JOHN LINCOLN IS GOVERNOR’S PICK TO REPLACE WESTLAKE
Gov. Bill Walker appointed John Agnaqluk Lincoln of Kotzebue to represent House District 40 in the Alaska House of Representatives. The area spans from Kotzebue to Barrow and is the epitome of rural Alaska.
Lincoln was born in Kotzebue and is a vice president for NANA Regional Corporation, where he oversees and manages NANA lands.
He is an Iñupiat who was valedictorian of Kotzebue High School in 1999, and he went on to earn a bachelor’s degree from Stanford University. He is a private pilot and has worked as an EMT for the Kotzebue Volunteer Fire Department.
“Just like the Democratic Party officials in House District 40, I set out to identify the person who is best prepared to lead at this pivotal moment in Alaska’s history,” Governor Walker said in a late-night press release. “I thank everyone who stepped forward and applied, but I am fully convinced that John Lincoln is the best person for this role.”
District 40 Republicans — a small but spirited bunch — posted their good wishes to the nominee on Facebook: “John Lincoln would have been a GREAT Republican candidate for HD40.”
The governor had been working closely with the Democratic Party for days to come up with more names after the vetting of the first three candidates fell short.
Two of them became embroiled in a personal dispute between them, and the third was inexperienced. The governor had, by statute, until Thursday to finalize a pick.
The House Democrats are expected to confirm the appointment quickly and put the smell of complicity behind them.
Presumably, Lincoln will change his political affiliation to Democrat, but since Democrats now embrace nonaligned politicians in Alaska, he may remain a man without a party, embraced by the Democratic caucus.
The need for an appointment came about because the Alaska Democratic Party had challenged one of their own — Democrat Ben Nageak of Barrow — in the 2016 primary.
They pushed Dean Westlake as their chosen man with the help of Gov. Bill Walker’s associate Robin Brena and other large urban Democrat donors.
Then, the Division of Elections allowed irregular voting throughout the district, including allowing people to vote two ballots in some communities. Nageak lost by eight votes.
The election was challenged in court, but the judge said that the irregularities were mistakes that resulted from poor training, and he did not force a new election.
Westlake turned out to be a disaster, having harassed several women before and after being sworn in last January. He resigned in disgrace in December.
Many thought that this seat would go to a woman because of the deeply embarrassing history of Westlake, and the fact that so many Democrat lawmakers, both men and women, knew about Westlake’s proclivities.
Sen. Shelley Hughes, who originally came into the House of Representatives after being chosen by Gov. Sean Parnell to fill out the term of the late Rep. Carl Gatto, questioned Gov. Walker’s judgment: “When the governor chooses to appoint someone not on the list presented to him by the people in the district, is it safe to assume he thinks he knows better than they do what they need?”