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Alaska News

Dunleavy chooses Republican Mel Gillis to fill vacant Anchorage House seat

  • Author: Aubrey Wieber
  • Updated: November 18, 2019
  • Published November 18, 2019

Gov. Mike Dunleavy on Sunday announced the appointment of Anchorage Republican Mel Gillis to the Alaska House of Representatives, concluding the domino effect of vacancies following the death of Sen. Chris Birch.

Gillis was one of three candidates picked by local party officials. Dunleavy said Gillis, a former oil and gas roughneck, hunting and fishing guide, and union leader with Plaster and Cement Masons Local 867 embodies the spirit of Alaska.

“Mr. Gillis is a stalwart pioneer of our great state,” Dunleavy said in a news release. “He is a commonsense, hardworking Alaskan that cares immensely about the state that he helped build.”

Minority leader Rep. Lance Pruitt, R-Anchorage, said a confirmation vote by House Republicans will take place in a few weeks. He said he wants to make time for members to get to know Gillis.

After Birch’s death in August, local party officials followed custom and gave the names of three potential successors to the governor. Dunleavy picked Rep. Laddie Shaw, R-Anchorage, for the vacancy. In an unprecedented move, Senate Republicans failed to confirm the pick.

Dunleavy then appointed Josh Revak, who won a House seat in 2018. Revak was confirmed by Senate Republicans on Nov. 2, creating the need to fill his old House seat.

Gillis donated heavily to the independent expenditure group that supported Revak’s election in 2018.

Four people applied for the House seat, Dunleavy spokesman Jeff Turner said. The other finalists were Forrest McDonald and Jamie Donley, he said.

Pruitt said he hasn’t counted the votes in his caucus, but he has been having conversations about Gillis with members. Pruitt said he thinks Gillis is a good fit but didn’t want to speak for the other members.

“We are just going to do our due diligence to make sure we have the conversations and build the relationships,” Pruitt said. “I don’t think anyone walked in with predetermined notions on this.”

Turner said Dunleavy believes the district constituents will be in good hands with Gillis.

“He’s a longtime Alaskan,” Turner said. "He’s lived in that district for decades, so he knows it well.”