After Tense Lead-Up, Legislature Confirms Walker’s Cabinet

After a five-hour session, the Legislature has confirmed all of Gov. Bill Walker’s cabinet appointments.

Most of the high-level appointments made it through with unanimous support. But Attorney General Craig Richards saw significant — though not fatal — pushback from the Legislature. His prior litigation against oil companies concerned some members of the Republican majority in the Legislature, while his actions on same-sex marriage troubled a few Democrats in the minority. He ultimately survived with a 36-23 vote.

Alaska National Guard Adjutant General Laurie Hummel, Natural Resources Commissioner Mark Myers, and Revenue Commissioner Randy Hoffbeck also received a smattering of no votes, but were ultimately confirmed.

The confirmation session had been a point of contention between Gov. Walker and the Legislature. Amidst disagreements over a bill that would limit the governor’s ability to pursue an alternative gasline plan, the Legislature had cancelled the vote on Walker’s appointees. On Thursday, Walker issued an executive proclamation ordering lawmakers to consider his nominations, only to rescind that order after getting assurances from legislative leaders that confirmation would happen before the session’s end.

At a press availability on Sunday evening, Walker thanked the Legislature for keeping that commitment.

“They did exactly what they said they were going to do, and I appreciate that as far as the timing of things,” said Walker.

While Walker’s cabinet survived intact, five appointments to boards and commissions were rejected.

Verne Rupright, a former mayor of Wasilla, was kicked out if his post at the Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission on a 19-40 vote. They rejected Michael Gallagher, who had been appointed to the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, on a 33-26 vote. Board of Fisheries nominee Robert Ruffner narrowly failed on a 29-30 vote. Legislators denied their former colleague Joe Paskvan, who represented Fairbanks in the Senate for four years, a seat on the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation Board on a 28-31 vote. Chris Cooke’s appointment to the Mental Health Trust Authority was even closer — the Senate President briefly stated that Cooke was confirmed, before correcting himself and noting that the nomination failed by one vote.

Walker says he does not have any immediate plans for replacing those appointees, but would like to fill the board vacancies quickly.