For six years, legislator Lindsey Holmes has represented West Anchorage as a Democrat. But as of Saturday afternoon, she’s a Republican.
The announcement that Holmes had switched parties came after a two-hour caucus meeting, where members of the House Majority hashed out what the change meant and occasionally tuned into the NFL playoffs. It was unexpected, and Holmes thinks she’ll get a wide range of responses from her district.
“It’s going to come as a great surprise to some people,” Holmes said. “I think other people will not be as surprised. I think some people will have sort of seen this coming. I believe there’s going to be a mix of opinions, but I’m happy to talk to everybody. I represent everybody in my district regardless.”
Holmes represents parts of Spenard and Sand Lake, and she won her race as a Democrat with a respectable 55 percent of the vote. But she received over 70 percent of the vote in 2010, before taking on part of Republican Mia Costello’s old district this year.
Holmes said that she decided to become a Republican because of her positions on business and energy issues, including the construction of an in-state gasline. House Majority Leader Lance Pruitt said that is part of why the caucus was eager to welcome her.
“Her views on economic development over the past few years seem to be fairly in line with the majority of our caucus,” Pruitt said.
As part of the majority, Holmes is now in a stronger position to promote her economic policy, especially since switching parties means she gets assigned to the House Finance Committee, which has considerable control over the state’s budget.
Holmes’ spot on the finance committee comes at the expense of Democrats, who will have give up one of their three coveted seats. Additionally, her decision to change parties means that Republicans now have a 75-percent majority in the House and that they could have an easier time blocking holds on bills.
Even so, Democratic Minority Leader Beth Kerttula doesn’t expect Holmes’ departure to affect her caucus too much.
“It’s not so much the numbers. It’s the hard work,” Kerttula said. “It’s the keeping focused. It’s the working across the aisle. And it’s also keeping your eye on what’s good for Alaskans.”
Kerttula said she is focusing on what her four new freshman can do for her caucus instead of dwelling on Holmes’ decision to defect. She said that the minority should be reorganized by the opening of the legislative session on Tuesday.
Kerttula said that she is still willing to hear Holmes’ ideas if they are in line with Democrats’ goals.
“We’re going to be working with her as well as everyone else to do what’s right by Alaska,” Kerttula said.
Holmes is the first legislator to switch parties since 1998, when Sen. Jerry Mackie left the Democrats to join a Republican Majority.
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