Edgmon named House speaker, ending stalemate
House Rep. Bryce Edgmon has been named to serve a second straight term as House speaker, ending a 31-day deadlock.
Edgmon won the nomination put forth by Rep. Chris Tuck, D-Anchorage, on a 21-18 vote. Rep. Gary Knopp was out of town and not present to vote.
Even so, Edgmon got the necessary Republican support from Reps. Chuck Kopp, Jennifer Johnston, Gabrielle LeDoux of Anchorage and Louise Stutes of Kodiak.
LeDoux and Stutes had always been aligned with a Democratic-led caucus that Edgmon guided for each of the last two years. It was Kopp and Johnston who threw their support behind Edgmon after backing Dave Talerico, R-Healy, in previous votes.
“I want to quote the late Ted Stevens,” Johnston said. “I’m going to say, 'The hell with politics, I’m going to just do what’s right for Alaska.' What’s right for Alaska is we get this House in order.”
Making his intent to support Edgmon known, Kopp said it was time to move forward with a permanent speaker.
“My vote reflects strong support for the House of Representatives,” Kopp said. “This is the people’s House. It’s time for the people’s House to move forward. And today I will casting my vote for Representative Bryce Edgmon to make that happen.”
Edgmon briefly addressed the House after winning back the gavel:
"Given that the time remaining in the session is not ideally as it would be the full length of the session, I still feel heartened in the sense that I think we can pick up where we left off and make up for lost time and really focus on what truly is the responsibility in front of us, which is a fiscally sustainable budget.
“And a budget that Alaskans will not only be proud of, but also a budget that also culminates all the needs and essential services that are important to our constituencies individual but to the state as a whole.”
Since Jan. 15, the House stood in gridlock and without formal organization. The best it could do was elect a temporary speaker, Neal Foster, D-Nome, but it could not establish committees, nor could it receive bills or messages from the governor.
The Republican caucus had 20 members; the Democratic led caucus had 16 Democrats, two Republicans and one independent. Knopp stood as the outlier, having left the Republican caucus adamant that a 21-member majority was “doomed to fail.”
On Monday, Edgmon quietly shed his Democratic party affiliation and remains undeclared. He joins Ketchikan’s Dan Ortiz as the second member of the caucus.
Edgmon has been in office for 12 years, just two years behind Rep. Mark Neuman, R-Big Lake, the senior member of the House, and has served in Republican- and Democratic-led caucuses.
“To me, I was willing to make the sacrifice, make the change," Edgmon said. "I think it’s right choice to not only move the House forward, but also move Alaska forward.”
Nome Democrat Neal Foster had served as temporary speaker until a permanent presiding officer could be elected.
Shortly after his victory, Edgmon said Kopp would serve as the House majority leader. Foster and Tammie Wilson, R-North Pole, are set to serve as House Finance Committee co-chairs while Steve Thompson, R-Fairbanks, should become the Rules Committee chair.
A GOP statement later Thursday said 15 Republicans will be serving in the minority with Rep. Lance Pruitt, R-Anchorage, serving as the minority leader.
The House must still establish committees so it can begin to hear bills. With Gov. Mike Dunleavy having just released his budget on Wednesday, the House Finance Committee is expected to begin hearings next week.
The House traditionally passes the operating budget first, then sends it to the Senate for additional work.
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