The Alaska Republican Party voted against sanctioning Reps. Jennifer Johnston and Chuck Kopp for their role in enabling the Democrats to take control of the House of Representatives through their actions in joining the Democrat caucus in February, 32 days into the session.
The caucus with the Democrats formed after the longest legislative standoff in Alaska history.
Kopp represents District 24 and Johnston represents District 28, both Anchorage districts.
The vote was 40 against sanctioning them, with 21 in favor of the motion to sanction.
The tally came after vigorous, but respectful debate about the importance of enforcing party rules vs. allowing the sanctions to emerge from the local Republican districts first, before a state party vote is held.
That’s the sequence that occurred with the sanction of Rep. Gary Knopp of Kenai in a State Central Committee meeting in May. The party had also sanctioned Reps. Gabrielle LeDoux and Louise Stutes previously, for the same general offense of joining the Democrats’ caucus and installing a Democrat speaker.
In January, Kopp and Johnston, along with Reps. Steve Thompson, Bart LeBon, Tammie Wilson, LeDoux, Stutes, and Knopp, formed up a majority with the minority Democrats, and staged the equivalent of a coup against the Republicans, who had chosen District 6 Rep. Dave Talerico as the House Speaker.
The Republicans had a clear majority until the eight defected.
Since then, Wilson and LeDoux have left the Democrats’ caucus, leaving six Republicans with the Democrats. Wilson has rejoined the Republican caucus, while LeDoux remains without a caucus. But the Republicans still don’t have enough to regain control of the House.
District 9 Chair Carol Carman of Wasilla offered a motion to withdraw party support for just Kopp and Johnston, since they were the two who tipped the balance of power, which enabled a Democrat to become speaker and control the House’s appointment to the redistricting board.
“The party realizes we are all trying to do the right thing. We’re all invested in making Alaska a great place for future generations,” Johnston said.