Supreme Court chief’s pick for redistricting board? Openly hostile to governor



Supreme Court Chief Justice Joel Bolger picked an open opponent of Gov. Mike Dunleavy to serve on the state’s Redistricting Board. That is the board that convenes once every 10 years to redraw the political boundaries in the state, an exercise occurring in every state after the U.S. Census is taken.

The choice of Melanie Bahnke of Nome is a shot at the Dunleavy Administration by the Alaska Supreme Court. Bahnke is the president and CEO of regional tribal consortium Kawerak, and has served on the board of AFN, which has taken a strong stance against the governor and his attempts to rein in the budget. She also disrupted an event in Nome where the governor was speaking in 2019.

A leader in the Recall Dunleavy movement, she will be the representative on the Redistricting Board for rural Alaska. Along with Speaker Bryce Edgmon’s choice of Nicole Borromeo, who is legal counsel to AFN, this means rural Alaska has a 40 percent representation on the Redistricting Board.

Other members of the board were chosen by Gov. Mike Dunleavy — Budd Simpson, a Juneau attorney; and Bethany Marcum, who heads the Alaska Policy Forum.

Sen. Cathy Giessel’s choice was John Binkley, a former state legislator and successful businessman who is a Republican.

Rep. Bryce Edgmon’s choice of Borromeo was supported by the Committee on Committees, which includes Speaker Edgmon and Neal Foster, both Democrats, along with collaborating Republicans Louise Stutes of Kodiak District 32, Jennifer Johnston of South Anchorage District 28, Chuck Kopp of South Anchorage District 24 and Steve Thompson of Fairbanks District 2,


  1. I am a Republican. A third generation Republican, because before that time, my relatives were not “American” citizens.

    I do not know when it became a hostile act to appoint someone with a different point of view.

    Redistricting is a very important issue. Other factors beyong population should be factors in these formulas.

    The geographic mass of rural Alaska, the lack of infrastructure, the lack of law enforcement, and the historical lack of the State following through with much of its inherent responsibility for rural Alaskan residents is the sad fact.

    To say that 40% of representation is made up of AFN and AFN related representation as if it is a war, is real-life, real-time example of exactly why these two amazing women and highly-educated and professional leaders needed to be appointed.

    They are outspoken, passionate and FAIR.

    • I agree this is a very good choice made by the Alaska Supreme Court very surprised and happy they stepped so far out of their comfort zone. I do believe Melanie well represent all of Alaska in a fair and equitable way without question, it is such a great opportunity to have rural representation involved in this important process for all Alaskans. With the selection process over and done with lets move on and get to work and do what’s right for Alaska!
      I do not belong to any political party but I do support Governor Dunleavy and I do not support or agree the direction AFN is heading.

    • It’s not fair to disrupt events and impede others right to assemble peaceably and exercise their first amendment rights to free speech. When you shout over people to make your point, at THEIR events, you aren’t professional and you aren’t demonstrating your high education either.

      The bottom-line is this; the appointments, including Binkley- were partisan in nature and 3 people on this board are openly hostile to the current governor. Take that for what it is, it is not some good natured attempt at getting multiple perspectives to generate a sensible outcome. If you think it is, you have not been following Alaska politics for at least the last 4 if not 10 years.. and for that, I wouldn’t blame you at all- it’s pretty depressing-especially for “Republicans”.

      • What shouting occurred? Nobody knows what you’re talking about. Melanie doesn’t do that. She was respectful and always is.

    • I learned long , anytime someone says they just want to be fair to reach for your wallet and make sure it is still there.

    • Think the word fair would be your opinion.
      I don’t think any of the other people
      Picked from other side hates rural
      Alaska, do you?

    • Neal Foster is appointed and no one is complaining. Surely he has respectfully stood and represented his constituents? Why get so twisted about Melanie? Weird.

  2. Not so fast, Trudy. How do you know they will be fair to others outside of their district? Maybe they’ll take a BLM approach to redistricting, which would not be fair. Please justify your position with supporting data.

