska. I learned long time ago hearing thru a native corp gossip its not just the Chairman important but also their vice chair in case the chair can’t lead, the vice chair needs the leadership skills holding the crew together. As well as the Elder statesmen need their younger statesmen as well as the younger statesmen need show the self restraint, respect, and reverence to their elder statesmen just as much as the other. One day the elders will be gone and the younger will need to know how to govern one another as well as build on each other’s talents and skills while training the incoming younger crowd taking the not young generation taking the place of those elder statesman exiting.

    • What a hypocrite. Don’t cast the first stone.

  • All Alaskans have witnessed that Edgmon is no leader. His lack of leadership has badly hurt the entire state. It’s past time for a Republican woman like Rep. Tilton to lead us out of this mess. Several of the assumed Democrat-coalition members might well come to an otherwise entirely Republican majority if they could be Finance Co-chair. The House organization will await the Governor’s budget, and with this type of disorganization leadership skills in the administration, should they exist, could pull off what Alaska needs to see happen. Having the session be something different than meeting in person and in Juneau could help with both the organizing and finally coming to grips with the mismatch between badly bloated government and much reduced revenue expectations. A 2022 budget released concurrently the budget could be helpful in having Alaskans contact their legislators.

  • With respect, Madam Editor, may we suggest neither political Party controls the House.
    Download the Alaska Lobbyist Directory, apply your Excel skills; it becomes clear the lobbyist half of Alaska’s lobbyist-legislator team controls the House because their clients pay them a lot of money to control the House, the elected Redistributors of Alaskans’ Wealth.
    The takeaway is the lobbyist half of Alaska’s lobbyist-legislator team spreads like a social disease because they’re very good at what they do; their business with elected officials who value job security above all else is also very good.
    Lobbyists’ business with elected officials seems so mutually profitable that Republican and Democrat differences apparently don’t matter because now elections are just manageable inconveniences that won’t stop the orderly flow of money to the Party hack empowered at the moment to give clients what they want.
    And the deafening silence from Alaska’s lobbyist-legislator team on current events suggests they’re perfectly content with the corruption of Alaska’s electoral system to make sure things stay that way.
    Kind of like a banana republic… without the bananas.
    Good news for conservative “agents of change” is banana republics aren’t known for stability. Teensy bit of strategic undermining… down comes Alaska’s House of Cards… not a bad thing, yes?

    • Your are exactly correct. The moneyed and powerful class controls most everything

      • Yes and people fall all over themselves to vote for more of the same. We sheep will keep getting fleeced as long as the public stays dumbed down.

  • Alaskans will get what they deserve in the way of another mess in Juneau again.they will steal from the people and give it to the fat cats and unions. And the democrats will rejoice and welcome getting roped off by politicians again. Watch the PFD be fleeced and deducted to ashes because nobody will cut spending an meaningful amount.

  • It’s interesting that the fraudsters in Alaska both helped get dems elected and increased the number of votes for Trump if am reading what is being said correctly. Perhaps the same conspirators are responsible for flattening the earth-Busy bees be thee

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