Stutes elected as Alaska House speaker, breaking deadlock

A white woman with a black mask
State Rep. Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak, leaves the House floor after being sworn in during the first day of the 32nd Legislative Session on Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021 in Juneau, Alaska. Stutes was elected House speaker on Thursday, Feb. 11, 2021. (Rashah McChesney/KTOO)


Eagle River Republican Rep. Kelly Merrick announced in a news release that she has not joined the coalition that includes the other 20 people who voted for Stutes, leaving the House without a functioning majority caucus early Thursday afternoon.

Merrick said in the statement that she was frustrated with the deadlock over who would be speaker, adding: “I felt we could no longer afford to delay extending the Governor’s emergency disaster declaration, crafting a fiscally conservative budget, and passing the construction jobs bill.”

However, until there’s a majority, the House won’t have committees and won’t be able to work on legislation.

Original story:

Kodiak Republican Rep. Louise Stutes was elected Alaska House speaker on Thursday, breaking a deadlock on the 24th day of the legislative session. 

Eagle River Republican Rep. Kelly Merrick broke the deadlock by voting for Stutes, which will allow a mostly Democratic majority to retain control of the chamber. 

The vote was 21-19. 

Stutes briefly addressed the chamber after taking the gavel from temporary speaker Rep. Josiah Patkotak, an Utqiagvik independent. 

“I want to thank you for the trust you put in me,” she said, later adding that she’s “happy to be instrumental in bringing this House together.”

The next task is to organize House committees. 

Merrick and Stutes were the only Republicans to vote for Stutes, along with 15 Democrats, two Democratic-nominated independents and two independents nominated without party nominations. All of the no votes were Republicans. 

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