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Alaska GOP names 3 candidates to replace late Rep. Gary Knopp

Rep. Gary Knopp in in the Alaska Capitol in 2019.
Rep. Gary Knopp in in the Alaska Capitol in 2019.(KTUU)
Published: Aug. 14, 2020 at 1:24 PM AKDT
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JUNEAU, Alaska (KTUU) - Three applicants have been submitted for the governor’s consideration to replace Rep. Gary Knopp after he died in a plane crash on July 31.

Under Alaska statute, the governor has 30 days from when a seat becomes vacant to choose a replacement. But, as the Legislature has adjourned and an election is fast approaching, the question becomes more complicated.

The statute on filling a vacancy states that if the Legislature does not meet again before the legislator’s term limit expires, “the governor may not fill the vacancy.”

The Department of Law declined to comment on what the governor is permitted to do beyond what is written in statute. Maria Bahr, a spokesperson for the department, said state attorneys were not aware of any public attorney general opinions on the issue.

Jeff Turner, a spokesperson for the governor’s office, said Gov. Mike Dunleavy is “unavailable today” to comment on whether he would name a replacement for Knopp’s seat.

The Alaska Republican Party announced on Thursday evening that the House District 30 Committee had chosen three applicants to replace Knopp: Ronald Gillham, Derek Leichliter and Charlene Tautfest.

Gillham is separately running in the GOP’s primary for the seat against fellow Republican Kelly Wolf. Knopp’s name will remain on the Aug. 18 primary ballot.

A request for comment from the Alaska Republican Party was not returned.

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