Eight northwest Alaska Democrats are being considered by the Alaska Democratic Party for its shortlist of candidates to fill former state Rep. Dean Westlake’s seat following his resignation.

Westlake stepped down last month amid increasing pressure after women said he had made inappropriate advances toward them in the state Capitol. He initially vowed to keep his seat, but the tipping point came when a daughter Westlake had fathered with a 16-year-old girl stepped forward to tell her story.

According to a statement from the party, the eight people being considered to replace Westlake include:

• Sandra J. Shroyer Beaver, Kotzebue
• Timothy E. Gavin, Jr., Buckland
• Rosie Hensley, Kotzebue
• Leanna Mack, Utqiagvik
• Lewis J. Pagel, Kotzebue
• Patrick Savok, Kotzebue
• Eugene S. Smith, Kotzebue
• Nicole N. Stoops, Kotzebue

“Per state law, all applicants must reside in House District 40 for at least one year and be a registered Democrat,” party officials wrote. “An application from Richard J. Frank will not be considered because the candidate did not meet these requirements.”

The Democratic Party’s regional chair, Jane Winzer, confirms Shroyer Beaver and Patrick Savok have prior domestic violence or assault charges on their record. Winzer says the party has reviewed CourtView records for all of the candidates, prior to conducting interviews with each applicant before a nine-person panel made up of party members from across the district.

Winzer says she didn’t feel it was appropriate to disqualify any candidates at this point.

“While it’s definitely an issue of concern and something that you know the committee is going to discuss and look at,” Winzer said of the charges. “I wanted all the members on the committee to be people who have more time, more experience. Most of them are life-long members of District 40. And I defer in a lot of ways to them because they have longevity of knowledge on our issues, our region, and this is just another issue that I respected the committee to be able to handle and I didn’t feel like it was my place to make that decision for them.”

Winzer added that she wasn’t surprised to see half of the applicants on the list are women.

“Women have a lot of leadership roles up here and that wasn’t at all shocking to us,” Winzer said. “We have a lot of women in positions of power up here and it is good that it does bring greater sensitivity to these kinds of issues.”

After conducting interviews beginning this weekend, the party will send a list of three finalists to Gov. Bill Walker. He will select one of them to serve the remainder of Westlake’s term. Walker must make an appointment by Jan. 25, but Winzer says the party’s goal is to have a replacement before the start of the 2018 legislative session on Jan. 16.

Liz Raines contributed information to this story.

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