20-20 deadlock votes stop the Alaska House from organizing, weeks into session

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JUNEAU, Alaska (KTUU) - Two votes in the Alaska House of Representatives both resulted in deadlock for two candidates nominated to House Speaker Tuesday morning.

Rep. Gary Knopp, R-Kenai on Feb. 12, followingtwo failed deadlock votes for House Speaker. Photo by KTUU Sean Maguire.

A motion to elect Rep. Dave Talerico, R-Healy, as House Speaker was thwarted by a 20-20 vote, preventing his confirmation to the position and further delaying the House from organizing.

Rep. Gary Knopp, R-Kenai, was then nominated to the speakership along with Rep. Dave Talerico, with Knopp voting "no" for Talerico.

In his explanation of why he voted against Talerico, Knopp said he wanted to see a Republican-led House and that he would be the 21st vote in the majority, but that he never said who he would support for speaker. He did say, however, that he supported a Republican speaker, namely himself.

On the vote for Knopp as speaker, yet another 20-20 deadlock was reached, followed by the House adjourning until 10:00 a.m. Wednesday.

"I want to work with people that I know that I can trust, right now he's not there," said Rep. Mark Neuman, R - Big Lake, after Tuesday's floor session. "If you don't have your word as a man, what are you?"

Neuman, the senior member of the House, said he was "absolutely surprised" by Knopp's decision and that Knopp had told Republicans Monday afternoon that he was committed to re-joining the GOP caucus.

Some Republicans say that Knopp had explicitly told the caucus that he would vote for Talerico and not just support a Republican-led majority.

“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. "He was gracious and said he looked forward to supporting who we put up, Representative Talerico. Obviously, that didn’t happen this morning.”

Rep. Louise Stutes, R - Kodiak, says she called Knopp late Tuesday night with the idea that he should be nominated as speaker. Stutes said, "absolutely not" to the question of whether the House Coalition had planned for Knopp to be nominated as speaker Tuesday night.

The deadlocked votes come after several false starts and attempts to organize a bi-partisan coalition, spurred in part by the departure of Knopp, who left the Republican House caucus in early December, voicing concerns about forming a 21-member majority in which any one member could effectively wield disproportionate control the caucus.

The 40-member House has 23 Republicans, but only 20 said they would join the GOP caucus in the majority, effectively stalling the session without a speaker.

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.

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