Boosted by election, all-Republican majority emerges in state Senate

Richard Mauer
Bill Roth

Thursday update, 1:45 p.m.

Associated Press

The new Senate majority now has 12 members. 

Sen. Gary Stevens of Kodiak has joined the majority, and will be chairman of the Senate's Education Committee. Stevens had been Senate president for the last four years when the bipartisan coalition held power. 

New Senate President Charlie Huggins of Wasilla made the announcement Thursday in a release. 

Going into Tuesday's elections, the Senate was comprised of 10 Democrats and 10 Republicans, with six Republicans joining Democrats to form the bipartisan majority. The GOP won at least 12 seats in the general election. Two other races are still too close to call. 

Sen. Bert Stedman of Sitka is the only Republican coalition member who hasn't joined the new majority. 







Original story:

  An all-Republican Senate majority organized Wednesday by the thinnest of margins and selected Sen. Charlie Huggins of Wasilla to be Senate president for the 28th Legislature.

"The people spoke on the 6th of November," Huggins said in announcing the majority. "This is a reflection that the voice of the people bring forward as leadership."

The 11-member caucus, made possible by Republican gains in Tuesday's election, was missing two prominent Republican moderates: outgoing Senate president Gary Stevens of Kodiak and Finance co-chairman Bert Stedman of Sitka.

"We're waiting for the invitation," Stedman said in a phone interview Wednesday evening.

Sen. Lesil McGuire, the new Rules Committee chair, said she hoped the two would eventually join the caucus. She also extended a conciliatory hand to Bush Democrats Donny Olson of Nome and Lyman Hoffman of Bethel, along with Dennis Egan of Juneau.

Huggins said he anticipated that Stevens and Stedman would join the caucus "very soon."

The governing caucus sets the agenda for the Senate or the House by establishing leaders, committee chairs and the membership of key committees like Finance and Rules. The leadership and chairmen determine the pace of legislation and which bills get hearings. They play a major role in what items get in the budget and which capital projects get funded.

It only takes a simple majority to form a caucus and elect a Senate President or House Speaker, but a one-person majority is inherently unstable: any member is effectively a walking veto who can bring down the caucus.

McGuire acknowledged that risk when she said she wanted to attract more members. But she said the base was secure and that no members would defect to the arms of the nine-member minority.

Ten of the 11 members met with reporters in a hastily called news conference at the Associated General Contractors of Alaska headquarters in South Anchorage. The caucus had been meeting in an available conference room there, Huggins said.

"It's spacious and it was vacant," he said.

AGC members benefit from state appropriations and the organization is involved in dozen of Alaska issues ranging from endangered species to health care and worker's compensation. Sen. Fred Dyson, R-Eagle River, long a member of the Senate minority, said there was nothing improper about meeting there.

Huggins spoke for the caucus with its members arrayed to either side.

"To my left, to my right, is the new senate majority. It's a group of people that have a number of objectives, but most important, is this group of people wants to represent all Alaskans. This is the majority for the 28th Alaska Legislature," Huggins said

The 11th member of the caucus, Sen.-elect Pete Kelly of Fairbanks, was on a church mission in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country. McGuire said he left his proxy with the group.

Sen. John Coghill of North Pole, the new majority leader, said the three key issues of the caucus would be getting more oil through the trans-Alaska pipeline, building a gas pipeline and bringing cheaper energy to Fairbanks and the Interior, and maintaining a "sustainable budget."

The caucus had no rules about how its members must vote on issues, Huggins said, but stressed that the organization was still a "work in progress."

The other leaders announced Wednesday were the co-chairs of the Finance committee, Sen. Kevin Meyer of Anchorage and Kelly.

Reach Richard Mauer at or 257-4345.



Contact Richard Mauer at or on