By Heidi Zemach for SCN
Newly re-elected State Senator Cathy Giessel was in Seward this (Friday) morning gathering up her campaign signs. She has become part of the newly-forming Republican-led Alaska Senate. She will chair the Senate Resources Committee. It’s a powerful post in view of the importance of oil and gas development in Alaska.
In a press conference after Tuesday’s election, new Senate President Charlie Huggins said the senate’s agenda would be to cut state spending, cut oil taxes to increase production, and spur in-state use of natural gas. The new Senate Majority leader is Sen. John Coghill. Its Rules Chair is Sen. Lesil McGuire. The Finance Co-Chair is Sen. Kevin Meyer, and the Finance Co-Chair is to be Sen. Pete Kelly.
Giessel also will also be on the Ethics Committee, Legisative Council and Arctic Policy Committee. Giessel said she may get one more committee, but the details are still evolving as more senators join.
Moderate Republican Gary Stevens, of Kodiak, the bipartisan Senate coalitions’ former president, and also Seward’s former senate district representative, and moderate republican Senator Bert Stedman have joined the 13-member majority. Stevens, a retired university history professor, will chair the Education Committee, while Stedman will chair Health and Social Services. Stevens led the bipartisan caucus leadership’s efforts to prevent the governor’s proposed annual $2 billion revenue reduction from oil taxes, without tying it to specific guarantees that there would be further oil development if taxes were reduced.
At least one democrat had joined the coalition as of this afternoon.
Newly re-elected House Rep. Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, has retained the position of House speaker. The Seward/Moose Pass area is now included in his house district with redistricting. Meanwhile Rep. Lance Pruitt, R-Anchorage was selected to be House majority leader. Rep. Craig Johnson, R-Anchorage, will continue to chair the House Rules Committee.
Giessel’s challenger Ron Devon was also busy calling and thanking his supporters this afternoon.
“I would like to thank all of the people who supported me in that area, and I really appreciated all the warmth and hospitality of the people I met and talked to, all the people wanting to do what’s right for Alaska. As far as my future plans go, it’s too early to say, but I really enjoyed the process and learned a lot about the people in the district.
Devon, a newcomer to Alaska politics running as an independent, received some 6,000 votes from Alaskans in District N in the unnofficial vote count. He came out ahead of Giessel in the Seward City/Lowell Point vote count, and also at the Bear Creek polling station and outlying areas including Hope, Girdwood, generally along the road system south of Anchorage, but did not fare as well in the other Kenai Peninsula Borough communities.