Thomas Baker, a Republican from Kotzebue, was sworn in by Alaska House of Representatives Speaker Cathy Tilton as the newest member of the Alaska House, replacing now-North Slope Borough Mayor Josiah Patkotak.
Patkotak, an unaffiliated lawmaker from Utqiagvik who had been a member of the House Majority caucus, was elected as borough mayor in the October 2023 municipal elections.
Prior to Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s nomination of Baker, there were procedural questions about how Ballot Measure 2 from the 2020 elections had changed the provisions of the nomination and confirmation statutes governing the replacements of members of the legislature.
Last Thursday the leadership of the Alaska House Majority met and learned that Department of Law, Legislative Legal Services, and caucus counsel all concurred that despite what may have been intended by Ballot Measure 2, the plain reading was inconsistent with that intent.
The basic question was whether it required a majority of the House Majority or a majority of Republicans in the House. It was determined that the confirmation vote was amongst all Republicans in the House.
Last weekend, the entire House Majority was invited to meet and talk with Baker. House Speaker Cathy Tilton also reached out to the other Republicans in the House who are not members of the House Majority. One Republican, Rep. Louise Stutes of Kodiak, is a member of the Democrat House Minority, and one, Rep. David Eastman of Wasilla, is unaffiliated with either caucus.
Baker received unanimous support from all Republican members of the Alaska House Majority, thus satisfying the threshold under either legal interpretation.
The House Committee on Committees will meet after the start of the next regular session to determine which committees Baker will be appointed to. The second session of the 33rd Alaska Legislature convenes in Juneau on Jan. 16, 2024.