The Alaska Senate Republican-led majority met this weekend to form its leadership team, which is comprised of three women and two men:
Sen. Cathy Giessel, Senate president
Sen. John Coghill, chair of Rules
Sen. Mia Costello, majority leader
Sen. Bert Stedman, co-chair of Finance, for operating budget
Sen. Natasha von Imhof, co-chair of Finance, for capital budget
The majority includes all 13 Republicans elected to the Legislature.
Committee chairs have not been finalized but Sen. Gary Stevens of Kodiak will chair the Legislative Council, a group that meets and makes decisions when the Legislature is not in session.
“The Senate is committed to listening to Alaskans who have made their priorities clear: the state budget, public safety and protecting the Permanent Fund and the dividend,” said Sen. Giessel. “We stand ready to serve Alaskans.”
The majority will meet over the next few weeks to finalize the committee chairs and articulate the specific priorities.
There have been three other women Senate presidents in the Alaska Legislature since Statehood: Drue Pearce (twice); Lyda Green, 2007-2008; and Jan Faiks, 1987-1988. All were Republicans.
Giessel represents Northeast Anchorage, Anchorage Hillside, Indian, Bird, Girdwood & Portage. Through redistricting, she has also in the past represented an area that stretched as far as North Kenai. Giessel is a nurse practitioner who volunteers at a clinic in Anchorage when she is not working at her legislative duties.
Coghill is from Fairbanks, Costello and von Imhof are from Anchorage, and Stedman is from Sitka.
Not in the 13-member majority this term is a familiar face from rural Alaska who has often co-chaired Finance for the Republican majority: Sen. Lyman Hoffman of Bethel. The other rural Democrat who could probably still join the majority is Sen. Donny Olson of Golovin, near Nome. But for now, it’s a 13-member, all Republican majority, with a door left ajar for a couple of rural senators who, in order to be elected, must remain Democrats.
The Senate Democrat minority has been in Anchorage this weekend also organizing its seven-member caucus.