  3. Your people were probably citizens during the territory time. I wish that native corps would spend more of their millions of dollars on infrastructure rather than wait for hand outs from the government. Be self sufficient. They have the money. Do more than issue the quarterly checks that are spent mere hours after dispersal. Build that road between Dillingham and Manokotak. Build that hydro plant upriver from Koliganek. Do something lasting and beneficial rather than providing welfare.

  4. Trudy, I am trying to understand your point of view. I see your point about geographic land mass or size of districts but little beyond that makes much sense. To infer that “Bush” or Rural Alaska has been neglected by the Government in terms of spending is ridiculous. These Boards are supposed to be rational and non- political. The picks made by the Chief Justice and the Speaker appear to be very politically motivated, especially in light of the Re-Call Dunleavy issue.
    I do not see this as a War between Rural- Bush vs Urban, but rather a struggle between agents of a losing Political Party vs the Election results of 2018. Tell me Trudy, is that Fair?

  5. “Alaska is the largest state geographically and covers 571,951 square miles, with a 2019 estimated population of 731,545 people – 238,379 living in rural Alaska (USDA-ERS). ”

    If you divide the full population by 5 then times 2 for what these rural rep’s represent that’s over 50,000 more none bush residents they would have an influence over !

    Who does that measure up with any concern over Dunleavy’s haters?

    This article smells of all kinds of questionable influence politically !

  6. “Supreme Court Chief Justice Joel Bolger picked an open opponent of Gov. Mike Dunleavy to serve on the state’s Redistricting Board.”

    Is it a requirement to be a Dunleavy supporter to be on the Redistricting Board? She sounds qualified to me, not sure what the heartache is outside of not being a Dunleavy supporter.

  7. Having lived in Gambell, next door to Savoonga on St. Lawrence island, I feel I know Savoonga pretty well. The rudeness that she showed the Governor does not represent the Island at all. She should learn to control her tounge. She may get further. There is a time to speak, and a time to listen and always be respectful.

  8. Because of Alaska’s past legal directives from the court system for redistricting, I think that we can expect lawsuits from multiple parties when the Redistricting Board comes up with a plan for dividing up our state into voting precincts for the next ten years. Knowing that the Supreme Court of Alaska will in all likelihood end up being the final arbiter of the redistricting lines this time around, how is it not unconstitutional for the the same court that will decide the final outcome of the redistricting to appoint a member to the redistricting board.

    I am surprised that the Alaska State Legislature has not recognized the direction that the redistricting process has taken in the past and moved to change the nominating process eliminating the ability of the court system to have an influencing say in who is appointed to the Redistricting Board. This appointing process which includes the Alaska Supreme Court as a participating party was instituted in 1998.

    The Supreme Court of the United States decided in a 5 to 4 decision on June 27, 2019 that federal courts cannot determine wether election maps are too partisan. Thus leaving the the power to address the partisan gerrymandering lies with Congress and not the courts.

  9. Trudy, that is your opinion, but she did attempt to disrupt the governor and is opposed to budget cuts. The liberal judge who appointed her should be recalled and replaced. This state needs to get the budget under control and if that means scaling back the handouts to every nonprofit, oh well, so be it.

  10. She did say something along the lines about pulling up a chair to the table… What do you mean???? It’s our table. I don’t think she was meaning the table belonged to ALL Alaskans. Kind of sounded racist to this native American.

  11. Are you Republicans afraid the 40% minority will replace all the Gerrymandering that you have done to rig the system in your favor? While I’m venting the lot of you act like you own the State money, the states job is to provide infrastructure, if you are invested in stocks such as Alaska Airlines ask them to build a road or Dam, let’s see how far you get!
    You get 60% control and now you want 100%?

  12. Melanie Bahnke raised her hand and was finally called upon to speak at the event you are referring to. There is video of her speaking eloquently and with respect to the Governor at this event in Nome. There was no disruption. That is not an accurate portrayal.

  13. Please correct your article; I am not a “leader in the Recall Dunleavy movement.” If you gathered this from some other source, please also correct your source. As for the title of this article, I suggest readers view the video of my comments to him, which were captured by the Nome Nugget. I silently raised my hand until I was invited to speak. Readers can form their own opinion by watching the video:

    I look forward to serving our great State on the redistricting board in accordance with the Alaska Constitution.

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