Senator Shelley Hughes told a group at the Wasilla Chamber of Commerce that the Senate President Cathy Giessel has said so many falsehoods, that Hughes can no longer be associated with her leadership. Hughes is leaving the majority.
Hughes said she has not left the Majority caucus so much as the presiding officer left her. She made the announcement toward the end of the meeting on Tuesday.
“The Senate majority has walked away from me. The presiding officer is making false claims,” Hughes told Must Read Alaska.
“I’m a candidate, and I am true to my principles. Hearing claims by Sen. Giessel — I’m just not in agreement with them,” she said.
She cited that Giessel has claimed she worked with the governor to restrain spending when, in fact, she tried to force lawmakers to Juneau last summer to expand spending. The governor had called a special session in Wasilla, but Giessel and House Speaker Bryce Edgmon refused to attend it.
Hughes also said that Giessel has taken credit for the repeal of Senate Bill 91, the soft-on-crime bill, and that she claims to fight for a full Permanent Fund dividend, when she has not done so as Senate president.
Giessel’s term as Senate president is likely to end in January, when a new organization will emerge after the November elections.
“I don’t want to alienate myself from others, and I want to maintain good working relationships,” Hughes said.
The Senate Majority is made up of 13 Republicans and one Democrat, but the more conservative Republicans have been punished by Giessel for voting their conscience on items such as the Permanent Fund dividend and the operating budget.
Her press release tonight explains further:
Tuesday, July 28, 2020 – This evening at a Chamber of Commerce event in Wasilla, Alaska, Senator Hughes announced that she is officially leaving the Alaska Senator Majority Caucus.
“When I and my Senate Majority colleagues came together nearly two years ago to organize and set our priorities for the 31st Alaska State Legislature, I was full of optimism. We sat together as a team at a location in Wasilla and set what we believed at the time were attainable goals for Alaskans. Those goals included repealing Senate Bill 91, reducing Alaska’s operating budget spending, and settling the PFD issue.”
“While there is still opportunity for the legislature to come together and work the two remaining issues, it appears only one of those priorities will have been accomplished in this legislature: the full repeal of SB 91. I am so very proud to have led the Senate’s team and effort in that work. I, my Judiciary Committee colleagues, Senator Costello and my staff worked exhaustively with the Governor’s team to present a bill that fixed the SB 91 mistake. I was very proud of the final product which was not watered down in the negotiations I chaired, but instead was a strong repeal bill.”
“I am, however, perplexed on how the presiding officer in the Senate, Senator Giessel, can now take credit for that work, when she kicked the very team who did the work to the curb. She now is also making false claims about working with the Governor and reducing the budget after she insisted that I, and others, come to Juneau last summer for a veto override session. On top of that Senator Giessel is making claims that she supported a full dividend before she was against it. Her votes and comments over the past two years have indicated her true preference to direct PFD dollars to government spending and special interests, rather than private sector spending by the people.”
“In good conscience, as a candidate accountable to the people, I can no longer stand by and say nothing when I hear such false statements from a person in a position of leadership. To be true to my principles I must walk away from a leader who has abandoned the core values around which the caucus was originally formed.”
“Having felt the accumulative weight of all the decisions the Senate President has made in the last seven months, I find it obvious that it is not I who left the Senate Majority, it is the Senate President who has left me. I am acknowledging that fact today and I will no longer be associated with her through membership in the Alaska Senate Majority.”
Both Giessel and Hughes are running for reelection but Giessel is considered to be in a tight race with newcomer Roger Holland of South Anchorage. Both are Republicans.