Once Mike Shower got word that he would he would be the next state senator in Mike Dunleavy’s Mat-Su district, he reached for a small book: the Alaska Constitution.

Now two weeks on the job, Shower said it was a necessary first step toward preparing for his new role in Juneau.

The former Air Force fighter pilot was sworn in February 26 and is fast showing signs of being the same principled fiscal hawk as Dunleavy, who stepped down to focus on the upcoming governor’s race.

On Monday, Shower announced on social media that he plans on staying out of the Republican-led majority caucus over budget concerns-- the same driver that caused Dunleavy to vote himself out of the majority last year by not supporting the budget.

“This is really me trying to figure out what it will entail and whether or not at the end of the day the people of District E will be happy with a large budget increase,” Shower said. “I just didn’t want to tie my hands at this point and that’s what it would have required, to join the caucus.”

Senate President Pete Kelly (R-Fairbanks) said no conditions were placed on Shower to join the majority in exchange for an affirming vote after Walker’s nomination.

“The biggest takeaway from the Sen. Shower's confirmation was that we obviously didn’t require anything from him for our vote to bring him into the Senate,” Kelly said. “I think that’s important because over the years a lot of people who have been appointed have had to go through the gauntlet of making promises and commitments to people who are currently in the Senate and we just didn’t do that.”

Shower works in the smallest office in the state’s capitol building, and his walls remain bare. None of that matters, he said.

Shower's swearing-in officially ended a prolonged battle between Senate Republicans and Gov. Bill Walker over who would succeed Dunleavy.

Shower said the learning curve has been steep.

“I actually think going into combat flying fighters was a whole lot easier than this,” he said. “That didn’t seem so hard. There’s a lot to navigate here, and there’s a lot to learn.

“I was quite interested in a lot of topics, like crime, the budget and the PFD-- things that mattered back home-- before I got there. There is a whole lot more of that taking place here.”

Shower doesn’t have any committee assignments yet, though Kelly says he’s in line for a spot with the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“He’s drinking from a fire hose right now,” Kelly said. “Frankly, it takes some years for people to figure this system out, so we don’t have high expectations of his ability to know exactly what’s going on. We do have high expectations of him because he’s-- we think-- he’s an honorable guy-- and a pretty smart guy, too.”

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