JUNEAU -- Dealing with the defection of Rep. Lindsey Holmes from the already-diminished House Democratic Caucus to the Republican Party, her former caucus members were grim-faced on Tuesday but determined to stay on message.
"We have an extremely strong caucus," said Rep. Beth Kerttula, D-Juneau, House Democratic leader and formerly one of those closest to Holmes. The 28th Alaska Legislature began Tuesday, and Kerttula and her fellow Democrats kept repeating the "strong caucus" line in response to follow-up questions.
"Rep. Holmes did what she did for her own reasons," was the most Kerttula would say.
Republicans, on the other hand, were full of grins as they met the media on Tuesday, but only Rep. Craig Johnson, R-Anchorage, discussed the switch, which gives the Republican caucus led by House Speaker Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, a 75 percent super majority.
"There's hope for the youth of Alaska," Johnson, 59, said of the 39-year-old Holmes. Johnson praised Holmes' intelligence, and said the caucus could always use one more smart person.
"She brings a lot to the table," he said.