Republican leader David Talerico’s bid to become Alaska House speaker failed Tuesday in a 20-20 vote. Talerico needed 21 votes to become the House’s permanent presiding officer and organize the House under a Republican majority.
Republicans, who won 23 seats in the 2018 elections, split 20-3 on the Talerico vote, with Reps. Gary Knopp, Gabrielle LeDoux, and Louise Stutes voting no. Rep. David Eastman (R), who previously said he might want a more conservative speaker than Talerico, voted yes. All 16 Democrats and independent Daniel Ortiz voted no.
The Alaska House has been without a majority since the 2019 legislative session began on January 15. Without a majority in place, legislative business cannot be conducted and standing committees cannot be appointed. Rep. Neal Foster (D) is serving as speaker pro tempore, but his powers are limited to administrative tasks and accepting nominations for the permanent speakership.
Knopp first announced he was leaving the Republican caucus on December 8, 2018. He said a narrow Republican-only majority would be unstable and announced his intention to form a bipartisan majority with power sharing between the parties. Before Tuesday’s vote, he said he would not support Talerico or Rep. Bryce Edgmon, the Democratic speaker from 2017 to 2018.
LeDoux and Stutes did not caucus with Republicans from 2017 to 2018 and helped swing control of the House to a mostly-Democratic coalition led by Edgmon. Both have expressed interest in joining another bipartisan coalition for the 2019-2020 session.
Rep. Chris Tuck (D) nominated Edgmon for speaker as well on Tuesday. However, Tuck withdrew the nomination shortly after Talerico was voted down. He said Edgmon did not have enough votes to advance either.