Rep. Kelly Merrick is a fighter, and she is married to one of the biggest political players in the state — Labor leader Joey Merrick, which has always given conservatives pause.
Joey Merrick is usually fighting against conservative candidates in his role with numerous political action committees, all backed by union interests. He is the business manager for Laborers’ Local 341. He’s got political muscle of the Democrat flavor.
But Kelly Merrick is the representative for District 14, one of the deepest red areas in the state. Her departure from the Republican majority to put Rep. Louise Stutes and the Democrats in charge isn’t going to be easy for her back home, where the district voted 6,714 for Trump/Pence, and 4,261 for Biden/Harris in November.
Merrick said in a statement that she is not joining the caucus she just put in charge of the House with her deciding vote:
“Today, I voted to elect Republican Representative Louise Stutes as Speaker of the House, ending more than three weeks of deadlock and allowing the Legislature to move forward. It was by no means an easy decision to make, but it ensured that no matter how organization comes together, there will be a Republican Speaker.
“To be clear, I have not joined the Alaska House Coalition. However, like most Alaskans, I have been frustrated by taking the same fruitless votes day after day and I felt we could no longer afford to delay extending the Governor’s emergency disaster declaration, crafting a fiscally conservative budget, and passing the construction jobs bill.
“Speaker Stutes has served many years in the Legislature, has personal relationships with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, and is committed to bringing people together to tackle issues facing Alaska.”
In 2018, Stutes, the late Rep. Gary Knopp, and other Republicans formed a bipartisan coalition with the Democrats. Back then, Rep. Bryce Edgmon relinquished his Democrat-party affiliation and became “undeclared” so he could be the Speaker and still give the Republicans who joined the coalition sone political cover.
That didn’t work out for most of them — Jennifer Johnston, Chuck Kopp, and Gabrielle LeDoux lost their seats in the House. Tammie Wilson chose to retire. Stutes didn’t have an opponent. Knopp died in a plane crash.
When Kelly Merrick ran for reelection in 2020, her district supported her because she had not joined the Democratic caucus in 2018.
Must Read Alaska has learned that activists in Merrick’s district are preparing to discuss a censure of Merrick when they meet on Wednesday, Feb. 17.