Walker plans to meet House nominees before making pick

The Alaska House of Representatives entrance in the Capitol in Juneau in February 2015. Gov. Bill Walker is choosing between three nominees to fill former Rep. Dean Westlake’s position. (Photo by Skip Gray/360 North)

Gov. Bill Walker will pick one of three finalists to fill the Alaska House seat left vacant by Dean Westlake, who resigned after he was accused of harassing female aides.

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Utkiagvik resident Leanna Mack, Kotzebue City Councilwoman Sandy Shroyer-Beaver and Kotzebue Councilman Eugene Smith were nominated by the District 40 Democratic Party.

A majority of the 16 Democrats in the House must approve Westlake’s replacement.

Walker spokesman Austin Baird said the governor’s team is vetting each candidate’s background.

“He’s working to line up their travel schedules with his and he does plan on meeting each of the finalists before he does make a decision,” Baird said.

Walker has until Jan. 24 to make a pick.

“The governor is motivated to make a selection quickly because of the legislative session starting up next week,” Baird said. “But the key in this process is picking someone whose values and beliefs are actually in line with the residents of House District 40, so if it does take up to the deadline, then that is the reason why.”

The session begins Tuesday.