- Associated Press
Tuesday, February 12, 2019

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - The Alaska House remained rudderless Tuesday, after dramatic, failed attempts to elect a speaker that left some Republicans feeling betrayed.

Rep. Gary Knopp, who left the GOP caucus in December, voted against the nomination of Republican Rep. Dave Talerico as speaker, helping sink Talerico’s nomination. Knopp was also nominated and rejected.

The votes, both of which failed 20-20, came after Knopp met with Republicans Monday. Some believed he intended to be part of their group; Rep. Chuck Kopp indicated Knopp committed to that.

“Asking to come back in? Not in this lifetime,” Knopp told The Associated Press.

The Kenai Republican said he was willing to be a deciding 21st vote to elect a Republican speaker to enable organization. The scheduled 90-day session in nearly one-third over, and the House still lacks an organized majority, limiting what business it can do.

Knopp has been outspoken in his belief that the two parties should work together and his worry that a majority organization too small in size won’t function well.

He said he told Republicans, who pressed him on whether he’d back Talerico, that he would support “whoever is put forward. Well, at that time, that was my intent.”

Later, Knopp said Republican Rep. Louise Stutes asked if she could nominate him.

Stutes was part of a coalition comprised mostly of Democrats that controlled the House during the last Legislature, and she offered his nomination Tuesday. Knopp voted for himself.

Knopp said he was also irked by a Facebook comment from Republican Rep. David Eastman referencing how a recall effort might work. The comment didn’t directly target Knopp but was in response to a question under a piece Eastman posted from his website on Alaska legislators holding the House “hostage.”

The 40-member House has 23 Republicans, but just 20 of them have been aligned with the GOP caucus. Those who have not been are Reps. Knopp, Stutes and Gabrielle LeDoux, who like Stutes has caucused with Democrats.

It’s unclear what this means for efforts to organize. This is the longest the House has gone without a majority in charge. Tuesday marked the 29th day of the session.

Knopp said having his name put forward “seems to make it about me, and that was never the goal.”

Big Lake Republican Rep. Mark Neuman called what happened on the floor “crazy” and questioned whether he could trust Knopp.

“Look at the integrity of the people in this building. You wonder why we have trouble organizing,” Neuman said, adding later: “Gary Knopp came into our caucus yesterday and said, ‘All I want to do is come back to this caucus.’ “

Knopp said sometimes people hear what they want to hear.

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