21 votes to speaker: Rep. Gary Knopp to join Republican House to form majority

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) — After a record 28 days without organization in the Alaska House, a leader of the House Republican caucus says they may have the 21 votes needed to form a majority caucus after all.

Following a House floor session that lasted less than a minute amid speculation that a vote would take place to elect a permanent house speaker, Rep. Dave Talerico, R-Healy, indicated during an informal press gaggle that Rep. Gary Knopp, R-Kenai, would re-join House Republicans to break the stalemate in the House.

"I hope that's what happens, you know? Because I'm anxious to get it wrapped up and get started with work," Talerico said in response to a question about Knopp joining a Republican majority.

But he wouldn't go so far as to say that he was certain he'd be elected speaker when the House meets next on Tuesday.

"I would hope myself or someone gets elected speaker," Talerico said. "We really need to get something wrapped up and get under way."

Knopp has confirmed to other media outlets that he will be the 21st member of a Republican-led caucus.

KTUU requested a comment from Knopp, but did not hear back from him prior to publishing.

A House Republican staff member told Channel 2 that negotiations were underway as of 8:10 p.m. Monday.

There have been 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 wield disproportionate influence over the caucus.

"A simple majority on either side has a very slim probability of success. There is no good reason not to work today as a unified house to get our work done," Knopp wrote in an email at the time, saying he hoped his decision would help force a consensus.

Later in December, Republican House members signaled that negotiations to form a majority were making progress, hinting that a majority may be formed in the first week of January.

But when the 31st Legislature gaveled in on Jan. 15, no majority had yet been formed, leaving staffers in a state of uncertainty with funding for payroll set to expire on the first day of the session.

House members ultimately authorized continued pay for employees of the Legislature on the third day of the session.

The same day, House members voted to elect Rep. Neal Foster, D-Nome, as Speaker Pro Tempore by a vote of 35-4, following a failed nomination for Rep. Mark Neuman, R-Big Lake, to serve in the interim position.

Last week, a vote to elect Talerico failed by a 20-20 vote.

Rep. Bryce Edgmon, D-Dillingham, was also nominated, but declined to be considered. Edgmon served as House Speaker of a bi-partisan coalition for the previous two sessions of the 30th Legislature.