Bryce Edgmon confirmed as Alaska House speaker after 31 days in session

House Speaker Bryce Edgmon, D-Dillingham, meets with reporters about the 2019 operating budget...
House Speaker Bryce Edgmon, D-Dillingham, meets with reporters about the 2019 operating budget bill. (KTUU)
Published: Feb. 14, 2019 at 9:55 AM AKST
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After a day of double deadlocks, the Alaska House of Representatives finally nominated and confirmed its new House Speaker on Thursday.

The successful candidate was the speaker from the previous Legislature, Rep. Bryce Edgmon from Dillingham.

Edgmon changed his party affiliation from Democrat to undeclared this week. He was elected to the House Speaker position in a vote of 21-18, with 1 excused.

The Dillingham representative said after the session that Rep. Chuck Kopp, R-Anchorage, will be the House Majority Leader and that Rep. Steve Thompson, R-Fairbanks, will be Rules Chair. However, when the leadership assignment list was published Friday, Kopp was named as Rules Chair, and Thompson as Majority Leader.

Kopp and Rep. Jennifer Johnston, R-Anchorage, voted in favor of Edgmon as speaker, both members will caucus with the House Coalition along with Thompson and Rep. Tammie Wilson, R-North Pole.

Wilson did not vote in favor of Edgmon for speaker.

Edgmon said it was his understanding that Rep. Gary Knopp, R-Kenai, will also join the caucus, bringing the majority to 24 members but that number could rise.

Edgmon said that it will be a binding caucus, including for a vote on the Operating Budget. The newly elected speaker said the budget would be the focus for the House of Representatives.

Wilson and Rep. Neal Foster, D-Nome, will be co-chairs of the all important House Finance Committee, according to Edgmon. Hearings for committees are expected to be scheduled starting next week.

A committee on committees meeting will take place Thursday to decide and announce the remaining committee positions.

House Republicans announced Thursday evening that Rep. Lance Pruitt, R-Anchorage, will serve as House Minority Leader of a 15-member caucus. Rep. Cathy Tilton, R-Wasilla, will serve as the Republican Finance Leader, and Rep. DeLena Johnson, R-Palmer, will serve as Minority Whip.

Rep. Dave Talerico, R-Healy, was nominated again along with Edgmon Thursday morning. That nomination was later withdrawn. He failed to secure a majority vote on Tuesday in a 20-20 deadlock.

Talerico was one of two unsuccessful candidates, along with Rep. Gary Knopp, R-Kenai, who also lost the speakership in a 20-20 deadlock vote.

When the House session began Thursday, Knopp was not present, and his absence was voted to be excused in a vote of 21 to 18, meaning Knopp was unable to vote, and counted as an excused vote.

Knopp caught fire on Tuesday, after he voted against Talerico, despite some saying Knopp promised to vote for Talerico.

“I met with Representative Knopp yesterday afternoon in his office, thanked him for meeting with our caucus and for being his desire to finally support our nominee for Speaker," said Rep. Colleen Sullivan-Leonard, R-Wasilla, following the failed vote to confirm Talerico. "He was gracious and said he looked forward to supporting who we put up, Representative Talerico. Obviously, that didn’t happen this morning.”

During the first 29 days of the session, most Alaska House members were eligible to collect more than $8,700 each via a daily $302 per diem since the legislative session started on Jan. 15.

This story has been updated with additional informatoin about leadership positions assigned Friday.